When we moved back to Mecklenburg County 19 years ago, we looked for homes only around Lake Norman, because my husband loves to fish for bass.
So in February, when we got on the Internet to watch the live feed of the Bassmaster Classic - the premier fishing tournament of the year - I was excited to see someone from Cornelius, Brent Long, in his "Visit Lake Norman" boat.
When I interviewed Brent, my husband came, too. I found out how small the fishing world around Lake Norman is. Brent and my husband knew each other from having fished together. Brent told my husband lots of stories about professional fishermen he's met.
Brent is fishing in the FLW National Guard Open Bass Fishing Tournament at Lake Norman, which started last week and will end this weekend. On Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, he took off with 150 other boats from Blythe Landing about 7:15 a.m., fished all day, and weighed his fish at 3 p.m. back at the landing.
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It is a "disadvantage fishing from your home lake," he said. "You know all the places, so you go from one place to another to fish. You don't sit down and just concentrate on the fish."
This weekend, only the top five fishermen - the ones who have caught the most weight of fish in the previous three days - will still be fishing. Brent hopes to be one of those five, especially since Norman is his home lake.
Initially, Brent said, his goal was to fish in the Bassmaster Classic, the ultimate tournament for professional fishing. He qualified for his first class in 2007 and said it was exciting "being there, walking across the stage, weighing fish."
He finished 49th out of 50 fishermen, but the guaranteed prize money was $10,000. He used the money to pay entry fees for other tournaments. Brent made the Bassmaster Classic again this year, finishing 39th, ahead of more experienced and much more famous professional fishermen.
Brent Long is Visit Lake Norman's official professional bass angler. He promotes the lake as a top fishing lake destination. His boat bears an advertisement for Visit Lake Norman, and he uses it in all professional tournaments.
He got the idea for his sponsorship while on tour and seeing other fishermen who were sponsored by tourist authorities. Brent said, "So I just called them and asked," and he got his sponsorship.
Besides Visit Lake Norman, Brent said, he thanks his family and friends who have followed his career and watched him on the Internet. He also thanks his other sponsors: Ranger Boats, Yamaha, G-Loomis rods, Denver Marine, The Great Outdoors, AnglersChannel.com, Zoom Bait Co. Inc. and Ernest Langley Lures.
"Mr. Langley has been hand-tying jigs for me since 1996," he said.
While not at his job fishing, Brent is a residential contractor. He's building his third custom house since last May.
The FLW National Guard Open Bass Fishing Tournament will be broadcast to 75million viewers on the Versus and World Fishing Networks and internationally 12:30-1:30 p.m. May 2. So if you miss any of it in person, you can catch Brent and Lake Norman on TV then.