provided by John E. Phillips
At the 2020 Mossy Oak Fishing Bassmaster High School Championship, Tucker Smith won his third National Championship with two different partners from Briarwood High School in Birmingham Alabama. Each of these three championships had from 200-300, two-man high-school teams participating in it. In 2020, Smith fished with Hayden Marbut, and the team brought in 47 pounds and 5 ounces of bass. The tournament was held on Kentucky Lake.
One thing that most high-school tournament bass anglers want to know is how to get sponsorships on the high-school level, and how to you carry those sponsorships with you to the college level and on into a professional bass-fishing career.
Through my years of high-school fishing, I’ve made some good relationships with sponsors. I’m currently sponsored by Drake Performance Fishing a group that carries the Mossy Oak brand, TFO Rods, Livingston Lures, Minn Kota, Humminbird, Owner Hooks, Mercury Marine, and possibly two more sponsors with whom I’m having discussions.
I got my first sponsors when I was a sophomore in high school and won my first national championship. Drake Apparel was my first sponsor. My biggest sponsor, however, is my parents. They’ve believed in me, helped me and have come to my tournaments ever since I started competitive fishing. They’ve taught me how to be the person I am today. My dad actually bought me my first boat when I was a freshman to compete in when I was in high school. Since that time, I’ve had two other boats and am hoping to get a new boat every year.
What are you studying at Auburn University besides fishing, and why?
I’m a business major and hope to major in marketing. I’ve learned from my high-school bass-fishing career and from my pro bass-fishing mentors that tournament bass fishing isn’t just a sport. It’s a business, and the greater part of that business is helping manufacturers market their products. I agree with my parents that I need to get my college degree before I start fishing as a professional.
How do you keep up with your college courses and fish as much as you do?
I won’t lie. Staying competitive as a fisherman and trying to make the best grades I can in school is really hard. But all my classes right now are on Zoom. Taking classes online is really hard for me, but I only have classes on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, so I have to make sure I get all my schoolwork done by Thursday. The hardest part for me is staying disciplined enough to get that schoolwork done before I go fishing. I try and do all my homework on the days that I have classes. Then I don’t have to think about my schoolwork when I’m competing.
Did you get a scholarship to fish at Auburn?
No, Auburn’s fishing team is a club sport, and the University doesn’t sponsor it like they do other sports. Scholarships aren’t available at Auburn for bass fishing at this time. However, if you perform well at tournaments, you can get reimbursed for some of your expenses. I’m hoping to do well enough during these next four years to help get my expenses covered by the club. The top three teams at Auburn get all their expenses - food, lodging and gas - paid for when they fish the collegiate bass-fishing circuits. Each angler also has to raise a certain amount of money each year to help support the team.
Making the decision to go to Auburn was kind of tough for me, because I had won several scholarships and had some really good offers. However, I’ve been an Auburn fan all my life. I went to the football game when Auburn played LSU this year, and I couldn’t believe how exciting that game was. Our sponsors couldn’t give us any money while we were competing in high school or college fishing events, but they could give us equipment to use.
I plan to keep my relationship with my sponsors through college, and hopefully when I start fishing Bassmaster Opens, they’ll be able to help with many of my expenses. My goal is to try and qualify either through the Bassmaster Opens or through the Bassmaster College Series to be able to fish on the pro circuit. I’m planning to fish some of the Bassmaster Open Division events, while I’m in college. If I qualify by coming out first, second or third on the collegiate section, I’ll qualify to fish on the Elite Series. Or, if I have enough points in the Angler-of-the-Year race on the Bassmaster Open Circuit, I’ll earn the opportunity to fish on the Bassmasters Elite Series. This year, I’ll be fishing three or four collegiate circuits, and then if I can work some Bassmaster Open tournaments into my schedule, I’ll fish them as well.