UPCOMING EVENT: YETI FLW COLLEGE FISHING - 2019 - Sam Rayburn Reservoir

FISHING LEAGUE WORLDWIDE

BK’s Year as the Champ

Brad Knight

Brad Knight plans on getting a good night’s sleep before this year’s Forrest Wood Cup on Wheeler Lake begins on Aug. 4. Sounds pretty straightforward, but there have been times during the past 12 months when dozing off wasn’t so easy for the defending Cup champion.

When the eighth-year pro from Lansing, Tenn., explains the vexation, his words speak volumes about his straightforward, family-first approach. Suffice it to say, the totality of his Cup experience has been deeply meaningful, if not overwhelming – from a professional and personal standpoint.

During the 2016 season, Knight pulled a camper while his wife, Becky, towed the boat with their 4-year-old daughter, Tinsley, keeping her company. Those two people, Brad says, have fueled his drive to parlay one magnificent moment into family stability.

“This was a life-altering experience, and I just didn’t want to blow it,” he says. “I wanted to make sure I capitalized on this to build a future for my family. I felt the pressure, more than anything else, to succeed for my family. That was probably more intense than any of the pressures of the tournaments.”

Part of this longing for what could be comes from comparisons to what once was.

“My mind spins, and I’m always thinking of the future and what I need to do,” he adds. “Basically, I wanted to make that foundation for my career. I wanted to be able to set that money from the Cup aside and build financial security for the future. In the past, if we didn’t put bass in the bucket, we didn’t make money. I wasn’t interested in having that pressure all the time.”

 

Brad Knight

On the treadmill

To move ahead of that grinding lifestyle, Knight knew he had to leverage his year of national-level focus, build his brand, and establish the promotional deals that would keep food on the table and keep his tournament career moving forward.

Easier said than done, and that truth is what kept him awake at nights – sometimes longer.

“I was always worried about who I had to call tomorrow, who I had to email, how I needed to set up this presentation,” Knight says. “I spent a lot of time in my office, just building that stuff. There were a lot of different paths we were pursuing. We were dealing with a lot of interviews, and there was a lot of mental effort. I couldn’t shut it off.

“I’d have dinner and play with my little girl, so I’d be the husband and the father, but you also have to be the businessman. They’d go to bed at 10 o’clock, and the house was quiet, so I’d go downstairs with my notepad and my pen. The next thing I knew, the sun was coming up.”

Predictably, Knight’s sponsorship support and media attention have increased since his Cup win. This has provided a greater platform from which to legitimize his promotional deals

For success in tournament competition and sponsor promotion, Knight relies on good old-fashioned work ethic.

“I’ve made a lot of super-good friends, but I’m not here for a popularity contest, and I’m not here for the ego. It’s straight up about making money for the companies that are taking a chance on me and maximizing their potential,” he explains. “My family depends on me for that. We all see the fish catches and the high-fives, but at the end of the day, it’s about putting food on the table to feed my family. And it’s the same for my sponsors. I’m helping put the food on the table for them by helping them promote their products.”

 

The notoriety

Since his Cup win, Knight has become keenly aware that success demands constant attention to one’s image.

“The one thing that has surprised me has been the recognition,” he adds. “As you’re traveling, you’ll be in a Walmart checking out, or you’ll be in a restaurant and have people notice you. That just goes to show you that you have eyes on you more so than just at a fishing tournament. You’re an ambassador of the sport, so you’re on the clock 24/7. Even if I don’t have a Lew’s jersey or a Strike King hat on, I’m still representing my sponsors.”

Knight says the increased recognition and support kicked in almost immediately after he stepped off the stage in Hot Springs, Ark.

“The next morning, we ate breakfast with my parents, and when I got back to the camper around 11 a.m., I sat beneath the awning and did nothing but return texts and Facebook messages until 10 o’clock that night,” he says. “It was almost 10 hours straight on the phone. That part was pretty wild.”

The support didn’t end there. It continued in person when the Knights returned to their hometown of Lansing. The community shut down the main roads and greeted the champ’s return with throngs of sign-waving fans.

“That meant the world to me that people took time out of their day, went to the store with their own money to buy signs and then businesses congratulated me,” Knight says. “Man, at the end of the day, I’m just a guy that bass fishes, pursues his passion and is able to make a living for his family by doing it. So, to have people that were so excited to see me win it was like it was our win. Friends and family have been right there with me, but it’s also the introductions to people who didn’t know much about fishing. If I’ve done nothing else, I’ve introduced a lot of people to the sport that follow it now.”

 

Brad Knight

On-the-water changes

Knight’s Cup win has also allowed him that rare comfort zone to “go for it” in tournaments. Rather than sit on an area for base hit money farther down the standings, he often ran new water to seek the home runs.

“The main part of it was having my 2016 Cup berth [for winning the 2015 Cup],” he says. “Our main goal every year is to make the Cup, so already making it enabled me to make more aggressive decisions. Every tournament I strove to put myself in position to make the cut.”

 

Words of advice

Knight knows what to expect in terms of the usual Tennessee River summer struggle at this season’s Cup, so he’s certainly gunning for the repeat on Wheeler. But should another angler lift the Cup, the defending champ has some advice: “Don’t focus on the results; focus on the process. During last year’s Cup, I just focused on what was happening at the moment and tried to keep control of what I could. I couldn’t control what someone else was catching. I just did what I could do to catch as much as I could and make it as hard on them as I could. To me, the Cup is like NCAA basketball’s March Madness. It’s about surviving and advancing. I may not be able to win it the first day, but I can just hang tight and hang tight and then have a chance to go into the last day and make somebody miss.”

 

Brad Knight

Making it all worthwhile

If anything, Knight has experienced his share of dues-paying humility over the course of his career. It’s funny, though, how reaching the mountaintop makes the climb more bearable.

“After all those times driving home after getting my butt kicked, finishing 137th and asking myself, ‘Man, am I really doing the right thing for my family?” winning the Forrest Wood Cup totally legitimized everything,” he says. “Now I don’t have to worry about looking myself in the mirror and wondering if I’m being selfish or if I’m doing the right thing. It’s just like a football player in the workout room, running the stadium steps, working when nobody is looking – that’s the feeling I was getting during those 12-hour road trips home after getting my teeth kicked in. Winning made it all worthwhile. It absolutely did.”

Tags: forrest-wood-cup  brad-knight  david-a-brown  pre-tournament  2016-08-04-forrest-wood-cup 

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