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By SHARON GRAVES
Look for the “Gone fishing” sign at the home of Matt and Lacy Brawner on Aug. 2.
Early that morning, Matt Brawner will be competing in the Bass Fishing League sponsored by Wal-Mart at Point Park in Carrollton.
Sporting a shirt identifying his sponsor, Herb Kinman Chevrolet, during a recent interview, Matt said he enjoys the sport for a number of reasons. First, “You’ve got to beat them [the bass] in their environment,” he said. “There is no team and no time-outs. ... There is no one to blame but yourself [if you fail]; but if you succeed, you get the credit.”
Brawner works in the mechanical lab at North American Stainless in Ghent, but said he would always rather “be fishin’” than doing anything else. His goal is to join the elite club of 200 to 300 professional anglers nationwide.
“There are few people who can get up every morning and go fishing and still get paid,” Brawner said.
On Friday, Aug. 1, a computer will match Brawner with an angler who owns a boat. The pair will spend Friday night planning their strategy for the one-day tourney the following morning.
The first take-off time is 6 a.m. Saturday morning; boats will launch every 10-15 minutes. Weigh-in begins at 2:30 p.m. at Point Park, and the public is always invited to attend. There will be boats coming in every 10-15 minutes all afternoon, Brawner said.
“In order to get paid, I must finish in the top 40 out of the 200 co-anglers,” Brawner said. As “co-angler” in the tournament, Brawner only competes against other co-anglers, not against anglers who own the boats.
Brawner spends a lot of time fishing, but he also spends a lot of time thinking about fishing and preparing to go fishing. Having both a full-time job and a full-time hobby can be tough on a young marriage. “She puts up with a lot from me,” Brawner said of Lacy. The couple were married last year.
”I spend a lot of time away from home, and the financial expense can be stressful,” he added, explaining that competing can be pricey and he is grateful to Kinman for sponsoring him finanacially.
“It takes someone like Herb Kinman to step up to the plate as a sponsor, to help pay for expenses.” In addition to providing fund, Kinman is letting Brawner drive one of his dealership’s brand-new Silverado trucks to the event.
Kinman said he’s been sponsoring individual fishermen and fishing tournaments for about eight years. “I just think it’s a great program and a good sport,” he said, admitting that he is not a fisherman himself. “It’s family oriented and something that brings people to the community.
“Matt’s an outstanding young man; he really loves [fishing], he’s really into it and he’s good at it,” Kinman added. “I think his chances are good.”
Brawner belongs to Three Rivers Bass Club, a local bass club with about 10 members who give him lots of tips and encouragement. Paul Yocum is the president of the club, which meets at 7:30 p.m. on the last Wednesday of each month at Paul’s Tires in Prestonville. New anglers are always invited.
Yocum said Tuesday he deosn’t know if Brawner is the only member of the club, or the only local resident, participating on Aug. 2, but was pleased to see it happen. “I’m tickled to death to see a local person getting involved in this. There’s lots of good fishermen in Carrollton. If we had eight or 10 [local fisherman] involved, it gives them [tournament organizers] another reason to bring it back here.”
He said fishing the river will be a challenge for many of the out-of-towners who follow the “trail” of fishing tournaments, who usually compete on lakes. “This river fishing is for the true fisherman. You’ve got to figure it out, you don’t just throw out a hook and fish.”
As for predicting Brawner’s odds for success next month, Yocum wouldn’t say. “I fished against him Sunday. I hope he does well.”
Editor Phyllis McLaughlin contributed to this report.