For Bryan Hudgins, college will have to wait.
The 27-year-old Florida pro has different plans for 2007 competing in the Bassmaster Elite Series.
"I can always go back and finish up my degree," Hudgins said. "Getting a chance to fish the Elite Series is a dream come true."
It will not be the first time that his progress toward a degree in business administration and marketing from the University of North Florida has been interrupted. In fact, he took a hiatus this past year and enjoyed the best year in his young fishing career.
Hudgins qualified for the Bassmaster Elite Series Wildcard tournament by finishing 23rd in the points standings on the Bassmaster Southern Tour. With a third-place showing in the Wildcard contest, he earned a berth in the 2007 Elite Series, the most prestigious trail in tournament fishing.
If Hudgins comes close to the kind of success he enjoyed in 2006, he will likely stay four classes short of his bachelor's degree for the foreseeable future.
"This year has been a good year," the Orange Park, Fla., pro said. "I won a tournament [on another circuit] and I should have won a BASS event, but I lost a 10-pounder. It cost me the tournament and I ended up finishing fourth because of that fish. I was third in the Tour standings going into the final tournament.
"All in all, it's been a great year. I have no complaints about it."
Thus far in BASS tournaments, Hudgins has cashed checks in five of 10 tournaments. Additionally, Hudgins has been able to consistently excel in BASS tournaments, scoring five top-10 finishes.
Entering the 2007 Elite Series, Hudgins doesn't have much sponsor help. The young Florida pro counts Shimano, Ocean Waves sunglasses and Penetrator Weights among his sponsors, but he's searching for more.
"I'm looking for additional sponsors," he said. "I just got a professional resume put together and I'm hoping to get a whole new list of sponsors in the next couple of months."
That was why Hudgins was desperate for a top-10 finish and Elite berth in the Wildcard event last November. By placing third, he earned $10,000 toward 2007 Elite Series entry fees and a Triton/Mercury boat package that he sold for cash to apply to his 2007 campaign.
"It was great to finish third and win the cash and the boat," Hudgins said. "That helped me come up with the entry fees for the Elites."
On the heels of his biggest BASS success, Hudgins' thoughts turned toward competing against the top 100-plus pros on the Elite Series.
"I'm extremely excited about fishing the Elite Series," he said. "I'm really looking forward to that."
That was what a visit from an ESPN camera crew created in the small town of Childersburg, Ala., recently.
The television crew was in town to film a commercial for February's Bassmaster Classic on Lay Lake. They were joined by Bassmaster Elite Series anglers Gerald Swindle and Terry Scroggins.
"It's big time when we get ESPN and a production crew in Childersburg," mayor B.J. Meeks told The Daily Home newspaper. "I'm quite sure it meant a lot to area businesses, as well as Key West Inn. I'm excited to have them in the area. It will put us on display a little bit and get some national exposure."
The Classic will take place Feb. 23-25
WBT PRO'S EFFORT
Tanya Kreuzer, a competitor on the Mercury Marine Women's Bassmaster Tour presented by Triton Boats, recently helped with a toy drive that benefited about 230 homeless children at the Thomas J. Pappas School in her home state of Arizona.
"We took three boats to the school and let all the children look at the boats," she said. "I let all of them sit in my truck and my boat. It was a bit crazy at times as the children were so excited. Almost none of them had ever been in a boat, let alone sit in the driver's seat."
For more information on Kreuzer, fishing fans can visit her Web site at www.bassnbabe.com.
Mercury Marine recently launched a completely redesigned consumer website featuring easy-to-navigate pages. The new www.Mercurymarine.com contains information on Mercury products, services and company news and information.
Visitors will find a new feature that will debut in 2007 boat-test results that provide outboard details to prospective boat-and-engine customers, engine-selection guides and other interactive help. Visitors can also shop for parts and accessories online, order literature like owner's manuals and view important product data.
Mercury owners can get information to help store their outboard, view maintenance schedules, get details on extended service contracts and learn of on-going sales promotions.
WBT pro Pam Martin-Wells will run a boat wrapped in the colors and logos of Wave Worms this season.
With its giant bald eagle head, Hawaiian mascot and bright colors, the boat will be hard to miss. Martin-Wells will next compete in February in the inaugural Women's Bassmaster Tour Championship on Alabama's Lake Mitchell.
DID YOU KNOW?
Veteran Texas pro Zell Rowland was one of the youngest anglers to ever fish a BASS tournament. He was 13 at the time, and his participation led to the creation of a minimum-age of 16.
IF I HADN'T BECOME A BASS PRO
Russ Lane, a Bassmaster Elite Series pro from Alabama, has played minor-league baseball and later wholesaled cars to pay for his fishing habit. "I can't see myself doing anything else," he said of competitive fishing. "This is what I've wanted to do. I graduated from Huntington University with a degree in human performance and kinesiology. I probably could have been a physical therapist. But that just wasn't what I wanted to do."
THEY SAID IT
"The first Classic that I went to, I don't think I knew how to win because I didn't know what to expect. I never fought that battle before. I fished a good tournament and I practiced hard, but I don't think in my mind I could comprehend what the tournament means. Even the first three or four Classics, I couldn't get my hands around what it was like. Now, the Classic has evolved for me into a situation where I don't want to settle for a good showing. You have to come in with that mindset. I don't think a guy is arrogant at all if the comes up to me and says, 'I'm here to try to win.' I respect that." 2007 Bassmaster Classic contender Gerald Swindle, who will compete in his eighth Classic and try to improve on his personal best third-place finish in 2005.