Editor’s Note: Dustin Connell was raised in Clanton, Alabama, and today lives in Deatsville, Ala., on the banks of Lake Jordan. I first met Dustin when he just had won his third Angler of the Year title on the fledgling University of Alabama Bass Fishing Team. He was Angler-of-the-Year there from 2010 until 2012, and after he graduated with degrees in business and marketing, he more or less fell off the radar of most bass fishermen. But on February 27, 2021, while fishing Lake Eufaula, Connell won the Red Crest Tournament and was declared the World’s Champion of Bass Fishing on Major League Fishing (MLF) (https://majorleaguefishing.com/). I wanted to know the back story of how Connell survived and thrived between graduating from Alabama to becoming a world champion bass fisherman on MLF.
My first year out of college, I fished in local tournaments throughout Alabama. At those events, I made about an average of $25,000 annually, but my expenses totaled about $20,000, leaving me with little net income. So, I started working in construction. There’s a big hurdle to overcome between being a college tournament bass fisherman and arriving at Major League Fishing. Back then, I worked as a field technician for a contractor, which meant that anything that broke down, I repaired. Anything that no one else wanted to do, I did. And, anything the contractor wanted me to do, that’s what I did. Every moment I wasn’t working in construction, I either was getting ready for a tournament or fishing in a tournament. Before long I realized that construction work was not my life’s ambition. However, one thing I did know was that it could be a stepping-stone to my fishing professionally by providing an income.
My big break came in 2015 when I won the Bassmaster’s Open Tournament on the Alabama River and collected a check for $50,000. I never had made or won that much money in my entire life, and I knew that I could use that money to further my bass-fishing career. By winning that tournament, I was allowed to move into the Bassmaster Elite Series (https://m.bassmaster.com/elite), and won $100,000 in 2017 at Ross Barnett Reservoir. At that time, I still was fishing local and regional tournaments and was able to pay all of my entry fees to begin fishing as a bass pro. Finally, I left my construction job and devoted myself to being a professional bass fisherman.
When the MLF organization began, I decided to join that circuit because I wanted to fish against the best anglers in the world. Many of the anglers on MLF Circuit had won Bassmaster Classics and Angler-of-the-Year titles and were some of the major money winners in professional bass-fishing tournaments. That was my goal. I knew that the only way to become one of the best bass fishermen in the nation was to compete against the men who already were and to ultimately beat them.
Then in November, 2019, I married a woman who always was supportive of my dreams and ambitions as a bass fisherman. My wife, Victoria, is a counselor for a kindergarten school and understands that fishing is my job. She knows that I have to go where my job leads me, even if that includes traveling all over the nation, fishing in various states and being gone a week or more at a time throughout tournament season.
To learn more about bass fishing, check out John E. Phillips’ book, “How to Bass Fish Like a Pro,” at http://amzn.to/YpoJvD, available in Kindle and print versions, and Click here for Audible link. You may have to copy and paste this click into your browser. (When you click on this book, notice on the left where Amazon says you can read 10% of the book for free, and at the Audible link you can listen to 10% of the book being read).
Tomorrow: Dustin Connell Fishes against the Best of the Best on Major League Fishing