Carl Svebek was 7 or 8 when he and his dad were fishing one day and Carl made the big announcement.
“Someday I’m going to fish in the Bassmaster Classic,” the tot fishermen told his father.
One can almost see his dad, also named Carl, smiling and thinking, ‘“you do that, son.”’
Svebek’s prediction and his fishing dream comes true next week when the fisherman from Siloam Springs competes in the Bassmaster Classic on Lake Hartwell. The big reservoir is on the South Carolina and Georgia border.
Fifty-two of the best bass anglers in the world will square off in the classic. It’s the Super Bowl, Stanley Cup and World Series of bass fishing, and Svebek will be in the game.
“To be in that field with the top fishermen in the world, it’s just an incredible feeling,” said Svebek, 51.
His dream became reality in June when Svebek won the Bassmaster Texas Open on the Sabine River east of Houston. The win qualified Svebek (prounounced SWEEbeck) for the Bassmaster Classic.
Mike McClelland of Bella Vista will also fish the Bass-master Classic. He’s qualified for the classic 10 times. McClelland won the Bass-master Open at Table Rock Lake to qualify this year.
This is Svebek’s first Bassmaster Classic, but he’s a seasoned pro. Area anglers may remember Svebek when he fished FLW Tour events at Beaver Lake. The angler’s first time on Beaver was in 1999 during an Everstart tournament. Back then, the Everstart series was a lower paying, lower entry fee circuit offered by FLW.
Svebek finished fourth in that 1999 event, the first time the Louisiana native ever wet a line at Beaver Lake. Over time, Svebek came to like Northwest Arkansas so much he moved to Siloam Springs.
It’s deja vu for the Bass-master Classic. Svebeck has never fished Lake Hartwell. That could be an advantage, he said. Anglers who are new to a lake often post better finishes than those who know a lake well.
His road to the Bassmaster Classic has been a meandering one. Svebek fished the FLW Tour for several years, but lost his main sponsor in 2010. Sponsors help pay the bills of the nomadic life that pro fishermen lead.
Bassmaster and FLW (stands for Fishing League Worldwide) are the two major league bass tournament circuits, comparable to the American and National leagues in baseball.
Svebek dropped out of competitive fishing. He migrated to Texas and worked for Gopher Industries, a nationwide industrial supply company. His bosses approached Svebek about getting back into pro fishing. They’d be his main sponsor. Svebek would get to fish. The company would benefit from the promotion and advertising as Svebek traveled around to fishing tournaments.
Svebek entered six Bass-master Open tournaments in 2017. He did well in four, poor in two. Most of all, he enjoyed being a pro bass angler again.
“Things were going great,” Svebek said. “Then Hurricane Harvey hit. It was the worst thing I’d ever been in.”
Svebek spent three days rescuing people with a flat-bottom boat his buddy had. Gopher Industries took a big hit. Svebek’s work with the company was trimmed way back, although Gopher Industries remains one his sponsors today. Svebek moved back to Siloam Springs in October 2017. It’s been a good move.
Now Svebek is a branch manager in Springdale for Timmons Oil Co. of Tulsa, which sells oil products. Part of the employment agreement was that Svebek could take enough time off to compete in more Bassmaster tournaments. No problem, his bosses said.
Now, Svebek’s eyes are on fishing’s big stage. The Bass-master Classic pays the winner $300,000, but endorsements and business opportunities are “life-changers,” he said.
“To be in that field with the top fishermen in the world, it’s just an incredible feeling.”
Carl Svebek, Bassmaster Classic contestant
It’ll be a fun trip and not all business. Several of Svebek’s family and friends will be there to cheer him on . No matter how he finishes, he’ll never forget that fishing trip long ago when he told dad he’d fish in the Bassmaster Classic some day. The senior Carl Svebek passed away in 2004.
“I can imagine that I’ll get chills when we pull into that coliseum to weigh our fish,” Svebek said. “I’ll sure think a lot about my dad.”
Flip Putthoff can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or Twitter @NWAFlip.