Warrenton’s Tommy Bailey angles for fishing’s big leagues
Wednesday, Feb. 6
Tommy Bailey, left, competed in the Bass Pro Shops Southern Open 1 on Lake Tohopekaliga in Kissimmee, Fla, finishing 135th out of 198.
Could a Warrenton man be the next big thing on the pro bass tour?
Tommy Bailey, 53, just returned from his first major fishing tournament as a pro, the Bass Pro Shops Southern Open No. 1, on Lake Tohopekaliga in Kissimmee, Fla., where he placed 135th out of 198.
"To me I wasn't fully satisfied. I did miss a couple of fish. The two I had lost me 35 places," said Bailey. "I would have been in the top 100. It was a great learning experience for me."
Bailey hasn't quit his full-time job yet, but he's almost ready to.
He's the facilities manager at Early Mountain Vineyards in Madison County.
A life-long fisherman, he feels the tug of the full-time angling lifestyle and yearns to make it happen. He pre-fished the waters in Florida, and will scope out the venue before his next big event in Tennessee.
He has the support of his wife Julie, daughter Jamie — a professional photographer who has taken promotional images of her dad — and several sponsors.
"I am going to do well," insists Bailey, who'll tackle his second big event, the Southern Open No. 2 on Douglas Lake in Dandridge, Tenn., on April 4-6.
Bailey recently spent 10 days with former Fauquier County area professional angler Kurt Dove, who now resides in Del Rio, Texas.
Dove talked to him about many aspects of fishing, and what it takes to make it on the pro tour. "I want to say Kurt's a mentor. He helps me get my mind right," said Bailey.
Only the top 40 earned money at the Southern Open, but the winner did make $48,698, hinting at the pressure to do well at a complex sport that requires a scientific knowledge of fish and their habitat. To be successful, a pro fisherman must make countless correct decisions. Bailey has succeeded locally, but is new to the experience of bass fishing at the highest level.
"He's very good, very methodical," said Julie Bailey about her husband. "He studies all the time. Every night he's on the internet, checking conditions or studying lakes and topographical maps."
Julie Bailey gave her husband a Ranger boat for their 25th wedding anniversary and has watched Tommy hone his skills.
"I'm proud of him for chasing after his dream. He's put it off so many years," she said.
Bailey says career success is helping him afford it and he's excited for the preparation that goes into his next big event.
"My goal is to qualify for the last day (of tournament). To me it's put in my lap. It's in my arc to do this," says Bailey, a born-again Christian.