Summerville bass fishing professional Bradford Beavers has been living a charmed life on the water lately.
Beavers' focus this year was the top-level FLW Tour, where he finished 12th as a rookie in the season-long point standings. He enjoyed a pair of top-10 finishes and won $75,000 while finishing 22nd in the season-ending FLW Cup. Beavers also fished, and won, a Costa FLW Series tournament on the Santee Cooper lakes in April, earning $86,700.
When the FLW Tour season ended in August, Beavers decided to get out of the house and fish a T-H Marine FLW Bass Fishing League (BFL) tournament on Lake Hartwell at the end of September. Despite being unfamilar with the waters, Beavers won the tournament, earning $6,345 but also qualifying for the BFL Regional Championship last weekend on the Potomac River.
So Beavers headed to Maryland last week and managed to grind out a two-day catch weighing 28 pounds, 8 ounces, good enough for another winner's trophy plus $20,000 in cash and a certificate valued at $51,200 for a new Ranger Z518L bass boat with a 200-horsepower Mercury or Evinrude motor. And he also qualified for yet another event, the 2020 BFL All-American which will be held April 30-May 2 on Lake Hartwell.
Beavers, who said he has received a lot of local support from Eye Strike Fishing, went to the Potomac River with a "nothing to lose" attitude.
"In my experience, almost everywhere we fish in the fall it's tough. The fish group up, making them harder to find. When you find them it's good, but it's hard to find them," said Beavers, who had fished the Potomac in a Costa FLW event about five years ago.
"It was no entry fee to get into it so I was looking forward to it. I didn't have anything to lose. I could go up there and either get my butt kicked or win the tournament."
Weather was a major challenge and actually forced the cancellation of the scheduled first day of the three-day event.
"We were supposed to get 40-plus mile an hour winds. During practice, we had a full moon so tides were extremely high. The winds were out of the west northwest and blew a ton of water out of the river, so we had an extremely low tide. In fact we didn't have any tides the first day.
"The water was extremely low. What you found in practice that was four feet deep, it was only about one foot deep. I went to some of the deepest grass I had found practicing. I didn't know fish were there, but I stumbled on them. Once I realized what was there, I took advantage. The second day I went back to the same spot, and it was deep enough that I could fish some of the other spots I'd found in practice."
Beavers was third out of 168 anglers the first day and just over one pound off the lead, so he knew he was in contention and felt good about his chances.
"It's kind of hard to believe because I had just won (at Hartwell)," Beavers said. "Winning these things does not come easy. It's very difficult to win, especially on bodies of water you're not familiar with and fishing against locals. I was grateful to have a chance. It's difficult to put yourself in contention. After the first day, I knew I had a chance. All I had to do was go out and have one more good day."
The $20,000 cash plus whatever he makes out of selling the certificate for the new bass boat will help make the 2020 season a little less stressful for Beavers. Major League Fishing recently announced that it had acquired FLW, and Bradfords plans to fish the top circuit again.
"I have so much money invested in (the Tour level) so that's my focus. The only reason I got in the BFL and the Regional is that our season was over and I was sitting around the house," he said.
Beavers' career earnings are now $332,060 with five wins on FLW's three levels and 15 top-10 finishes, a very respectable showing for the 33-year-old pro. But Beavers said anglers have to prepare for the worst so he's socking away as much as he can for a rainy day.
"When you know you're going to be $50,000, $60,000 in the hole to start out, you can't spend a ton of money," he said. "That's a full year of expenses and entry fees. The entry fees next year for us, I think, will be $40,000."