This article was initially run on flwfishing.com on December 8, 2016. Now, Brian Latimer is officially an FLW Tour Champion.
Climbing the ranks in the bass fishing world can be like climbing a steep and unstable ladder. Sometimes you can see the top, but a wrong step here or there can knock you off balance.
Brian Latimer of Belton, S.C., knows all about the ups and downs of chasing the pro angling dream. He recently wrapped up his first season as a pro on the Walmart FLW Tour in 2016 and is looking ahead to bigger things in 2017. While he may not be a household name just yet, Latimer is all-in to make it that way, no matter how hard the climb.
Most kids spend their youth heading down to a local pond with a father or grandfather who would take them fishing for whatever would bite. That’s all good, except Latimer wasn’t just a normal kid. His father, Jimmy, was a tournament bass angler – and a die-hard – throughout the late ’70s and ’80s until Brian was born, and then Jimmy pared it back some to spend more time with family.
From as early as Brian recalls he would be on the water with his dad practicing for tournaments on local lakes near his Belton, S.C., home.
“It was always about bass fishing when I was young,” he says. “I was really messed up with it [bass fishing]. I’d spend my time in the back of my dad’s boat instead of fishing a pond or creek. I fished my first tournament when I was in second grade. I loved it.
“I remember bringing all of my bass fishing magazines to class when I was in fifth or sixth grade. I was always thinking about bass fishing. I played sports growing up like most kids, and I remember going to practice but thinking about going fishing the whole time instead. By high school I just gave up on sports so I could spend more time fishing.”
Because his dad was heavily into the tournament-fishing scene, Brian learned at a young age that making it to the professional level was no cakewalk.
“My dad worked for a family-owned landscaping business, which is what I did, too,” recalls Latimer. “In high school my friends were getting boats and trucks bought for them from their family, but my dad wanted me to do it on my own if I was going to try and make a career in fishing. When my dad ‘cut the cord’ on me, I cussed him out, but it turned out to be the best thing for me and helped make me who I am today.”
As much as Latimer loves fishing, he knew that getting a college degree was also important after high school. But like any kid obsessed with fishing, he made sure school wouldn’t entirely get in the way of his time on the water.
“I always knew that I wasn’t going to be able to afford fishing, a boat and getting a four-year degree,” says Latimer. “So I decided to go to a technical school and get my horticulture degree.”
While tackling school he was also working his way up from the club level, and in 2003 fished his first T-H Marine Bass Fishing League (BFL) event as a boater.
“My maturity as an angler was a lot slower than some of the young anglers out there now,” recalls Latimer. “I started out at the club level and finally jumped into the BFLs. I won my first BFL on Lake Hartwell in 2007, just a few years into fishing them, and decided to move up to the Costa FLW Series since things were going pretty good. That’s when I started having problems.”
In 2008, Latimer signed up to fish all four of the Southeastern Division events on the Costa FLW Series.
“My first year on the Series wasn’t so hot,” Latimer says of his rough finishes. “It had nothing to do with the level of competition, but it was the fact that the area I grew up in was so unique that it was like having to learn bass fishing all over again on these different bodies of water.”
The learning curve was steep, and because he didn’t cash any checks, Latimer wasn’t able to afford to fish the entire Series in 2009. In fact, he wouldn’t fish the entire Southeastern Division again until 2012.
He took his “time off” to think hard about his decision to try to make a living at fishing. Latimer says it made him mad that he hadn’t been able to see success at the thing he lived for. He made the choice during that time to work at the family landscaping company to ensure a decent living, all the while planning how to get back on the path he wanted to be on.
The reality of paying the bills continued to challenge Latimer once he returned to the water.
“In 2013 I was having a pretty good year [in the Southeastern Division],” Latimer explains. “I was eighth in points going into the last event of the season. I decided that I was going to stay home and work instead of going to the last regular-season event. To this day I regret it, but I didn’t think I could afford to go.”
You could call that the last straw. From then on, Latimer says, he would always make sure that the funds were there to be able to fish and compete. And he worked harder to ensure he’d have sponsor relationships to help him out when needed.
Latimer was back on the water in 2014 chasing his dream, and it wasn’t long before he began to consider stepping up to the Tour level.
He actually tried to sign up in 2015 but had failed to qualify for priority entry and didn’t make it on the roster. He took the same shot in 2016 season, and this time he made the cut.
“I really didn’t think I’d get in the Tour for 2016,” he recalls. “I’m more grateful because of the work I put in to make it to this point. I’ve wanted to fish the Tour since 2004.”
His rookie campaign began on Lake Okeechobee, and though he has experience on the Big O through the FLW Series, Latimer posted a disappointing triple-digit finish.
“I was somewhat comfortable with Lake Okeechobee, and even though I had a bad finish, I didn’t take it personal. That’s just how the Big O can be.”
The next stop took him to a lake he is very familiar with in Lake Hartwell, which is just an hour down the road from his hometown. He finished 24th, earned $10,000 and took that momentum to Beaver Lake where he would cash another $10,000 check with a 33rd-place finish.
When the Tennessee River swing came that summer, Pickwick Lake provided a valuable learning experience for the young pro.
“The one tournament from last year that really bites me, daily, is Pickwick. I found what I needed to do in practice and didn’t trust it when the tournament started,” Latimer says.
That lack of trust in his instincts chalked up another triple-digit finish and likely cost him a Forrest Wood Cup berth.
From there, Latimer finished strong by cashing a check on Kentucky Lake with a 43rd-place finish, and he executed his game plan flawlessly on Champlain, though he wound up 60th despite catching more than 15 pounds per day.
Now, Latimer is planning for his sophomore season as an FLW Tour pro and looks forward to continuing his pursuit of becoming a staple name in the fishing industry.
“I’m very satisfied with how my first year went,” he says. “Results are only part of success. And for most of the tournaments I adjusted and caught my fish. I just need to keep doing my thing and having fun.”