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Area pros fish for FLW's big bucks

By James D. Horne jhorne@paducahsun.com

Paducah natives Terry Bolton and Dan Morehead are simply overjoyed they've been able to make a living doing something fathers and sons have done together for years.

It's just that when Bolton and Morehead cast their lines to fish they do it for cash prizes for up to $125,000 running around in motorboats on lakes racing at 70 mph or more like they will today through Sunday at the Walmart FLW Tour at Kentucky Lake presented by Evinrude.

"I've been with FLW since it started," Bolton said. "We get to go around the country fishing and I've been blessed. This is the 20th year I've been fishing for a living and I've been very blessed to have that as my job. We get to travel all over the country and have a great time. We get to go to a lot of great places and I've made a lot of friends all over the country doing this."

The sixth and final regular-season event in the 19th season of the major leagues of professional bass-fishing - based out of Paris Landing State Park in Tennessee - will be hosted by the Henry County Alliance. The tournament will feature a full field of the world's best bass-fishing pros and co-anglers casting for top awards of up to $125,000 cash in the pro division and up to $25,000 cash in the co-angler division.

"We're blessed to live in a very diverse area in the country, and there's a lot of sports over the summer," said Morehead, a 1986 alumnus from Lone Oak who graduated from Murray State in 1994. "The local fishermen, they know we're in town and have been awful courteous to us and have kind of abandoned the lake the past couple of days because we kind of take charge when we come. So we appreciate the locals giving us the run of the lake. Any time I can fish for $125,000 and can sleep in my own bed it's a good thing."

Bolton started fishing with his father as a child at the family's home on Kentucky Lake. He got into the sport thanks to fellow Tilghman alum Mark Menendez.

"Before graduating from college, I thought I might want to do this for a living and my mom said she didn't care as long as I graduated. So I graduated, took off and didn't think I was going to make it for two years, but it's lasted 20," said Bolton, a 1998 graduate of Paducah Tilghman and a 1994 graduate of Murray State. "When you tell people you are a professional fisherman they look at you funny, because fishing is a recreational pastime for many folks. I have sponsors like other sports. A lot of people don't understand the game of fishing. We're one of the few sports that takes place in a public area. All of our tournaments are on public waters."

The event will kick off this morning at 6:30 with takeoff at Paris Landing State Park. At 2:30 the FLW Tour will have its weigh-in at Paris Landing State Park. It will have the same schedule for Friday.

The anglers will still cast at 6:30 a.m. on Saturday and Sunday, but the weigh-ins will be at 4 p.m. at Walmart, 1210 Mineral Wells Ave. in Paris, Tenn.

And it's not a cheap sport. Many of the anglers have sponsors who put up the cost for equipment. For example, Chevy pays for Morehead's boat, which retails for $70,000, and provides him with a 2014 Chevy Suburban to tow his boat with. Sponsors also help with supplies, gas and entry fees that can cost up to $4,000 per tournament. Morehead said paying the entry fees at the beginning of the year for each tournament is like buying a car without seeing it.

But he loves the atmosphere and pageantry each FLW event brings.

"It's a cross between a traveling circus and NASCAR," said Morehead, who's been a professional for 21 years. "We're gone 40 weeks out of the year. I used to run with Terry Bolton and I used to see him more than I did my wife, and I've been married to her for almost 19 years. We do a lot of traveling. People ask me what my job is and I tell them it's to make new stuff old as fast as I can."

The question Bolton is asked the most is: How much luck does it take to be successful? He admits there is some, but one has to be seasoned to win events.

"There's a lot of skill that go into finding and catching bass," Bolton said. "Some people like to say it's more about luck and I don't know if it's luck if a 5-pounder bites your lure or a 2-pounder. But it takes skill to find those fish."

Bolton loves the fact he gets to end the season on home turf, but admits it brings some extra stress.

"This being a regular-season event at home is exciting and it's neat to get to fish your home lake, but at the same time there's more pressure involved," Bolton said. "But in doing this for 20 years, you don't get to fish at your home lake as much as you did before starting to fish professionally. So it's a little nerve-racking too trying to do well in the event."

Competitive fishing is becoming more mainstream at the high school and collegiate level. The KHSAA has sponsored a bass fishing state championship the past two seasons. The FLW has conducted a high school tour since 2011 and a college tour since 2009.

There's also the Association of Collegiate Anglers Cabela's Collegiate Bass Fishing series and the Carhart Bassmaster Collegiate Series.

Locally, Calloway County, Marshall County and Trigg County high schools had teams participate in this year's KHSAA Bass Fishing State Championship. Lyon County also hosts a program.

And the high school ranks will grow by one more thanks to efforts by Morehead and his family to help start both a fishing and archery club at McCracken County High School.

"We've had several meetings and are gathering funding to get a bass fishing club and an archery club up and running at McCracken County," Morehead said.

He's happy to see the growth in his sport.

"It makes me really excited," Morehead said. "When I started doing this I was one of the first college-educated guys to hit the road. It was a hard decision, but now it's almost mandatory. My dad always joked that he paid for an expensive education, but that I got my PhD. on the Kentucky Lakes and that he had to pay for that, too. Now there's a chance my kids can go to school, get a full ride and fish if they want to."

Call James D. Horne, a Sun sports writer, at 270-575-8661 or follow on Twitter @psunsports.

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