He’s been told his first present when he was born was a fishing pole, perhaps setting the tone. When a kid, he says all he could think about was someday being a professional fisherman.
That probably explains why he would stop whatever he was doing, stare, then daydream when a truck pulling a fancy bass boat drove by his house.
Casey Goode, it seems, was born to fish.
So when the 28-year-old La Crosse man recently won a Toyota Series — a division of Major League Fishing — tournament during his first-ever trip to Lake of the Ozarks in Missouri, you can imagine why it likely ranks as the best day of his life.
“It was the longest 20 minutes of my life,” Goode said of waiting in line to weigh his final-day catch. “I just wanted to get it over with. Honestly, I was thinking about everyone at home, the heartbreak if I didn’t win. The nervousness.
“I just had so many feelings, yet was so numb at the moment.”
Goode, despite catching just two bass on the Day 3 — the final day of the tournament — beat Missouri native Dan Bowman by 1 ounce to win the co-angler title at the March 6 tournament. Goode caught a combined weight of 31 pounds, 2 ounces over the three days, but his 5-pound, 3-ounce lunker on the final day was just enough to give him the title.
What did he win?
A much-needed new boat, a Phoenix 518 Pro, that he just ordered in mid-March and should arrive in mid-June. A boat that carries a $33,500 price tag, versus the $5,000 second-place prize. So yes, one ounce of bass was worth far more than an ounce of gold in this case.
Before we move on, there is some lingo that needs clarifying for those of you who don’t regularly follow professional fishing tours. It’s important, especially in this case, as Goode was a co-angler, which means he was fishing with a pro, or in some cases, called a “boater.” A boater is the captain, so-to-speak, as he drives the boat, picks the spots to fish and for how long, and is positioned at the front of the boat in order to strategically locate it to his liking.
A “co-angler” is positioned at the rear of the boat, and has no say in where they fish or where the boat is positioned. The good thing is that the boater and the co-angler are competing in separate tournaments and for a separate purse.
Got all that? I know, it’s kind of like listening to Aaron Rodgers bark signals at the line of scrimmage. It may seem like gibberish to most of us, but has vital importance.
Being a top co-angler can, and often does, lead to a career as a boater, or pro, but more on that later.
“I had a 5-pound lead going into Day 3, but I only had two fish on Day 3. One was a 5-pounder and the other was a 2.3,” Goode said of his tournament win. “My co-angler in second place had 12.5 pounds on last day.
“I did the math in my head while in the wait line. I knew it would come down to ounces, 2 or 3 ounces. I went up on the stage thinking I had second place. When I ended winning by 1 ounce, I was shocked.”
The fact that Goode’s version of prefishing, or practice, was done with a keyboard – not a rod and reel – makes his win even more impressive. Having never fished the Lake of the Ozarks before, he did his research on YouTube in order to see how other anglers had fished the body of water and what lures they had used.
“Without me ever being there, I went off what I could find on YouTube,” Goode said, knowing he could also learn from the pro or boater he was paired with during the tournament.
“If he (pro) is whipping my butt, then I may change (lures, strategy). I don’t worry about what my boater (pro) is doing. If they are winning the tournament and that is the only bait they have used all week, I may switch.”
Goode was paired with the tournament leader on the final day, Michael Harlin of Sunrise Beach, Mo., and it took some big-time adjustments to simply catch a bass, much less a big one. The first two days he fished in the same spot despite being with two different pros, and each fished in five feet of water. Harlin, meanwhile, was fishing submerged structure in 20 feet of water.
That, in football terms, is like preparing for a wishbone offense one day, and a spread offense the next.
“I literally fished the same spot two days in a row (of the tournament). On Day 3 we fished the opposite end of the lake, and were fishing submerged brush piles. He (pro) could see the fish (with electronics). You are in no-mans land in the back of the boat. No electronics, so I had to guesstimate where one was.
“Thank God I was lucky. I was casting in 180 degrees in 12 to 20 feet of water. The first two days I was fishing in 5 feet of water, and in completely different structure.”
At the time he probably didn’t think about it, but growing up fishing all types of structure, depths, and even different species, may have prepared Goode for that final, event-filled day. Goode, you see, spent his childhood fishing the Mississippi River backwaters near Goose Island, where his parents had a camper.
He would fish from shore, from a boat, from anywhere he could cast into the river.
“I started (fishing) when we were camping down at Goose Island. I have been fishing since I was a little squirt. I started out with a bobber, fishing by the rocks at Goose Island,” Goode said. “I fished every little inch of water at that park, catching panfish, rock bass, bluegill.
“When I was 11 years old, my dad had this 12-foot boat with a little 4 horse motor on it. That first summer, I burned 117 gallons of gas in a 2-gallon tank.”
He also started fishing tournaments with his fishy buddy, Cade Laufenberg, who turned out to be another successful local tournament angler. Goode and Laufenberg “cut their tournament fishing teeth” together, Goode said.
Then, by a stroke of luck, he witnessed something that changed his fishing habits.
“A guy I didn’t even know got me into it (bass fishing). He was throwing a chug bug along the shore, and when I saw that fish come out of the water and eat that lure, I was hooked,” Goode said. “I was so astonished a fish would do that. It was bloop, bloop, bloop, bam! It blew my mind that a fish could eat a lure like that. It has me obsessed with it (bass fishing).”
So much so, that Goode started entering tournaments in the Bass Fishing League or BFL (now called the Phoenix Bass Fishing League), as well as the Toyota Series. Both series are now under the Major League Fishing (MLW) umbrella of tournament bass fishing.
He has committed to fishing in both leagues this year, and hopes to compete in 13 tournaments this spring and summer, and 15 when considering the postseason (which he has already qualified by winning a tournament).
It’s been a long road and he is nowhere near the end, but realizes climbing the ranks takes time, money, and an understanding employer. Goode, a 2010 Central High School graduate who also earned a degree in electronics construction and electrical installation from Western Technical College, works at La Crescent High School doing custodial and maintenance duties.
He’s been there almost a year, but didn’t have any vacation days to use in order to travel to Missouri for the tournament he won.
“I did a lot of begging and persuading. I didn’t have any vacation time built up, and I am so thankful they let me take time off,” Goode said. “Next year I will get two weeks of vacation, so I will get into as many tournaments as I can.”
In the meantime, he will continue to drive his 2008 GMC Sierra — with 167,000 miles — to tournaments where he will fish as a co-angler. His next tournament will be a long trek, too, as the Toyota Series event is on April 8 (Goode’s birthday) at Grand Lake in Grove, Oklahoma.
“I don’t have a platter and a silver spoon and a bunch of money, but I’m making it work. You can go broke very fast if you don’t win,” Goode said. “I go paycheck to paycheck to support my fishing.
“My parents (David Goode, Veronetta Tevis) are ecstatic about it (his latest win), but they think you should have a job, work first, play later and always have a Plan B. Since winning this, they are changing their mind a little bit. I have always been a dreamer since I was a little kid, and they understand that.”
A dream that could come true, and if things go well, Goode could be fishing some pro tournaments next year. And he could be the one with the truck and the shiny new bass boat that catches some young kid’s eye.
Jeff Brown, a former longtime sports editor for the Tribune, is a freelance outdoors writer. Send him story ideas at firstname.lastname@example.org