BassWestUSA - July/August, 2009, Page 17

Like

many other profes- sional fishermen, James Niggemeyer started fishing at a very young age. He grew up in Glendale, California, exploring area lakes such as Castaic, Pyramid, Perris, and Sil- verwood with his family. James, his older sister, and parents also spent one to two weeks each year vacationing in the Mam- moth Lakes area. As James reminisces, it was an annual trip that provided plenty of opportunity for him to fish. “We fished and that was about all we did. We would wake up in the morning, go out fishing, come back in for lunch, and then go out fishing again in the afternoon. Just about everyone that was a relative or friend of the family has been on one of those trips with us. I’ve even taken my wife and 3-year old son there as well. That was really how I got bit by the fishing bug. That trip has always been very important to me, at every phase of my life.” Up until high school, James’ angling pursuits were focused on trout and panfish. When his father read an article about fish- ing in the San Diego lakes area, however, his piscatorial world suddenly expanded. Lakes Hodges and Otay were new desti- nations and provided the chance to hook feisty, football-shaped largemouth bass. “I still remember one of those first trips. I was walking along a bank, fishing with a spinnerbait, when I hooked into a 4-pounder. It hit the spinnerbait so hard that it just about took the pole out of my hand. That bass was more exciting than any fish I had ever caught at that time. Back then we kept our fish, so I placed it on a stringer to show my parents. And then I caught a second one, about 2 to 2-1/2 pounds, on a little soft plastic split-shot rig. After that, all I ever wanted to do was bass fish.”

Bassmaster Top-150 tour, while James con- tinued with WON Bass and Anglers Choice Pro-Am tournaments out west. A couple years later when B.A.S.S. established a new Western Invitational circuit, James reconnected with Rojas who offered timely advice. “When Dean and I got paired-up at one of those Western Invitationals, he asked me what I had been doing to pursue my dream. I told him that I was fishing as much as I could and working the rest of the time. He then told me that I should consider a move

to Texas to work with his friends at Lake Fork Tackle and to start a guiding business. He said that guiding would give me the money and time on the water that I need- ed. I would be closer to the action and the tournaments that could qualify me for the Top-150’s, too. He said that I really needed to think about that. It was an idea that I had been toying with already, so I took his ad- vice very seriously. Later that year, I loaded up my little Chevy Astro Van and drove to Lake Fork.”

Soon thereafter, James and a close high school friend, Uwe Nill, started work- ing for Johnny’s Sport Shop in Pasadena and fishing team tournaments together. By the age of 21, James had acquired his first bass boat and fished money tournaments as his income would allow. With an enthu- siasm for the sport which he outwardly displayed, he developed friendships with several prominent West Coast anglers, the likes of which included Don Iovino, Reggie Chiera, Fred Borders, and Russ Meyers, among others. One of those contacts, Larry Hopper, introduced James to another as- piring professional – Dean Rojas. The two immediately hit it off and became friends. Rojas eventually moved east to pursue the

July/August 2009

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