Have you ever dreamed of fishing professionally? This season Nick Prvonozac, one of Northeast Ohio’s best known anglers, will test his skills against the top bass fishermen in the world when he competes on the 2014 FLW Tour.
Ohio Bass Blog will be following Nick throughout the season, providing readers with an inside look at life on tour for the first year pro.
Feel free to post questions for Nick on his Facebook Page, or even add him to your FLW Fantasy Fishing team by joining the Ohio Bass Blog league (league ID# 18037). The password to join is ohiobassblog, and Ohio Bass Blog will be giving away a prize package to the overall winner at the end of the season. It’s free to play, so sign up now!
This is the first installment of the season-long series. Ohio Bass Blog did a Q&A with Nick before this week’s season opening FLW Tour event on Lake Okeechobee in Central Florida.
Ohio Bass Blog: Nick, you’ve been extremely successful fishing individual and team circuits both locally and nationally over the years. What circuits have you fished, and what are some of your career highlights?
Prvonozac: The first tournament I ever fished was in May of 1991 on Pymatuning Reservoir. My brother and I placed 16th out of 120 teams. I had been bass fishing for a few years prior to that event but it was a real confidence booster to get a check in our first ever tournament! I spent the rest of the year spending as much time on the water as I could.
The following year, we decided to fish a team trail called M.T.O.C. and at that time it was one of the largest circuits in Ohio. Our first event was on West Branch. There were almost 120 teams and we placed second – we were so excited and proud. The very next M.T.O.C. we fished was at Mosquito and we placed second again. That was the validation we needed to further pursue tournament fishing. For the next three years we continued to place high with a few more second place finishes.
Then it happened, I won my first event on Lake Erie, Sandusky Bay in 1995. It was a real turning point in my fishing career because there were a lot of top-notch Lake Erie anglers in the event. Winning against them gave me the confidence to know that not only could I compete, but I could win!
Two years later we won our first boat in the Greater Ohio Team Trail (GOTT) Championship. That was the first boat ever won in Northeast Ohio. Full of confidence, I entered my first B.A.S.S. pro tournament in the spring of 1999 in Texas on Sam Rayburn Reservoir. I finished second place, and won a Ranger boat plus $3,000. There were a “who’s who” of pro competitors in that event, with over 300 pros from around the nation. As it turned out, some guy from Michigan named Kevin Van Dam won!
I continued to solidify my career and went on to win another 13 bass boats by winning team championships and angler of the year titles from The X-Series, Trade Winds Marine, Midwest Sportsmen, GOTT, and Anglers Choice. Recently, I won back-to-back angler of the year titles in the Ohio Division of the Bassmaster Weekend Series and finished fifth in 2012 and sixth in 2013 in their national championship tournament.
Ohio Bass Blog: What made you decide to step up to the professional level this season?
Prvonozac: It’s been my goal to fish professionally from the first time I picked up a rod and reel. I felt it was finally time to go for it this season, and a few things worked out that allowed me to take a run at it.
Ohio Bass Blog: It’s said that fishing full time as a tour pro can be extremely expensive. What’s the cost to fish a full season, including entry fees and all other expenses?
Prvonozac: The cost of fishing the FLW Tour is $24,000 for six events. Factor in an additional $12,000 for traveling expenses and you’re looking at $36,000 for the year minimum!
Ohio Bass Blog: Who are the sponsors that are supporting you this season?
Prvonozac: My financial sponsors to date are Nu Threadz and Durica Insurance. My product sponsors are Pradco Outdoors Brand, Tuff Line, Ranger Boats, Mercury, Vic’s Sport Center, and Lowrance. I’m currently seeking a “Title” sponsor to showcase their company logo on my boat and truck as I compete in the world’s largest tournament organization this season, the FLW Tour.
Ohio Bass Blog: What boat are you running this season?
Prvonozac: I will be running a Ranger Z520C with a Mercury 250 HP.
