Reeling in a dream
When you think of some of the average dream jobs 11-year-old boys have, you probably think NFL, MLB or NBA player, or maybe even a doctor, fireman or policeman. For a Rossie resident and 2005 Ruthven-Ayrshire graduate, those careers seemed just fine, but dreams started with a rod and a reel.
"I started fishing when I was 11. My grandfather took me out, and ever since then, I've been hooked," the 28-year-old said, leaving the pun out in the open. "(Fishing professionally) is something I've always wanted to do. I always watched Bassmasters online or on TV, always grew up watching bass fishing and always told my grandpa, 'I'm going to do that someday.' He said, 'Yes you will,' and now, he won't even go fishing with me because I beat him all the time."
Familial joking aside, it turns out Igou's dreams weren't so far-fetched after all. Two years ago, the Saint Mary's University in Winona, Minnesota graduate with a degree in environment biology began plucking bass from the water competitively. On May 17 of this year, he took part in his first professional tournament in the Fishing League Worldwide Bass Fishing League in La Crosse, Wisconsin -- the first of five monthly tournaments held throughout the summer.
After Igou's 28th-placing performance (out of roughly 350 fishermen) in the Super Regionals, also held in La Crosse along the Mississippi River, he moved into 17th place in the Great Lakes Division with 1,065 points, qualifying him for the FLW BFL Fishing Championships on Kentucky Lake in Kentucky, Oct. 16-18.
Participants register for each event as a boater or non-boater, also called a co-angler. Registration fees run around $200-300 for boaters and $100-$150 for co-anglers with potential prizes up to $8,000 per tournament for the former and $3,000 for the latter.
"The boater stays on the front of the boat, fishing, and the non-boater stays in the back," Igou explains. "There's a limit of fish to catch, and then typically a minimum of 15 inches for a keeper. Typically your limit is five fish, some tournaments it was three, and then the largest bag of those five or three fish, wins the tournament."
Uncharted territory for the four-sport, high school athlete encouraged him to start his professional career on the back of the boat.
"I chose to be a non-boater this year because I didn't know the lakes and rivers that we'd be fishing, but there's certainly techniques that I would have thought that I could have done better at some tournaments as a boater than as a non-boater," Igou says.
Dropping his hook into a river has been the biggest adjustment for Igou.
"River fishing is a lot different than the fishing we have around here. When you go up to Okoboji, it's all lake scenarios, and if you can pinpoint some fish in one area, they're going to be in other areas similar to that on the lake. Well, in the river that doesn't stand true. You have too many differentials that play into the game, so you have to stay on a run and gun type deal and be on your best behavior," he said with a chuckle.
"When we have high water levels, it spreads the fish out, so it makes it really difficult to pinpoint where they're going to be. I'm typically a flipper or shallow fishermen, so when you have to learn to fish deeper, it really is tough for me. But, I've learned a bunch of techniques throughout the year that I'm going to take down with me to Kentucky," the collegiate basketball, baseball and lacrosse player said.
When the season started, Igou wasn't sure how successful he'd be, but after he got a couple tournaments under his belt, his heart aimed for Kentucky.
"I struggled my second tournament. I think I placed 102nd or so, and I was like, 'Man, that was tough.' Then, after my third tournament, ended up placing 53rd, and it moved me up the standings quite a bit," Igou said. "I decided from then on I'm just going to put my head down and fish the way I fish. It's a little tough sometimes if you get paired with boaters that have a certain way they want to do things, but I've never blanked in any tournament. I'm one of the few that have (done that). So, I've always been able to bring fish to the scale which helps. Being consistent really helps."
There will be 160 anglers at the championships in Kentucky with the winner taking home a 2014 Chevy Silverado and a 2014 Ranger Bass Boat C118. Igou's just hoping for a solid finish and a catch bigger than his current season-best of a 6-pound, 9-ounce largemouth.
"Hopefully we can top that when we get down to Kentucky. They have 7- to 8-pounders down there, so that'd be alright," Igou said. "If I can get down there and get about 50th, that's my expectation. Obviously, first place would be OK, but it's the best of the best down there from all over the country, so we'll see how it transpires."
Igou hopes to turn a successful trip to Kentucky into an even better season next year with more sponsors, a list that already includes Ag Partners, Todd Hamrick Construction, Pixler Electric, Iowa Lakes Bass Club, Sherwin Williams and his own pest control division, AIM Pest Management.
No matter what, it looks like he'll never quite be satisfied with his fishing, but that's OK.
"I'm very competitive, and it's always me against the fish. The fish always wins, but it's always, 'What if?'"