David Fritts retires from Bassmaster tournaments

David Fritts won a Bassmaster Classic and an FLW Tour Championship during his long career. (Picture by Photo courtesy of B.A.S.S.)

I decided about six weeks ago that it was time for me to retire from Bassmaster tournaments. I turned 67 last month, and when you get to be 67, you can’t do what you used to do at 45.

I’m still going to fish some; you can’t just quit fishing. I plan on fishing the new National Professional Fishing League next year. It’s a circuit that has just six tournaments, with a month-and-a-half to two months between tournaments. It will provide me the chance to keep my hand in bass fishing while slowing down appreciably.

I got COVID-19 in 2021, and I’ve got long-COVID. I’ve got some of my taste back, but I can’t smell. My energy level has come back a little, but I’ve never recovered to where I was before 2021. Back then, I would have to have somebody carry my bag of fish – full of water – up the weigh-in. I couldn’t lift it. The hospital at the University of Alabama-Birmingham wants to put me in one of their guinea pig studies on long-COVID.

I’ve really been thinking about it the past couple of years. Because of my lack of stamina, I have trouble in those back-to-back tournaments, and that’s what the BASS Elite Series has a lot of. The NPFL, the schedule is spread out, so I can recover in the two months between them. A lot of other things have something to do with it, like forward-facing sonar. It’s like being able to play a video game. Rick Clunn and I, Davy Hite and I, we’ve talked about it. These guys in their 20s and 30s, they’re about unbeatable. You don’t find fish with your bait anymore; you cast only when you see fish on the screen.

Blessed life

I saw this happen to Bill Dance and that class of fishermen that came up with him. When we got to fishing deeper water, that was somewhat overwhelming to them. I wondered why they couldn’t do it any better, but now I understand.

The amount of fishing pressure has a lot to do with it. Most of the fish out there are just roaming around. If you can see ‘em on ledges, see them on brush or points, the fish haven’ t got a chance.

Getting around to retirement gives me a lot more time to do anything I want to – like spending time with my two grandkids. I’ve loved fishing BASS all those years, loved fishing FLW when Ranger (Boats) was a big part of it. I loved fishing Jerry Rhyne’s circuit, fishing the Red Man tournaments in the late 1980s and early 1990s. Fishing has been tremendous to me; I’m so blessed. It started with the High Rock Bassmasters, with Jerry Lohr and David Wright and those guys. Everybody at High Rock threw a crankbait, and that was a whole lot of the reason that I got to be good with crankbaits.

My No. 1 goal when I started was to fish a crankbait and learn how to catch 9 of 10 bites. That was one of the biggest keys to my success. I had to learn how to control the bait, to find the color they wanted, to use a fiberglass rod and low-stretch line; that took a while. That was one of the biggest adventures.

Sticking around

I”m going to stay in the bass-fishing industry; I’m going to still build crankbaits — whether I’m going to sell them myself or make them for somebody else. I know what makes them work, what makes a fantastic crankbait. The more I build ‘em, the more I learn about ‘em. The Frittside was the last bait I built, and I think it’s the greatest crankbait to come out in 30 years – based on sales and how many fish they catch. And it was the last two weeks of work that made that whole bait.

I’m like everybody else out there. It took a lot of hard work and continuously figuring out how to catch ‘em, how to find ‘em with your bait, figure out the six or seven real important things: the color, the action, how to retrieve them, whether you hit bottom with it or not. One thing that makes me feel good is to know I’ve helped people. All through my career, I’ve tried to teach people. I’ve never lied to them, and I’ve obviously helped a lot of people catch more fish.

If there’s one regret I have, it’s that Bassmaster Classic I could have won (1997), the second one on Lake Logan Martin. Dion Hibdon beat me by 7 ounces, and I had my hand under the fish, under its belly, and he swam out of my hand. It was a 4-pounder, and I had a 1½-pounder in my livewell I needed to cull. I’d have won that Classic with that one fish.

When I saw Rob Hamilton win the Classic in 1992, I thought, I might be able to do that. And that year, I threw a fish back at Lake Murray that cost me getting in that Classic, a 4½-pounder. I had that one fish in my livewell, and I had a breakdown. They called and asked about bringing me in, and I said no. I didn’t think it would hurt me, but I let that fish go, and it kept me out of that Classic.

Now, I’ll have more time on my hands. I’ll keep building crankbaits, I’ll still do some farming, and I’ll get more time with my grandkids. And you never know, I might show up for some of those Thursday night wildcat tournaments out of Tamarac Marina on High Rock.

Still fishing:

Although he is now retired from fishing Bassmaster tournaments, Fritts plans to keep fishing in smaller events, and to keep making crankbaits that will help other anglers catch fish and win tournaments.

About David Fritts 127 Articles
David Fritts is a 61-year-old pro bass fisherman from Lexington, N.C. He won the 1993 Bassmasters Classic champion and the 1997 FLW Tour Championship, and he was the 1994 BASS Angler of the Year. He is sponsored by Ranger boats, Evinrude outboards, Lew’s, Minnkota,and Berkley.

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