Westport pro bass fishermen Joe Wood will appear on his sport's foremost stage next week when he competes in the Forrest Wood Cup presented by Walmart.
He is among 45 anglers selected to the tournament held August 14-17 on Lake Murray near Columbia, SC. The Fishing League Worldwide (FLW) championship features the sport's top payday (the winner gets $500,000), concerts, national television coverage and more.
In a sport dominated by anglers from southern states, Mr. Wood's Westport address stands out — he is the only competitor among the 45 from the northeast.
He earned his way the the Forrest Wood Cup by capturing his north region's Angler of the Year title, winning by a lopsided margin of 43 points.
He racked those points up with consistent high finishes at events drawing hundreds of pro anglers.
His 2013 highlight was a second place finish in the EverStart Northern Division Circuit tourney at Smith Mountain Lake, Va. He followed that success with 4th, 8th and 16th place finishes.
As usual when he competes at tournaments, the Wood family will head south to cheer Joe on — the 900-plus mile trip will take them 15 hours.
“It’s a dream come true," Mr. Wood said. "I never thought it would happen, and even when it did I couldn’t believe it. It’s been one unbelievable season … I’m going to try like hell to win it. It’s a life-changing, once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.”
The self-employed carpenter got his bass fishing start as a youngster on Watuppa Pond — still his favorite fishing spot.
He later began entering local tournaments around New England. His success in these sparked a desire to fish at the pro level so he joined FLW Outdoors.
At that level, most competitors rely on sponsors to pay the considerable costs of boats, equipment, travel and entry fees (big tournaments can cost $1,000 or more to enter).
He had no sponsors last year but friends in the Westport area helped get him started. The family hosted a fund raising clam boil and raffles at the Holy Ghost Club, The proceeds helped him buy a 2008 21-foot Nitro 929 bass boat with 225 horsepower Mercury outboard — the boat can hit 65 m.p.h.
For more on the tournament, visit www.flwoutdoors.com