Look through the roster on the Pro side of any of the Bassmaster Opens and you’ll see many names that are familiar in the tournament-fishing world. Elite Series Pros, FLW Touring Pros, Bassmaster Open regulars, and local sticks fill the ranks and are often considered the favorites for winning the event. Often overlooked, however, are the stars of Bassmaster’s future, and if you’re lucky enough to recognize one, you’ll get a unique insight into just how driven the next generation of the Elite Series is on their quest to compete with the big names.
Meet Sam George, eighteen (yes, that’s not a typo) year old T-H Marine supplies Pro from Athens, Alabama. One look at Sam and you get the impression that “this kid can fish”, and if you have the opportunity to sit in his boat, as I did as his Co-Angler during the Northern Open #1 at Douglas Lake, you’ll learn quickly that this kid can REALLY fish. Sam has the calm demeanor and quiet confidence of a seasoned veteran, yet still maintains a youthful exuberance and love for the sport that infects all around him.
Sam was fortunate enough to have Bassmaster Elite Series Pro Alton Jones as a lifelong family friend. The Jones’ and the Georges shared two passions – their religious beliefs and bass fishing, and Sam looked to Jones as a role model while he followed the Elite series trail. When Jones won the Bassmaster Classic in 2008, that’s when Sam decided what the focus of his future was going to be. “Every kid says ‘I want to win the Super Bowl, I want to win the World Series’; when Alton won, it was personal, because I knew him”. It was the end of Sam’s Eighth Grade year, and Jones’ Classic win inspired Sam to pursue a career as a professional Bass Fisherman.
That summer, Sam approached his family and told them “I want to be home schooled” and informed them of his dream. His parents, after seeing how driven he was, made the decision to support Sam on his quest, and his mother became his full time teacher. “I knew I couldn’t just fish from 3:30 pm to dark and get good” says George, “without her, I wouldn’t be doing this”.
One of Sam’s biggest strengths is fishing offshore structure, having spent a great deal of time with Austin James, a local structure fishing Legend on the waters of Alabama. “He was structure fishing before structure fishing was cool” says George, “and gave me the understanding of how to do it (fish offshore). How to fish current, determine fish position, and (out of the water) visual keys – not just the how, but the why”. Mr. James passed away when Sam was 14 years old, and his death had the same effect as Jones’ Classic win: Sam knew he wanted to fish.
With guidance from his family, Sam started small, fishing local tournaments the first year and fishing bigger tournament series in Alabama as he grew older. He entered his first Pro-Am tournament as a Pro in the 11th grade, finishing 4 spots from last, a finish that had Sam doubting his future in the sport. “I wanted to quit, but I told myself that when you get beat by the best, you will learn and become the best”. Sam’s first tournament with a stage resulted in a less than ideal finish as well, but what he gained was worth far more than any trophy, and motivated Sam even more. “I finished something like 187th out of 193 boats, and I got smoked by my Co-Angler, but it lit a fire in me.”
Sam approaches every tournament as a chance to learn and improve, with a level of maturity well beyond his years. That attitude has produced strong results, as Sam’s improvement is evident from his results. After a 162nd place finish at the BASS Southern Open #1 on Toho, Sam followed up with a 47th place finish in the BASS Central Open #1 on Lake Amistad two weeks later, beating 72% of the field. “My best finishes always follow my worst finishes”, explains George, because the bad finishes “drive me to improve”. In 2014, Sam has finishes of 162nd (Toho), 47th (Amistad), 101st (BASS Southern Open, Lewis Smith Lake), 61st (BASS Central Open, Red River), and 69th (Bass Northern Open #1, Douglas Lake), and with the upcoming Northern Open #2 on Lake Champlain playing to his strengths, look for Sam continue his growth toward the upper levels of Open anglers. By Chris Murphy
Follow Sam George on his website, www.samgeorgefishing.com.