23 and Dreamin’

Bassmaster Open angler Chip Porche’ (pronounced ‘poor-shay’) is in an enviable position. He’s free. And he’s dreaming. He’s freer than a set of Jimmy Buffett or Zac Brown song lyrics – and dreaming of a career as a professional bass angler.

The Bassmaster Central Open on the Arkansas River this week 45 miles from Chip’s home sets a perfect stage for the 23-year-old to play out his ambitions. It’s only the third Bassmaster Open event he’s entered, but it’s worth noting that he actually led the amateur side of the first B.A.S.S. Open he fished, before eventually finishing fifth. He was only 18-years-old during that 2006 event.

Porche’s early success thus far is much a function of preparedness – and what most might even call obsessive behavior. When most kids were collecting PlayStation 2 video games, Chip was recording and studying episodes of The Bassmasters TV show, and reading every print publication related to tournament bass fishing as though cramming for a final exam.

Speaking of final exams, Porche’ recently earned a four-year degree in communications from the University of Oklahoma, and during his time in Norman, he was one of the early pioneers in the now popular college bass fishing trails.

Now he’s blazing a trail, or as he puts it, “building a bridge” toward the career he’s dreamed of since long before his first drivers’ education class at Bixby High School in Tulsa’s southern suburbs.

These days, mortgage rates have no place in a life more dominated by entry fees and fleabag hotel room rates. And ladies be warned, saying “I do” at an altar is as far from his radar as a rain cloud in drought-stricken Texas.

Prior to the pre-tournament meeting, amid chatter with fellow competitors about everything from college football to the BoatUS Angler “Weigh-to-Win” cash bonus program, Porche’ talked about this week’s event. “I’m not sure if there’s more or less pressure on me since we’re fishing in my backyard, but I’m definitely more comfortable.”

“At least I know my way to the boat ramp here in Muskogee,” grinned Porche’. “It’s a whole lot better than my first trip to Toledo Bend where I spent two days just trying to find my way around.” He predicts anglers capable of averaging a 14-pound limit of bass each day will do well, and possibly even win this week on the Arkansas River in eastern Oklahoma.

“I only got to fish for two hours on the final day of practice, but I was fortunate enough to catch two keepers, “ said Porche’ who will likely target shallow-dwellers with lures ranging from buzzbaits to smaller soft-plastics.

“If I didn’t want to fish so badly for a living, I’d probably try to get into the petroleum or medical industry,” said Porche’ as if attempting to explain his realization that most people his age are trying to carve out less-dreamy careers better assured at paying mortgages.

But for now, Porche’ will stick with attempting to construct a career as a pro angler, and there’s no better time or place to “build the bridge” than this week on the Arkansas River.