GUNTERSVILLE, Ala. – On Championship Sunday, Nick LeBrun stepped to the deck of his boat surveying an expanse of eelgrass on the Tennessee River. He told his cameraman, E.K., that a 5-pounder would change everything for him today as he let a cast fly 120 feet over the bow. Seconds later, a 7-pound Guntersville largemouth smashed his line and really did change everything for the newest Tackle Warehouse Pro Circuit Presented by Fuel Me champion.
LeBrun went on to boat a 22-pound, 15-ounce total that gave him his first MLF win since a Phoenix Bass Fishing League All-American title in 2018. It’s at that BFL event where this week’s story begins.
On an early summer day four years ago, LeBrun stood onstage holding a $100,000 check, his wife of six years, Jolene, invisible in his mind.
Two weeks later, LeBrun said he was on the side of the road in Louisiana preparing to commit suicide.
Caught in a self-described web of lies weaved together by his own ego, the check that was supposed to solve LeBrun’s problems had only made them worse. Though his fishing career was taking off, LeBrun’s marriage with Jolene was on the rocks. The couple were separated and seemingly beyond repair.
“I was chasing fame and fortune,” LeBrun admitted. “I was the president of my own fan club, and I thought getting a major win with major money would fix it all. But it didn’t. It left me feeling more hopeless and broken than ever.”
According to LeBrun, his image was the problem. He felt like a character playing a fictionalized version of himself, one that needed to be perfect to feel worthy to others. The Nick LeBrun that won the All-American was supposed to be someone that had everything figured out, someone that had no problems.
“It was a complete 180 from the truth,” he said.
But the truth did come out. Instead of taking his life, LeBrun called a good friend that immediately connected him to crisis manager and chaplain Craig Kennedy. And it was Kennedy who pointed a shattered Lebrun down a pathway where he could begin picking up the pieces and feeling complete. The phone call that followed on the side of that highway may well have saved LeBrun’s life.
“Craig told me not to do it,” LeBrun recalled. “He said, ‘Hey man. Listen. Don’t do that. Because that’s not the answer. If you do that, there’s not going to be any chance of things working out. Just come see me. Come see me.’ He talked me off the ledge.”
A few weeks later, Jolene invited Nick to church. Though they hadn’t spoken in weeks, LeBrun accepted the invitation and became a man of faith.
“I realized that I was in need of a savior like I had been told my whole life,” Lebrun said. “Until that point, I had stiff-armed the idea. I thought it didn’t apply to me. But finally, I realized that I do need Jesus Christ in my life to continue in any way. That didn’t just patch up our marriage, it made it brand new.”
Nearly four years to the date, the words of Tackle Warehouse Pro Circuit emcee Chris Jones echoed out over a crowd gathered on the shore of Lake Guntersville. In the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains with the most storied bass fishery on the planet lapping behind the stage, Jones told LeBrun that he would need a 5-pound bass to knock Nick Hatfield off the hot seat.
LeBrun reached into the bag and pulled out a 7.
A few minutes later, Jolene joined him on stage as the couple accepted a $100,000 check for a professional bass fishing win.
The record books will say that LeBrun won his first Pro Circuit championship using a blue, 10-inch V&M J-Mag Worm on a ¾-ounce, V&M Mega Shakey Head by fishing in 30 feet of water mid-lake at Guntersville. They might say that he put in at Waterfront Bay and that – occasionally – he would cruise into the nearby shallows to target bed fish. They might even tell you that LeBrun found what proved to be the winning school on the final day of practice. But ask the man himself, and he will tell you that none of that really matters.
He will tell you that he is a Christian first, a father second and a bass fisherman after that. Four years after his lowest low, LeBrun has reached his greatest height as a pro bass fisherman; and he did so without making professional bass fishing his identity.
“The truth is I wasn’t the same person on that stage that I am today,” LeBrun told the crowd. “Those were dark times in my life.”
Today, the LeBrun family basked in the light.
If you or someone you know is having thoughts of taking your own life, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255. The Lifeline provides 24/7, free and confidential support for people in distress.
1. Nick LeBrun – 22 – 15 (5) – $101,000
2. Nick Hatfield – 20 – 09 (5) – $30,000
3. Michael Neal – 18 – 06 (5) – $25,000
4. Bobby Lane – 17 – 03 (5) – $20,000
5. Josh Butler – 15 – 15 (5) – $19,000
6. Jacob Wall – 14 – 10 (5) – $18,000
7. Spencer Shuffield – 13 – 02 (5) – $17,000
8. Ron Nelson – 11 – 08 (5) – $16,000
9. Brandon Mosley – 11 – 06 (5) – $15,000
10. Lane Olson – 0 – 00 (5) – $14,000