While he’s no stranger to competing at the sport’s highest level, he’s a relatively new face in the FLW Tour crowd. Just to fill in some gaps in his resume, we quizzed the newest Tour champion.
When did you get started in the sport of fishing?
I grew up in Tennessee and my dad was the one who got me into fishing when I was little. He was the type of guy who liked to go out and just catch anything. I didn’t get into tournament bass fishing until I was 18 or 19 when I took a job in Oklahoma. All my friends in Oklahoma fished tournaments and I’d fill in if they needed a partner for a team tournament. That’s really what helped start it all. But since I was young I always loved the idea of tournament fishing.
You spent some time fishing on the Elite Series for a few years and then took some time off. Why was that?
By the end of the 2011 season I wasn’t competing at same level as I was when I started. I’m not really even sure why. For whatever reason, when dad got sick and passed away – plus my family and kids were at home – I just didn’t want to be out there (on the tournament trail). I knew it was not the place for me so I came home and spent a good four years at home with family and kids. It’s just where I knew I wanted to be.
In 2015 you fished two divisions of the Costa FLW Series and finished in the top 10 in points for both – including a first- and second-place finish in back-to-back tournaments. Did that help spark the competitive drive?
It has felt right for a couple of years – definitely the last two years. I felt the juices and hunger to compete building back up. You have to have that. That desire has just grown and it’s awesome that it came back.
I used to try to keep my schedule around 17 to 20 regional and national-level tournaments per year. Now I want to keep the number down to focus on family, so last year all I fished were those six Costa FLW Series events. I didn’t even fish anything locally or jackpot anything – if I did, it was a Wednesday-nighter with my daughter. It seems to be working for me. [Before Okeechobee] I hadn’t fished since the [Costa FLW Series] championship last fall. This approach is what suits me and works for me. Some guys need to be on the water all the time, but not me.
How does it feel to be competing back at the highest level?
The whole thing was great. From driving down (to Florida) getting to see the country and wildlife, and it helps to go someplace warm. And to be back around the guys – the whole experience was nice. It was like being back at home.
What is your favorite lake to fish?
I can think of three just because of how beautiful they are. Champlain, Amistad and Clear Lake are without a doubt my favorites. I just enjoy being there the whole time, whether I’m catching fish or not.
Being a pro means lots of travel. Do you have a favorite snack to grab on the road?
No, usually I just eat a bologna sandwich and Gatorade. That’s my normal routine.
What do you feel like is your greatest strength/weakness as an angler?
Probably shallow-water fishing of any kind would be my strength. I like it when they are on the bank.
My weakness would be doing anything with a spinning rod. I just don’t care for it in a bass boat and I don’t know why. I grew up trout fishing with a spinning rod so I’m comfortable with them. I just don’t like it when I’m forced to use one.
If you had to give some advice to high school or college anglers looking to make a living in the sport some day, what would you say?
Once they get out of school, try to start a business of their own. It’s hard work, just like fishing, but it’s a great way to have flexibility and make money. It takes longevity to make it in this sport and having a way to make money outside of fishing and sponsors is the best way to continue to support the dream. And it will always be there even if fishing isn’t. The business doesn’t have to be in the fishing industry either. Just have something to fall back on to help support yourself.
Is there a particular tournament you are looking forward to the most in 2016?
I really enjoy fishing lakes I’ve never been to and that’s the case with the next two (Hartwell and Beaver). I look forward to the experiences.
Like I said earlier, I really like Champlain just because it’s so pretty up there. So I guess Champlain [June 23-26]would be another one I’m looking forward to.
What are your goals for the season?
I have two primary goals for the Tour in 2016. The first is to make two top-20 cuts. The second is to qualify for the Forrest Wood Cup. Those are my goals. I have a long way to go, but I’m off to a good start.
Do you have any superstitions when it comes to fishing?
Not really. I don’t keep any bananas in the boat. I used to for a snack, but not anymore. And I also don’t like catching a fish on the first cast. I’ve had too many times where I catch one right away and then go the rest of the day without a bite.
Do you have a bucket-list lake that you’d love to fish at some point in your life?
I would like to fish a Tour event on Watts Bar. It’s where I grew up and where my dad would take me out fishing. I’ve never fished a tournament on it, but it’d be a lot of fun.
Largemouth, smallmouth or spotted bass – which one is your favorite/least favorite?
Largies are my favorite and spots are my least favorite – especially the ones in clear water that suspend.
Sooners or Cowboys for Oklahoma college sports?
Boomer Sooner! I like FLW a lot because the Tour season is over before college football starts. My family and I have a bus we take down to the games and stay for the whole weekend. It’s a great time.
If you weren’t fishing for a living, what would you be doing?
I’d probably be doing what I’m doing now (Hallman is a petroleum landman). Maybe something like real estate or be a business owner – just something where I could be my own boss. I like being able to have the freedom and flexibility to do what I want throughout the course of the year.