Bass Rankings: When we first launched the site, you were the No. 1-ranked Minors-only angler, and you’re currently No. 2. How did it make you feel seeing your name atop that ranking?
Michael Simonton: It’s been pretty awesome. As a fan of the sport, I’ve been obsessed with looking at the different rankings out there for the pros. So to all of a sudden see my name on a ranking was a very neat experience.
BR: Now, you’ve qualified for the BASS Elite Series the last two seasons through the BASS Opens, and you’re going pro in 2012 correct?
MS: Yes. I got my money in and have a title sponsor: Crown Battery, a large, independent battery maker.
BR: Has it been tough trying to find sponsors being a rookie?
MS: It has, but that’s where a site like yours has been really valuable. The ranking covers the last two years, which shows consistency and success.
When I’m talking with potential sponsors, most are hesitant to sign a rookie. It’s hard for them in this economy the take a chance on someone who is relatively unknown. So the fact that your site has data dating back beyond the last two years that supports what I’m telling them has been invaluable.
BR: We’re happy to hear that, since one of the main goals of the site is to help anglers.
MS: Well, it has for me, and I’m sure it will for others. Two years ago I was unknown outside of Ohio. Qualifying for the Elites two years in a row has helped people get to know me a little bit. But how many other guys like me are scattered throughout the country? There are some great anglers that people don’t know about. Your site allows people to get to know these guys.
BR: Again, thanks for the compliment. Now, back to you. You are a teacher. What are your plans once the season starts up?
MS: I’ve already met with the school and the superintendent and told them my plans. A lot of the teachers thought I was out of my mind, but the superintendent thought it was great. We worked out that he would give me 3-months leave. Now, if everything goes to plan and I do well, then I’ll resign this summer and fish professionally full time. Besides, I still plan on substitute teaching. That’s a luxury most guys don’t have, because on breaks between tournaments I can make a little extra money to help pay for gas or other expenses.
BR: What are your expectations for the 2012 season?
MS: In all honesty, it’s to survive. I’ve got to be realistic, and that means I need to cash three, four or five checks or it’s going to be over.
You can’t really tell anything from one season. I want to give myself three years on tour to get a true sense if I can do this.
BR: One last question: Being a Northern angler, how big a learning curve will there be for you fishing a lot of the Southern waters?
MS: I’m actually very excited about that. I’ve been to La Crosse, Wis., and to Oneida, but none of the other lakes on the schedule. I’ve actually never even been to Florida.
The thing is, I tend to fish for largemouths. Even in tournaments where smallmouths were the best bet, I often went after largemouths because I wanted to prepare myself for the Elite Series. I’m a big power fisherman and flipper, so I can’t wait to visit new lakes and test my skills.