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Angling for top fishing ranks

April 17, 2001

Angling for top fishing ranks



By ANDREA BROWN-HURLEY

andreabh@herald-mail.com

Aaron HastingsPhoto: RIC DUGAN / staff photographer

The scales have tipped in Aaron Hastings' favor. Now he's casting with the big fish.

Hastings, of Boonsboro, reached his goal of becoming a professional bass fisherman by catching enough heavy fish to rank 24th at the end of the Bass Angler Sportsman's Society's Eastern Invitational tournaments.

"I did exactly what I wanted to do," said Hastings, 29. "My whole goal was to qualify for the next level."

The anglers who finished within the top 25 after the last of the four $55,000 tournaments ended in March qualified to compete in the upcoming B.A.S.S. Top 150 tournament circuit this fall.

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The Top 150 features the best 150 anglers in the world vying for the biggest bass in a series of three-day competitions worth $110,000 each, Hastings said.

The highest ranking 25 anglers from the Top 150 then qualify for the "Super Bowl of fishing" - the Bass Masters Classic, a nationally televised tournament worth an estimated $1 million in cash and endorsements for the winner, Hastings said.

He's been hooked on fishing since he won his first club tournament at 16.

Hastings credits mentor Butch Ward, who died in 1999, with helping him learn the skills he needed to win the Maryland State Bass Fishing Championship in 1996 and 1997.

He was voted angler of the year in 1997 by the Maryland Bass Federation.

"You just have to know in your mind that you're doing the right thing and you have to have confidence in your abilities - especially when the fishing gets tough," Hastings said.

Hastings said he has been successful because he has confidence, perseverance, the stamina it takes to fish nonstop for 8 hours a day, and the versatility needed to adapt to different water conditions and fishing partners.

He's worked just as hard off the boat to spend as much time as he does on the water.

Hastings has made Good-N-Clean, the commercial cleaning company that he started in 1985 with his mother's help, stable enough to continue operations without him while he fishes on the professional circuit.

"I work my tail off when I'm not fishing to keep it going," Hastings said.

He said his wife, Karsten, has been supportive despite the financial hardships inherent in forging a professional fishing career.

Although his boat is sponsored by Ranger Boat Co., Hastings spends thousands of dollars each year to compete in tournaments. It cost him about $13,000 out-of-pocket to cover the entry fees, travel costs and other expenses associated with competing in the Eastern Invitationals this winter, he said.

Hastings expects to spend between $25,000 and $30,000 to compete in the Top 150.

He earns extra money by fishing in smaller open tournaments - contests that anyone can enter - throughout the year.

Hastings hopes his pro standing will attract financial sponsors.

An ESPN camera boat followed Hastings' craft at the Eastern Invitationals competition at Old Hickory Lake in Tennessee because Hastings started the third day of that contest in third place, he said.

"Nobody actually knew who I was. It was pretty neat," Hastings said.

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