May 12, 2014 by Tyler Brinks
The West has produced some of the biggest stars on the Walmart FLW Tour. The list includes pros Brent Ehrler, Ish Monroe, Brett Hite, Luke Clausen, Cody Meyer and others who have already made their journey to the top. For the most part, these anglers started with the Rayovac FLW Series Western Division and the former Western Division of the FLW Series - the perfect training grounds for a full-time Tour career.
This year, the next group of rising Western stars is busy planning for careers at the highest level in professional bass fishing. Here are a few members of that group. Look for them in action at this week's Rayovac FLW Series event on the California Delta.
Todd Kline trades surfboard for rods and reels
Winning as a Rayovac FLW Series Western Division co-angler requires the ability to quickly adapt and a little bit of luck, but to win consistently, it's skill that is most important.
California's Todd Kline is an example of a skilled co-angler whose career is on the rise. He won the co-angler division of the Rayovac FLW Series at Roosevelt Lake in 2013 and Lake Havasu in 2014, and along the way also took home the 2013 Western Division Co-Angler of the Year title. His excellent 2013 season qualified him for a trip to the upcoming 2014 Forrest Wood Cup.
Kline's FLW career began in 2013, and the instant success he has experienced is indicative of his abilities, but also his experience in major competition. Originally from Florida, Kline was a professional surfer with the Association of Surfing Professionals (ASP). He still has a connection to the surfing world as the full-time television commentator for ASP events around the world (he actually gave this interview from Australia, where he was on-site for a surfing event).
"Surfing and fishing are very similar in a lot of ways," he says. "The mental aspect in both sports is crucial. Surfing is also a lot like bass fishing in that each surfer and each angler has a different style for how he likes to approach the water."
Now that he has tasted success as a co-angler, Kline is patiently waiting to take his next step in the fishing world.
"I am still learning with fishing, but absolutely my goal is to fish as a professional on the FLW Tour," Kline says. "It's like being a musician; of course you would rather sell out huge concerts than to keep playing at local bars."
Jason Borofka is refocused, ready
California's Jason Borofka has twice competed in both the Forrest Wood Cup and the Rayovac FLW Series Championship. Although he took a short break from fishing FLW events from 2010 to 2012, he has come back strong in Rayovac FLW Series Western Division competition the last two seasons. In the final event of the 2013 season at Clear Lake, he finished second, then followed that up with another runner-up finish at the division's 2014 season-opener on Lake Havasu. He has won smaller local and regional tournaments, but is still looking for that first win with FLW - if he continues his successful ways, that day will come soon.
"If you look back at my finishes, there is a gap of a few years where I took some time off to refocus and prepare for my run at the FLW Tour," Borofka says. "I really don't think I was ready, both mentally and financially, but now it's my biggest goal for next year."
Borofka has learned to be versatile by fishing the diverse selection of waters visited by the Western Division. Like many Western anglers, he loves to throw big swimbaits, but his willingness to use whatever technique is necessary will earn paychecks at the next level of bass fishing.
And according to Borofka, he has already learned a lot of the difficult lessons that accompany professional fishing.
"I realized that I am going to have to work hard to get to the Tour, and nothing is going to be handed to me," he says. "I'm now in the right position financially and have the support of my wife, Tara, my job, and my sponsors. So there is nothing that is going to get in the way of fishing the FLW Tour."
Borofka works as a bellman at a luxury resort near his home in Salinas, and it allows him to have the flexibility to travel to all of the Rayovac events, have as much time for practice as he needs and still have a job to return to when he comes home.
"If you are fishing and worrying about money or something else, you can't fish how you want to, and it can really affect how you do," Borofka says.
Joe Uribe Jr. says family first, then the Tour
Joe Uribe Jr. has consistently been one of the top Rayovac FLW Series Western Division pros, finishing second, fourth and fifth in the Angler of the Year standings over the past three years. His success leads to the question of when he is going to take the next step and fish the Walmart FLW Tour. Uribe is sponsored by Bridgford Foods, an FLW sponsor, and also works in the fishing industry selling Ranger Boats at Cabela's in Surprise, Ariz. - two things that would seem to make him a great fit for the life as a pro. But for Uribe, the Tour can wait until he is completely ready.
"I have a wife and two kids under 10 years old, so I am going to wait for them to get a little older and maybe in high school before I take the next step," he says. "Fishing the Tour requires a total commitment, and I really want to make sure I am successful when I go for it. It's definitely a cost and time commitment, and I really don't want to be worrying about money or my family when I am on the road across the country."
Uribe has talked with other Western pros who have made the journey to fish the Tour and noted that it usually takes more than just one year to get established, build a network and learn to compete on lakes that are often nothing like those in the West. So for now, he's sticking with the Western circuit.
"The FLW events out here are the best, and it's a great opportunity for us to fish for big money without having to travel too far," he says. "I was lucky enough to qualify for the Forrest Wood Cup [in 2009], and that is something I would have never had the chance to qualify for if it weren't for FLW."