By Rachel Dubrovin - December 17, 2018
Gerald Spohrer hasn’t been a pro angler long, just three years. But for him, that was enough time to strike a deal with what he calls his “dream sponsor” and get his name on an exclusive list of invitees to the Major League Fishing Bass Pro Tour.
Now, with the inaugural Bass Pro Tour event roughly a month away, he couldn’t be more excited to get on the water and compete against some of the pros who he grew up idolizing.
Spohrer is one of the pros you’ll want to keep an eye on, too. According to BassFan.com, he made a huge jump in the BassFan World Rankings in 2018, moving from 138th to 45th.
From Toho to Conroe
Needless to say, there’s a lot of excitement going into the first year of the MLF Bass Pro Tour. Anglers will start the year on the historic Kissimmee Chain of Lakes in Florida. However, Spohrer admits he’s a little skeptical about fishing in Florida in late January.
“The cold fronts,” he said, “They’re notorious for burning anglers.”
This will also be his first experience with the MLF format and the live SCORETRACKER™ updates, as opposed to the five-fish limit.
“I’ve been replaying strategies in my head about how to handle Toho because in the past, we’ve always locked in those situations and tried to catch bigger fish on the Kissimmee part of it,” Spohrer said. “And now, with the Major League Fishing format, it may not be the best strategy because an angler will be catching fish while we’re trying to lock. And you can get behind on the SCORETRACKER. So all that stuff concerns me with Toho.”
On the other hand, Spohrer says he can’t wait to compete on Lake Conroe in Texas in February, which is just a few hours away from his hometown of Gonzales, Louisiana.
“It’s a big-fish lake,” Spohrer said. “It’s not going to be a lot of bites, but you can catch giants. So it’ll be drastic jumps in the SCORETRACKER, so I’m really excited about that. You could be 10 pounds behind and then get one bite and all of the sudden be 2 pounds ahead. That’s the really cool thing about Conroe.”
Regardless of weather conditions, he says he’s looking forward to getting the season started with two places that are known for big fish.
Being one of the 29 ‘new guys’
As we’ve mentioned in previous reports, 29 MLF Bass Pro Tour anglers are completely new to the MLF format. Spohrer is one of them, and no, he’s not worried about it.
“It doesn’t intimidate me,” he said, “I’ve competed against this field. I know my competition and I know how these guys fish. They’ve been my co-workers for the last three years.”
He’s confident he’ll excel at the catch-weigh-release format that many pros have grown to love.
“I know how I attack water and I feel like it’s going to be more beneficial for me,” Spohrer said.
Spohrer’s deciding factor
Spohrer says when he received the invite to fish the Bass Pro Tour in 2019, the first thing he did was consult his title sponsor: Specialty Welding and Turnarounds, or SWAT. The company is based in his hometown and is a leading provider of specialty welding services to refinery, petrochemical and industrial customers.
“A big deal for us switching over to Major League Fishing from Bassmaster’s was if sponsors were going to be on board or not,” Spohrer explained.
He says his partners at SWAT were nothing but supportive.
“They were the deciding factor for me, and they were the ones who said I’d be stupid if I didn’t do it,” he explained.
But how does a pro angler develop a partnership with a welding company that’s completely unrelated to the sport of bass fishing? Spohrer says he worked for Shell for eight years before he decided to follow his dream and become a pro angler, and he was working side-by-side with SWAT employees. Not to mention, the founder of SWAT, Johnny Holifield, is a huge fan of professional bass fishing.
“It’s just something I always had a passion for,” said Holifield.
Holifield says once he met Spohrer and heard his story, sponsoring him was a “no-brainer”.
“One of the things I liked about Gerald was his passion for fishing and his desire to be the next great angler,” Holifield said, “He’s a local guy from Gonzales. He’s a military guy. And he went into the industrial sector, which is the sector that I work in. And I respected the fact that he knew a lot about what we did, how we perform our business.”
Holifield says he even ordered duplicates of Spohrer’s jerseys for his employees.
“We’re all in on Gerald right now,” Holifield said.
This is the second year that Spohrer will represent SWAT as his title sponsor.
“To me, they’re like a dream sponsor,” said Spohrer, “The way they support me, and they’re behind me 100