Most Achieved Sportsman of our small town
Dalhart is home to many successful individuals, whether it’s sports, music, academics, rodeo or what have you. But in the background, we have one of the most achieved sportsmen in the history of our small town.
Tom Jessop will be heading to the BASS Federation National Championship at the Harris Chain of Lakes in Florida at the end of this week. Tournament dates are from October 28th to 30th and results will be viewable on ESPN’s BASS Federation Nation webpage and weigh-ups live at ESPN360.
This tournament is just one step closer to an opportunity for a small town bass fisherman to make it to the big time, otherwise known as, The Bassmaster Classic. For those unfamiliar to the world of bass fishing, the Classic is comparable to, let’s say, the SuperBowl. It’s the final test… the best of the best. The Classic is a tournament for the Professional Angler but also gives a rare opportunity for the amateur angler to compete in a professional field. But right now…Tom is concentrating on getting there and to do so he must win his division at this week’s national tournament.
The Federation is a venue of competitions for the average angler to compete and work their way up through successful competitions. Tom’s road to success for the year began with winning the Panhandle Region on Lake Greenbelt in September of 2008. This entitled him to compete in the Bass Federation Nation Central Divisional Tournament at Greers Ferry Lake in Arkansas this past June. It was at this tournament, in sweltering heat, that Tom hooked a total of 17.5 lbs beating the other 11 top anglers in the state of Texas and was awarded 1st Place for the state of Texas and the opportunity to continue on to compete in the upcoming National Tournament.
Tom will be representing Texas and will be competing against the other state winners in the Central Division for his spot at the Classic. The Central Division will consist of the top angler from Kansas, Oklahoma, Louisiana, Nebraska, Arkansas, Missouri, and Mississippi. This will give Tom a chance of 1 in 8 odds at the Classic. This may sound like fairly good odds…but keep in mind… these are the best anglers from each state. He will also be competing against all the other top anglers from each state in the nation for an overall national win.
And by the way, this isn’t your average local bass tournament. At this level you are greeted at the airport with transportation to your hotel followed by a week of welcoming dinners, speakers and public interviews with ESPN. Above all else, new boats are provided by Skeeter for use to each angler during the tournament. Again, just enticing the angler with a glimpse of the excitement and glitz of the famous Bassmaster Classic.
The effort involved in achieving this level of bass fishing is an overwhelming one and one that has involved many years of practice and determination. Tom began fishing as a child in Wisconsin but began bass tournament fishing in the Panhandle area in 1985. At that time, Tom became one of the original members of the local Tip Top Bass Club and has competed in the local tournaments and fished with the local team in the state tournaments since that time. Fishing in the Panhandle Region tournaments are what have enabled him to advance to more competitive levels and he has been to the Central Divisional Tournament nine times and has come home with a win two of those nine years. The first win was at Lake Amistad in Del Rio, Texas in 2005 which enabled him to compete in his first National Tournament in 2006 at the Harris Chain of Lakes. Tom worked hard for his first National Tournament but came up short for his chance to win his division.
Now he’s up for his second trip. It’s his hope that his previous experience in 2006 on the Harris Chain of Lakes will grant him an advantage this year. Tom travelled to Florida in September to pre-fish and feels that he has a strategy of how he will handle the lake.
The years of hard work and practice are paying off. Most of Tom’s weekends are spent travelling to a tournament. The time of preparation for each of these tournaments involves mental and physical preparation. Much time and effort is put into studying the right lures, fishing patterns, weather patterns, and all the factors that induce a bass to “bite” as well as taking optimum care of his equipment and boat. Tom also believes that a lot of his success can be contributed to his physical state and works hard to stay in shape so he can endure the physical demands of tournament days and balancing his hectic work schedule with his bass fishing.
Everyone dreams to become a “pro” in their chosen sport of interest. But this route to the Classic can be a much more difficult one than that of the pros. The Federation fishermen have to balance occupations amongst their fishing interests whereas the pros get to just concentrate on fishing. And work is not the only balancing act….it’s a big sacrifice for Tom and his family, and especially his wife Jodie, who often is left with the chores of the family’s cattle business while Tom is away fishing. However, she always accompanies Tom to the Divisional Tournaments as well as the Nationals and is looking forward to their upcoming trip to Florida. The rest of his family which include his daughter Kristin and her husband Jarrod with children Bella and Brody, Clay, and step-children Taylor, Sydney and Chelsea all understand Tom’s passion for the sport and hope and pray for his safety and success.
It is rare that an angler has been to a Divisional tournament nine times. It is rare that an angler gets this opportunity to get so close to the Classic…not once, but twice. It is the hope of fellow anglers and friends and family of Tom Jessop that he gets his dream…of making it to the Classic. But in Tom’s words, he puts it all in perspective and just says, “I’ll just do the best I can and fish the best I know how. That’s all I can do. “
But Tom’s not in this just for himself, he has many fellow anglers and the sport of local bass fishing that he is representing and he really hopes he doesn’t let anyone down. His talents are not selfish and Tom is known for helping a fellow angler and most importantly the youth of the area. Tom is the Panhandle Region Youth Director and does his best to promote the sport of fishing to the local youth by putting on local tournaments and casting contests as well as educational seminars.
Tom really wants to thank his friends and fellow anglers in the Panhandle Region and Texas BASS for their support. Also, a special thank you to fellow angler Gene Lowrey, for all of his help and time spent pre-fishing with Tom in preparation for some of his most significant tournaments. Most importantly, he appreciates the support and friendship of his fellow anglers of the Tip Top Bass Club and emphasizes that it is that camaraderie that makes the sport of bass fishing so special on any level.