Robert Kessler will readily admit it—he was not prepared to win a co-angler championship at January’s Toyota Series Southwestern Division event on Toledo Bend. In fact, he says that he didn’t even come prepared with enough clean clothes to stay on the lake for three days. But, by the time he walked away from the event with a brand new Phoenix 518 Pro bass boat; Kessler’s wife had already decided he was going to be fishing at Fort Gibson.
Eight months later, history is repeating itself in the Kessler household. After three days of tough fishing on the Oklahoma reservoir, Kessler’s 37-pound, 5-ounce total was enough to edge out Monty Phillips by exactly 2 pounds. In fact, the total would have been enough for a top-10 finish on the pro side of the bracket.
“It’s still not sinking in,” Kessler says. “I caught my fourth fish right on the corner by weigh-in today. [Mike] Iaconelli says never give up and that’s the truth. If it hadn’t been for that lucky fish, I wouldn’t be up here.”
By day, Kessler serves as the Chief Information Officer for JMJ Associates, a safety consultation firm out of Austin, Texas. However, his weekend fortunes may be shifting his trajectory back towards the water after a 25-year hiatus from bass fishing. The Phoenix 518 he won in January has transformed into a Phoenix 721 Pro XP with a 250hp Mercury Pro XS on the back largely thanks to the trade-in value of that Phoenix 518, as well as a little encouragement from his wife, Suzanne.
“She’s not into fishing,” Kessler admits. “But she said after that event that I deserve a new boat.”
Behind a pair of sunglasses and a face mask, Kessler almost appeared to get chocked up at the thought of his wife. “She’s not my fishing buddy yet,” he jokes. “But maybe after this she will be.”
Kessler’s Fort Gibson event began with a seminal moment for the long-time fishing fan. His first-day partner was legendary angler and lake local Tommy Biffle.
“I was just in awe to fish with Tommy,” says Kessler. “When I came here, I did not expect to win; and when I found out on my long drive up here that Tommy was my partner, I thought a day on the water with him was my prize right then and there. That’s the real beauty of these events. Sometimes, fishing co-angler can be frustrating, but sometimes you get to fish with a Tommy Biffle.”
Though Kessler did start his tournament behind a lake master, any allusions that his angling prowess relied solely on the front of the boat were put to rest as he hammered a string of double-digit weights together behind different anglers all week. And while day one was spent fishing off of rocky islands in the lake, Kessler’s versatility shined as he was able to boat 10-4 of bass on the final day behind pro winner Cameron Foster.
“I started fishing the Toyota Series just this year,” notes Kessler. “I am fishing it to learn.”
Now, with back-to-back co-angler championships, Kessler might want to consider fishing it to teach.