MEET JESSE WIGGINS

I’m from the small town of Addison, AL. Luckily for me there wasn’t much to do there, so we pretty much got stuck with being outdoors. Fishing has been a huge part of my life for longer than I can remember. I honestly can’t remember not fishing, so I don’t really know at what age I started. I fished my first bass tournament with my dad when I was 5 years old. We finished 2nd place and won big fish of the tournament. I remember it like it was yesterday. From that point on, I was hooked on tournament bass fishing. Playing sports at Addison High School turned me into a competitor. As I got older, I realized I wasn’t good enough to play football or baseball professionally, so I started to put more focus into fishing professionally. I remember vividly in the 9 th grade we wrote a paper about what we wanted to do when we grew up. Of course, mine was about becoming a professional fisherman. When the teacher read mine, he called me out in front of the class and laughed in my face saying, “Do you realize how good those guys are at fishing? You can never compete against those guys.’’ From that day forward, I really didn’t know how I was going to make it happen, but I knew, without a single doubt in my mind, that I was going to give it everything I had to prove him wrong.

Everyone in my family fished, so growing up my brother, Jordan, and I would fish with anyone who would take us fishing. Whether we were fishing for minnows in a creek behind our house, or fishing Friday night jackpot tournaments on Smith Lake, we didn’t care; we just loved to fish. Jordan is 18 months younger than me, so when we got old enough to drive ourselves to the lake, we became team tournament partners. We had success from the start, so we just kept working our way into bigger and bigger tournaments. When we started having decent success throughout north Alabama, I just became even hungrier to fish professionally. Luckily the Bassmaster Southern Opens made a regular stop at Smith Lake. I was confident I could do well on Smith Lake, so in 2014, with Smith Lake on the schedule, I decided to sign up for all three Southern Opens. Honestly, I had no idea if I could even compete. I ended up doing well in all three opens that year, and I ended up finishing 2nd in the Southern Open Angler of the Year points. That qualified me for the Bassmaster Elite Series. Unfortunately, I was not prepared financially for the high cost of the entry fees, so I had to turn down my invitation.

I have never had anything given to me. I have had to work for everything I have. After high school, I didn’t have the kind of money I needed to fish for a living. So I decided to go to college and get a degree. I became a Respiratory Therapist. I knew I wanted to fish and not be in college for very long. My degree in Respiratory Therapy took only two years and after I graduated, my job was perfect because I only had to work three days a week. We fished out of my grandpa’s boat until I was able to graduate college, get a job, and buy a decent boat. I had a good feeling that the Opens would come back to Smith Lake. So sure enough in 2016, Smith Lake was once again on the schedule. This time my plan was to win the Smith Lake event, while still doing well enough in the other two Opens so I could qualify for the Elite Series again. Call it God’s plan, a miracle, dumb luck, whatever it should be called, it happened just how I wanted it to happen. Winning the Open also qualified me for the 2017 Bassmaster Classic. So the Classic, along with winning the Open, gave me some room financially to give the 2017 Bassmater Elite Series a shot. I am determined to make a career as a professional angler.

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