Talk to the top professionals in any field, and they’ll tell you their version of the same thing: it takes a ridiculous amount of hard work to become elite. And there are no shortcuts. Mercury Marine Pro fishing team, Liquid ...
Meet Mercury Pro, Chris Groh, who is fishing the Bassmaster Elite Series Tournament Trail.
Professional angler Chris Groh is hurtling down the tracks of life like a locomotive at full throttle, and he doesn’t hit the brakes for anything – bumps, turns or disappointments.
After failing to qualify for Day 3 competition in two consecutive Bassmaster Elite tournaments in August, Groh – a veteran tournament angler – folded his hand and threw in his cards: he was not going to qualify for the 2019 Bassmaster Angler of the Year Championship in October and there was nothing he could do about it.
Maybe even worse, that realization and the disappointment that followed essentially summed up his 2019 Elite Series. He had dreamed big and fished hard, but he’d fallen short of his goals. Groh of Spring Grove, Illinois, has looked good on occasion in 2019 – like when he finished 15th in April on Lake Hartwell in South Carolina – but his overall results have been maddening.
“To put it mildly, it sucks,” Groh said at the time on his Bassmaster.com blog. “I’ve had some other words for it the past few days, but I don’t think Bassmaster will publish them.”
However, anyone who knows Groh – especially those who fish with Groh – were not surprised at the depth of his despondency or his immediate commitment to double down. He has fished nearly his entire life and he oozes competitiveness and drive. He’s certain he knows what he needs to do next and how to do it. He has the heart, he has the tools – a Phoenix bass boat powered by a Mercury V8 250 Pro XS – and he has a plan.
“I’m still irritated at myself, but I know exactly what I need to do,” he said. “The fault this year was mine. I was fishing good, but there were too many times I didn’t catch a limit. I know why it happened and I won’t settle for that.
“Honestly, I tend to swing hard and keep swinging when maybe I shouldn’t. I was going after big fish and I just kept swinging. What I need to do is get to spots where I know I can put four or five in the boat before I start swinging for the fences. If I can record limits and make the cut, then I can swing like Babe Ruth.”
In line with his new strategy, Groh is also making geographic changes for 2020. He’s always lived north of the Mason-Dixon line, but he’s about to head south to Tennessee to immerse himself even deeper into full-time bass fishing. Groh has owned a profitable tile company in his nine-to-five world, but he refuses to let that – or anything else – get in the way of success.
“I’m focusing my life on two goals – winning a blue trophy (awarded to champions of Bassmaster Elite events) – and I want AOY (Angler of the Year),” he said. “I’m here (at the Elite level) and I want to stay here, but I don’t want to just get by. That’s not who I am. I’m no Kevin Vandam and it’s not going to be easy, but I’m good enough to be in the top 25 in the world. I just need to prove it.”
At 41, age doesn’t enter his thoughts.
“41 is nothing, not in this sport,” he said. “My time is now. Age is a non-issue. I work hard all the time and I have the knowledge I need to succeed.
“I’ve never been the type of guy who catches one on his last cast, or reels up a backlash to find a 6-pounder attached, or gets Boat No. 1 during a sight-fishing tournament,” he said after coming up short in New York. “I don’t get those kinds of breaks. Those are the things you can’t control, but I need to be ready so that when a few of the cards finally fall my way, I’ll be ready to capitalize on them.”
The belief that those cards will come his way is the fuel that keeps the Groh Express running at full speed.