Hooked! Local teen fishing with the pros
Have you ever been fishing? Most have, but while it's a form of recreation to most, Forest Grove's Lane Olson does it professionally — and hopes to make a living out of a sport few really understand.
"Everyone thinks that when I say I'm a bass fisherman that I just sit on the bank, eat a bunch of food and drink beer, but that's not even close to how it works," Olson said. "It's hard work. On practice days I'm up before the sun comes up and I don't come off the water until it's dark."
Olson, who was born in Beaverton, grew up just outside of Forest Grove and recently graduated from Banks High School. The 18-year-old had planned to go to college, but in the wake of his performance since turning professional last year, he's put those plans on hold in pursuit of what he hopes will be a career on the water.
"I'll still go to college at some point," he said. "But I've done so well this year, if I qualify for the FLW Series I now have to take it serious."
The teen sensation has been fishing professionally for just two seasons now, but he's been "rippin' lips" for much of his life. Olson originally began fishing at the age of five or six, but didn't take it seriously until around 12, he said. Prior to that he was like any other relatively athletic kid, playing soccer and basketball into middle school. He initially did much of his angling in the ocean, but later was introduced to fresh water fishing and while unable to recount his first fish, he had little hesitation when describing his first "monster."
"My first big fish was pretty cool," Olson said. "It was at Dorman Pond in Gales Creek. It was a five-and-a-half pound largemouth bass and it really got me hooked (no pun intended). I had never even seen a bass that big back then."
Since then, however, he's seen many.
Olson fishes the Fishing League Worldwide's (FLW) Costa Series in the Western Division. While seeing limited success last season, this year he's improved leaps and bounds, sitting in second place in the series standings. He's fished five events — each of which contain between 120 and 150 boats — and tallied two top-10 finishes, including a second place at the Lake Mead event this past February.
"I'm really competitive, so I really enjoy the competitive aspect of it," he said. "But it's really cool to be able to fish tournaments and use that competitive edge while doing something I love."
Like the fish Olson catches, there's nothing small about the sport of bass fishing. While people have been fishing competitively for countless decades, it really blossomed over the last 50 years thanks in large part to Ray Wilson Scott Jr., who founded the Bass Anglers Sportsman Society (B.A.S.S) in 1967. The Montgomery, Alabama, native envisioned a tournament with ironclad rules that would attract ethical anglers. Scott's hope was to change the reputation of bass fishermen from second-rate troublemakers to respectable sportsmen.
Over the next half-decade, Scott Jr. transformed what was formerly a casual and somewhat corrupt sport into a multi-billion-dollar sport fishing industry with countless events and million-dollar prizes. It's evolved from aluminum to fiberglass boats, hand driven to foot pedaled engines, live bait to the "plastic worm" and, most importantly, $2,000 winning prizes to the "million-dollar miracle" that was Arkansas' Scott Suggs taking home $1 million when he won the 2007 Forest Wood Cup on Lake Ouachita in Arkansas.
So far, Olson has seen little of that journey, but he did watch it on television and it was that experience that got him thinking about a life on the water.
"I had watched pro tournaments and thought I could do well," said Olson. "And I had a buddy who was going to go do it, so he convinced me to do it as well."
He fished three events in 2018, mostly with poor results. But this season he took a different approach, and the proof of his heightened effort has definitely been in the pudding.
"I knew I could do this, but I didn't think I'd be able to figure out the lakes so fast," Olson said. "Last year I didn't do well, but I didn't know what I was doing. This year I've taken practice a lot more seriously and I've seen the results."
Traveling the country competing in FLW events isn't cheap. There's the boat, the truck to tow it, traveling expenses and, of course, entry fees. Olson said much of the cost is handled by his parents, but other funds are acquired via sponsorships with help from family and friends, in addition to the results that speak for themselves.
"I have a lot of sponsors and get a lot of help from my parents," he said. "If not for them, I'd never be able to do it."
Currently his sponsors included Nixon's Marine, Pavilion Construction, Service Electric, G4 Archery in Hillsboro, Lucky Baits, Kenyon Plastering, PR Drywall in Hillsboro, Frontier Door in New Mexico, Legacy, Durham Ranch in Nevada, G Loomis, and Shimano. But while grateful for all of their support, Olson said he hopes that with this season's success, bigger sponsors will come next year.
"Securing big sponsors is going to be the next step," he said. "And next year is when I hope that happens."
And what kind of money can a professional fisherman like Olson earn? He's made $18,755 on the Costa Series this season, but with a top-5 finish in the end-of-the-year standings — of which he currently ranks second — he will receive an automatic spot into next year's FLW Tour, which has more than 100 fishermen who've made between $20,000 and $200,000 thus far this season. That's a lot of coin for catching fish, and something the Forest Grove resident is hopeful he can cash in on next year, the year after and for many years to come.
"Five years from now, hopefully I'll be somewhere in the south fishing FLW Tour, Bass Master Elite Series or Major League Fishing," Olson said. "This is what I want to do, and hopefully I can keep doing it."