Give a man a fish, he eats for a day.
Teach a man to fish, and he’ll never be bored a day in his life.
For Michael Gentry, fishing has always been a hobby he’s enjoyed.
When the opportunity to sprinkle in a competitive edge to his favorite pastime, Gentry became hooked.
“From a very young age, I fished from the bank a lot. My parents never got into tournament bass fishing. The main thing that got me into it was my best friend, Ryan Inmon and his dad, grew up in tournament bass fishing. I kind of fell in love through them fishing with Ryan and the Tullahoma Bass Club,” Gentry said.
The Tullahoma Bass Club features two age divisions, one for middle school and one for high school, which allows members to travel throughout the state to participate in tournaments.
Tournaments can be difficult to adjust to, often beginning before sunrise.
“It takes a lot of practice on the water, seeing what the fish are doing. You’ve got to look into the weather, too. You have a five fish limit and try to get the biggest five fish you can, per boat. They’re usually about eight hour tournaments,” Gentry said.
While he’s been all over the state for competition, Gentry says a couple of his favorite lakes and tournaments stand out above the rest.
“Probably my favorite place to go would probably be Chickamauga. My favorite tournament fishing is here at Normandy Lake. It’s just home to me. I just know it really well and it’s right down the road,” he said.
“Most of the time, if there’s a tournament available, I go to it. If I’m not fishing with the Tullahoma Bass Club, I’m at the tournament on Normandy Lake on Saturday mornings.”
While most teenagers work on saving up money for a car, Gentry struck a deal with his parents that allowed him to purchase a boat, which allows him to compete in the various tournaments in the state.
“I’ve had it for two years now. If it wasn’t for my parents—they helped me a lot on it. We both went in together on it,” he said.
While the bulk of the sports world was shut down due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, outdoors activities and sports like fishing remained largely untouched—allowing Gentry the extra time on the water.
“It hasn’t been affected at all. Through everything, my go-to place is on the lake. You couldn’t go anywhere or do anything, so I got a lot of time on the water,” he said.
From his earliest days fishing from the bank for catfish, to his most recent tournament, Gentry says each competition brings about new challenges, which adds to the competitive nature of the tournaments.
While most tournaments spill into the afternoon, his most recent tournament had an early, 11 a.m. cutoff.
“I won big fish a couple of weeks ago. We hadn’t caught anything and the tournament was ending at 11 a.m. It came like bang, bang, bang and put five in the boat. We fell short by two ounces, but we still won big fish and that was a whole lot of fun,” he said.
While competition fishing does have its payouts of cash prizes and can be lucrative, it’s never been about the money for Gentry.
“It’s a blast. Your adrenaline is rushing. I would never say I do it for the money, but I definitely do it as a hobby. I’m in it because I love it,” he said.