BassWestUSA - July/August, 2009, Page 20

From Joe To pro

thing in my life revolved around fishing. From that point on, fishing was not the most important thing in my life anymore. It was a turning of the tide, really.” With a new-found spiritual faith, James did not feel the same financial bur- den or pressure to succeed as he had be- fore. Shortly there- after, his guide trip business picked up, he started to win more money, and he met his wife. James downsized his tour- nament fishing schedule as well. In 2005, he pulled out of the Bassmas- ter Central Opens and started fishing smaller Wal-Mart / FLW Bass Fish- ing League (BFL) and Bassmaster Weekend Series tournaments. He quickly regained self-confidence and qualified for both regional championships.

for my family financially?’ I really did not know if I had an answer. Then, I won those two tournaments. It was such an incredible blessing in my life and took quite a while to set in. I was so blown away that I believe I was just numb to it all.” The following season, James ascended

James placed fourth and ninth, and fol- lowed those Top-10’s with a win at Santee Cooper. To close the season, when tour eli- gibility and Bassmaster Classic qualifica- tion were both on the line, James placed 11th and 28th. Those performances also secured his position as the Southern Open Angler of the Year – a title which provided free entry into the 2007 Bassmaster Elite Series. “I was really just having a tough time just trying to make it. Then, all of the sud- den, there it was. Ev- erything was

There is A poinT in BAss Fishing where You simpLY go ouT And Fish, BeLieVe, And hope. And when You do ThAT, You cAn Turn JusT ABouT AnY dreAm inTo reALiTY.

18

«

July/August 2009

James Niggemeyer Amistad 2009 Photo courtesy BASS Communications Seigo Saito

Two weeks before the BFL Regional on the Ouachita River, James’ wife gave birth to their first child, a baby boy. Although he felt increased responsibility to provide for his expanded family, he remained com- posed. Just days later, James won the Oua- chita River Regional and, in the process, qualified for the BFL All-American. “After they cut the field after Day 2 to the Top 6, I called my wife to tell her that I had made the All-American. I can re- member tears welling up in my eyes be- cause it was such a big accomplishment. I had never really fished the BFLs all that much before that year, but I still knew what winning one of the Regionals and qualify- ing for the All-American meant. Even as a teenager, I had read about fishing the All- American and dreamt about competing in it one day. And to win the tournament, the truck, and the boat, that was a huge boost to my confidence. The whole deal was such a blessing.” Still, James was not finished. A cou- ple weeks after his BFL win, he traveled down to the Red River in Louisiana to compete in another championship: the Bassmaster Weekend Series Regional. The outcome was nearly identical. He won the tournament and took home a first place prize of $50,000. “It was funny because I found my- self thinking immediately after my son was born, ‘How am I going to provide

BAck-To-BAck

the next rung in the professional fishing ladder by competing in both the Stren Series and the Bass- master South- ern Opens. Although success in the Strens was elusive, he in- stantly estab- lished himself as a top contender in the Southern Opens. In the first two tour- naments of a five-event series,