Ohio Bass Blog: What do you expect will be some of the dominant patterns for each of the six stops on the Tour this season?
Prvonozac: The first event on Okeechobee will probably be won flipping, sight-fishing, and/or topwater fishing. Hartwell and Beaver will probably be pre-spawn fishing/touch-and-go, depending on the weather. Big Sam will be spawn or post-spawn. Pickwick and Kentucky Lake will see an offshore bite.
Ohio Bass Blog: What are your goals this season on Tour?
Prvonozac: My minimum goal for the 2014 FLW Tour is to win Rookie of the Year, and finish within the top 60 a minimum of three times out of six events. What I’m really setting my sights on is to win Rookie of the year and Angler of the Year in the same season. I don’t think that has ever been done before so it would be an awesome feat to achieve. Also I would like to qualify for the FLW Cup, and do well there.
Ohio Bass Blog: What do you think will be the most difficult part of fishing the Tour?
Provonozac: The most difficult part of fishing the Tour this year for me will be securing a title sponsor. When you are not nationally known, a lot of sponsors don’t know who you are, and that limits the amount of sponsor connections you can make. When you meet someone face-to-face, or they see how you interact with the public at the events, that puts a greater face value on your marketability. Hopefully I’ll have the opportunity to make some of those important connections this season.
Ohio Bass Blog: What do you consider to be your greatest strength as an angler?
Prvonozac: My greatest strength as an angler is my determination and faith. Everything I have accomplished in the past has built a foundation for my success on the water, and I thank God for the gifts that He has given me.
Ohio Bass Blog: If you could only use one lure year-round, what would it be and why?
Prvonozac: It would definitely be a jig because I have won more money in tournaments “pitching” than with any other technique.
Ohio Bass Blog: What was it like finishing second to Van Dam in a major tournament?
Provonozac: Finishing second place at the 1999 Bassmaster Texas Invitational was an experience I’ll never forget. I had done a lot of research on Sam Rayburn prior to the event and had some general areas of the lake that, based on the time of year and seasonal patterns, I thought would be great reference points to start with. Armed with that information, I knew there was going to be an offshore bite that time of year.
I gave myself plenty of practice time to graph out the bottom terrain and prepare for the event. I showed up two and a half weeks before the first day of official practice. Mind you at that time, B.A.S.S. had a mandatory one week off limits prior to the start of official practice. I tried to catch some fish in practice but my main focus was to think of places the fish would be three weeks later.
I had found several staging areas in transition zones where the fish would probably stop on as they traveled to and from their wintering areas to their spawning areas. During the course of the three official practice days, I was able to relocate several schools of bass staging for the spawn. I never saw any competitors on these spots except for one, so I was really excited for the first day of competition.
On the first day I drew a Pro from Missouri and told him what I had found in practice. He agreed to take my boat and give me the start of the day. When we pulled up to my first spot of the morning, we were greeted with another competitor sitting right on the sweet spot. I wasn’t shocked because I had seen a lot of traffic in that area but I was hoping to be the first one there. We made a complete circle around them without a bite and watched them catch ten fish.
At that point, I told my partner we needed go to my other spots because I had never seen a boat on them. As we came around the corner and my spot became visible, I was mortified to see another boat near it. I ran close enough to see if they were exactly on it and raced to my third spot in disarray. When we stopped on my third spot, which wasn’t that far away, my partner nudged me and said, “That was Van Dam”! I couldn’t believe Kevin Van Dam was fishing one of the best spots I had found in practice. I shrugged it off and focused on the positives. I figured he would throw crankbaits, and not slow down to throw a Carolina rig.
While fishing my third spot, we watched KVD leave and after about an hour we headed over there. On my first two casts to the sweet spot, I caught back-to-back four pounders. It was awesome! I had found, 100% on my own, the exact spot “KVD” had found. After three days of competition, Kevin Van Dam won the event and I ended up a few pounds short of the victory. Even though I didn’t get a “win” in the books that week, it was still a personal victory for me.