UPCOMING EVENT: Costa FLW Series - 2019 - Santee Cooper

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Chasing the Dream for Jared

Chasing the Dream for Jared
Jessie Mizell

The next time you see Jessie Mizell land a big bass, pay close attention. In just two seasons, Mizell has racked up four wins in the T-H Marine FLW Bass Fishing League Gator Division at Lake Okeechobee. The last three of those have been back-to-back-to-back.

With that winning percentage, Mizell’s star is rising. But when you watch him, don’t look at his tackle. Don’t look at his rod or boat or even his fish. Look where Mizell looks … to the sky.

“I definitely think he’s with me,” Mizell says. “This was our deal. We just wanted to travel together and have a good old time fishing, chasing the dream.”

Mizell is talking about his former fishing partner, Jared Younkman, who tragically passed away at the age of 21 just four years ago. Younkman was a fishing addict, a true bass head who for years hoisted trophies and checks with Mizell. Together, they roamed a region of Florida from Lake Rousseau to Okeechobee, fishing with the Venice Bass Club and any cash tournaments they could make their way into. Together, their trajectory was set. And they had a plan: ride an elevator of success from local tournaments to BFLs, the Costa FLW Series and on to the FLW Tour.

They’d talk about the future often. They’d talk about it on the water, at weigh-ins and at home where they worked on refurbishing the 20-year-old bass boat Mizell had purchased.

Together, Mizell and Younkman mastered the Venice Bass Club. They’d head out early in the morning, swapping techniques – Younkman throwing a jig or a Senko, Mizell with a frog or Spook – until they finally keyed in on the bite. By then, it was a matter of waiting for a bag big enough to put another tournament check in their pockets, to keep the dream moving forward.

But in September 2013, the dream crashed. Younkman fell victim to a fatal combination of a broken heart, a bottle and a bullet. On Sept. 29 of that year, the promising youthful fisherman took his own life.

Mizell was devasted.

“For about a year, I stayed away from fishing,” he says. “I was so bummed about it. I was so bummed about losing my partner that I just couldn’t go back on the water.”

For whatever reason, however, something changed in Mizell in 2014, and he decided to revive the dream.

He’d grown up bass fishing, after all, and it was too big a part of his life to ignore. So, fueled by his gut, family tradition and the memory of Younkman, Mizell decided to go full bore on bass fishing again.

“I woke up one day and said, ‘dude, you just need to go do it.’ This is what my dad wants me to do. It’s what Jared wanted me to do. I’m doing it.”

Reigniting the dream, however, wasn’t simple. Going it alone required adjusting tournament strategies. Doing the work of two, Mizell says, is an adjustment.

“Sometimes it’s a game of What Would Jared Do? I’ll pitch a jig like he would pitch a jig. I’ll throw a Senko like he used to throw a Senko. On my deck, I look like Bryan Thrift because I’ve got so many rods up there just trying to key in on what the fish are doing.”

At 28, Mizell works full time at a Sarasota, Fla., masonry company where he’s tasked with maintaining a fleet of dump trucks, semitrailers and track hoes. It’s a daily grind that often involves welding, bending metal, installing brakes or even subbing in to operate a skid steer. Mizell is a self-described jack-of-all-trades at the shop.

 

Jessie Mizell

It’s an approach that he’s carried onto the water, crediting his BFL success to adaptability.

“I don’t get flustered. I adapt to situations really quickly,” he adds. “If I get to an area and I know there are fish there that turn on at 10 a.m., I don’t go crazy. I don’t do milk runs. I wait them out as long as I can, and if something happens – let’s say a cold front comes in – I will adapt.”

Mizell says that was exactly the scenario during his second and third BFL wins on Okeechobee, where he drew enough attention to pick up a sponsorship from 13 Fishing and primed the pumps for a move up to the Costa FLW Series in 2018. A solid year there could put him on the FLW Tour.

Now, four years after sudden tragedy almost ended his dream for good, Mizell is within spitting distance of FLW’s top ranks. He’s inches away from putting all of the pieces together, and if you ask Mizell, he’s not doing it alone.

“You don’t understand how many times I catch a big fish in a tournament and just look up and thank Jared and thank God,” he says. “I know he’s looking down at me. I mean, I absolutely believe that.”

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