UPCOMING EVENT: PHOENIX BASS FISHING LEAGUE - 2020 - Lake Wylie

Buddy Gross Q&A

Buddy Gross Q&A
Buddy Gross (illustration by Rachel Idzerda)


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First off, is Buddy your real name or just a nickname that stuck?

It’s my real name. My parents always said they didn’t want me to have a nickname, so they gave me one.

Actually, my grandpa was nicknamed Bud, so they named me after him.

 

Rob Newell started referring to the crew of successful pro anglers who live in east Tennessee as the 423 Mafia, because the area code is 423. You live just across the state line in Georgia, but are you still a member of the 423 Mafia?

You called me on a 423 phone number, didn’t you?

 

Touché. So tell me about this mysterious mafia.

How do I say this? If you don’t show you can fish, you ain’t part of it. You have to earn credit on the water and off to be a part of it.

 

What is it about that area of the country that produces so many good fishermen?

You just have such a strong competitive force here. There are so many talented anglers. I mean, in any tournament you’ll have at least 50 guys who are true sticks. So if you can stand apart amongst all of these anglers, you can do it anywhere.

 

So has being a pro been everything you ever dreamed it’d be?

I’m working harder and longer hours than I ever have, but I’d 10 times rather be fishing than doing anything else.

 

What’d you do before going pro?

I was managing a body shop my in-laws owned, and before that I’d been in the heavy-truck business since out of high school. Really, I’ve been in that all my life, since my dad started his own heavy-truck business in the early ’90s.

 

You won the FLW Tour event on Pickwick in 2016 and the Costa FLW Series Southeastern Division AOY title in 2017. Seems like going pro has been a pretty good change for you.

It has. I mean, I’ll be honest, that Pickwick tournament was almost my last tournament because I was about out of money.

But what I’m really looking for now is consistency. You can win a tournament every year and be OK, but there’s no way you can expect to do that. Consistency is how you stay in this sport.

 

How hard a time do folks give you for that “impressive” net job during that Pickwick win? On the TV show, it looked like you missed it twice, then dropped the net in the water.

Dude, it’s brutal. Most people didn’t know a big guy like me could do the splits.

 

I take it you’ve watched the replay a few times, huh? 

That’s the only show I’ve ever recorded. I’ve never been one to watch all the tournaments on TV. I’m not a good spectator; I’d rather be actually fishing. Now my best friend and tournament partner, James Milling, he’s always watching them and keeping me informed. He shows up all the time with the latest and greatest fishing lures. He gets on me about it.

 

I see your daughter at plenty of the tournaments. Is she as good as you? 

Bella is gonna be good. She’s a natural. She’s 8, and she used to have this Barbie doll rod. Well, I left it at home one day, and she was so upset. I took out a baitcaster and tied on a drop-shot. She threw it a time or two, and then she says, “Daddy, I think I got a bite.” I turn around and she’s got a bass reeled up all the way to the eye.

 

Tags: sean-ostruszka  magazine-features  backlash 

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