After his grandfather passed away when he was a youngster, Greenfield area farmer Bill Rea’s grandmother gave him his grandfather’s fishing rods and reels. It was a gift that’s lasted a lifetime.
Rea, now retired from Crop Production Services, was recently named the Professional Anglers Association Co-Angler of the Year.
When he received his grandfather’s rods and reels, Rea said he figured he should use them, so he’d roll over to Eyman Park in Washington C.H. where he lived at the time and try his luck. His grandparents, Homer and Laura Rea, lived on SR 753 between Rainsboro and New Petersburg in Highland County.
He fished here and there over the years, then several years ago and friend introduced Rea to tournament fishing. But, work got in the way. Then he retired at age 52 and has been fishing tournaments regularly since 2006. Rea said he started fishing tournaments at Rocky Fork and Paint Creek lakes, progressed into the Bassmaster series on weekends and just kept going.
“I like the competition. Like any other sport you try to match your skills against the other people and see how you do,” said Rea, who played football and baseball at Washington C.H. “At first, I lacked a little experience on the water, but I picked that up pretty quick, got some confidence, and decided to get bigger, badder and better.”
In the PAA Series, fishermen can compete as a pro or a co-angler.
“If you’re a pro, you use your boat, go where you want to go, and fish where you want to fish,” Rea said. “If you’re a co-angler, you’re paired up with the pros. You fish off the back of their boat and you have to do whatever the pro wants to do and go wherever they want to go.
“The challenge for the pro is finding the fish, while the co-angler is fishing dirty water all day.
Rea said one of his good fishing buddies, Waverly resident Whitney Stevens, asked him to team with him as pros on this year’s PAA Series. But Rea said they’d tried that before and because they are both so competitive, it kind of got in the way of their friendship.
“So he said, ‘Well then why don’t you go as a co-angler?’” Rea said.
It turned out to be a great suggestion.
Rea won the event with 545.85 points. The runner-up had 502.26 points and the third place finisher had 401.99.
In the series’ first event at Douglas Lake in Dandridge, Tenn., Rea finished first. He followed with a fourth place finish at Fort Loudon-Tellico Lakes in Knoxville, Tenn., a 10th place finish at Table Rock Lake in Branson, Mo., and wrapped up the title with a seventh place finish at Grand Lake in Grove, Okla.
Rea competes for money and answered with a laugh when asked how much he made this year. But he said it was a really good year, that all his entry fees on the pro side of the PAA series would be paid for next year, which he said equals about $6,000, that he received a big crystal trophy, and that there will be lots of sponsors trying to pick him up on the pro side of the series next year.
“I enjoyed it and had a great time,” Rea said. “If anyone else in Highland County is thinking about competitive fishing, the PAA is a great place to start. I’d suggest it to anybody. It’s a great opportunity to fish with some pros.
“I’m really happy to be able to promote the sport, and I don’t mind bragging a little.”