Gallant grew up in Bowmanville, Ontario, a few hours east of Niagara Falls on the north shore of Lake Ontario. His father, Carey, put a rod in his hand at age 5, and Cooper basically never put it down, spending his childhood chasing salmon, trout, catfish, carp and bass.
“Growing up, I just could never get enough of it,” said Gallant, now 22. “I fished before school as much as I could. Even if I could only get out for 20 minutes first thing in the morning before the school bus came, I had my rods rigged and was ready to rock in the morning. I just love it.
“That next bite is what I live for.”
At 14, he started fishing bass tournaments and immediately fell in love with competitive angling. He was successful at the youth and high school levels, including beating nine other state champions to win the 2014 B.A.S.S. Nation Eastern Divisional tournament on the St. Lawrence River in New York. Gallant loved the experience and the location so much, he later volunteered to serve as a marshal (ensuring rules compliance) during a Bassmaster Elite Series tournament on the fishery.
After graduating from high school, Gallant worked and saved every penny to buy a boat and fish bigger tournaments in Canada, including the FLW Canada championship and B.A.S.S. Nation tournaments.
“The first year we fished the FLW Canada championship (2016), my partner, Danny McGarry, and I pretty well dumped all of the money we had left in our bank accounts into this tournament,” Gallant said. “It meant a lot to us. We slept in the truck for eight days, fished sunup to sundown and we actually ended up winning the championship, which fueled the fire even more to continue to chase my passion and compete down south.”
In 2018, the duo scored a top-two finish at the FLW Canada championship to earn another trip to the FLW Costa championship. They did it again in 2019. Gallant also fished the FLW Costa northern series in 2019 and ended up 16th overall in Angler of the Year points.
"The more I get to go down south, the hungrier I get, the more I learn and the passion for tournament angling grows," Gallant said.
And while conventional wisdom says elite bass anglers rarely come from places where you can fish only four or five months a year, Bassmaster Elite Series anglers Jeff Gustafson and brothers Cory and Chris Johnston – all of Ontario, and all heroes of their young countryman – are proof it can be done. Gallant just uses skepticism to keep him motivated to do the work.
“I love the grind,” he said. “It all usually comes down to hard work and dedication when you’re chasing your passion, what you love to do. I’m inspired by people who are grinding every day and then seeing it work out for them.”
As a naturally competitive person, Gallant is a good fit for tournament fishing, and he enjoys the mind puzzle and trial-and-error nature of the game.
“Making mistakes is to me one of the most important parts of tournament fishing because you learn from them,” he said. “If you can make a mistake, put that mistake behind you and keep moving forward, that’s what will make you a better fisherman.”
Gallant, now a member of the Mercury Pro Team, still lives in Bowmanville with his father, Carey, and mother, Kelley. Besides being a tournament angler, Cooper is an avid YouTube content creator and actively shares his fishing adventures on various social media platforms. He also loves to travel and has fished and filmed in such far-flung locales as Brazil and Africa.
His ultimate goal is to fish the Bassmaster Elite Series and qualify for the Bassmaster Classic. While that sounds like a tall order, you can’t come away from a conversation with Gallant thinking anything is out of reach.
“I love to try to do what people think is the impossible,” he said. “That's what inspires me.”
To learn more about Cooper Gallant, check out his website or his YouTube channel.