By Anthony Rhoads
Ken Cothran dreams of a day when he can make a living full-time with his fishing rod.
Cothran spends most of his weekends on the lakes competing in various bass tournaments as a professional angler.
Cothran has been fishing in local tournaments since 1995 and in the Bass Fishing League for the last four years. He has also fished in the Everstart Series, one step down from the Wal-Mart FLW, one of the major leagues in bass fishing.
Cothran is also trying to compete in B.A.S.S. and hopefully next year he will fishing in the B.A.S.S. Open. If he does well in that tournament, it could lead to competing on the Bassmasters Pro Tour.
"Hopefully next year I'll get to meet the big boys," he said.
The BFL is divided into several divisions nationally and Cothran competes in the Bulldog Division. If he makes it into the top 30 at the end of the season, he can move up to the regionals and then to the BFL All-American.
Fishing can be a lucrative career if you win on the Wal-Mart FLW Tour or the Bassmasters Pro Tour. Both organizations have payouts as much as $100,000.
One Georgia angler, Buford's Pat Fisher, is a competitor that has seen his share of success in professional bass fishing. In the past few years, Fisher has been one of the top anglers in the FLW and he recently won a $100,000 tournament.
"He's one of my best friends," Cothran said. "We fished together in local tournaments and now he's No. 9 in the world. He's a good competitor and he's hard to beat. I hope to be there someday."
Cothran might be on his way to success.
In February, Cothran enjoyed his first top-10 finish in the BFL ? a ninth-place finish in an event at Lake Seminole in south Georgia.
"I was pleased with it," he said. "I believe I could have done better; my trolling motor went dead. I believe I could have been in the top 1 or 2. Seminole is a great place. It panned out good for me."
Competitors had to battle tough weather that weekend, but Cothran held on to post his best finish in the BFL.
"It really was a hard time for fishing," he said. "I hung in there."
Cothran's love of fishing came from his family and it's been an activity he's taken part in for most of his life.
"I've been fishing since I was old enough to hold a rod," Cothran said. "My grandfather took me all the time on Lake Hartwell. That's where I spent most of my summers."
Spending time of the lake with his grandfather helped him develop a love of fishing and hunting.
"Being out on the lake, the outdoors, it's just so free," he said. "I love nature and out there on the lake. The lake is where I want to be."
While most weekend anglers are just happy to get away from their jobs and to get out on the lake, Cothran has a competitive desire to catch fish.
"It's the competition," he said. "There's nothing like the competition out there. It's about the competition to catch the big fish. If you lose that thrill, you won't fish anymore."
The biggest fish Cothran ever caught was a 9-pounder at Lake Sinclair.
"When you fish in a tournament and you land a big fish you can't explain it, the excitement and how pumped up you are," he said. "It's a great feeling. It's an adrenaline rush."
Lake Sinclair remains one of his favorite places to fish and he also enjoys fishing at Lake Oconee and Lake Seminole.
Cothran is currently sponsored by Seddith Crank Baits in Danielsville.
"It's very important especially with as any tournament as I've fished," he said. "They help you out a lot and that's how you make it to the big boys."
In addition to pursuing his dream of fishing professionally, Cothran is a big proponent of getting youth involved in the outdoors.
"I'm real strong into getting kids into fishing," he said. "It will get them into doing something positive and it will keep them out of drugs and out of trouble. Kids love to fish if someone is there and teaches them. It's a great feeling."