The bass fishing community has an auspicious eye on Joe Sancho, whose rapid ascension from angling rookie to pro has wowed the intensely competitive sport. Joe, 47, is a New Windsor, N.Y. native and is the only New Yorker in the Bassmaster Elite Tournament, a sport regularly dominated by fishers below the Mason-Dixon line.
Days before the 2015 tournament (his second appearance) took place in the St. Lawrence River/Thousand Islands region, we caught up with Joe and discussed his thoughts on the area, his fateful big break as a teenager, and how it feels to be one of fishing’s brightest new pro players.
The Daily Meal: For fishing newbies, what is the Bassmaster’s Elite Tournament?
Joe Sancho: The easiest way for me to explain is it’s like baseball, where you have the minor leagues and you work your way up to the majors, so this is the major league…it’s the best hundred guys in the country that fish the circuits throughout the whole country and your goal is to try to make the Bassmaster Classic, which is like the world series of bass fishing.
When did you get into Bassmasters Elite Series?
This is my second season; I qualified last year with my rookie season, so I qualified the year before that in what they call the Opens, and you have to finish in the top five. So, I wound up finishing in the top five there and qualified [for the Elite].
I read about that…is that a rare feat for a rookie to get into Bassmasters Elite? How did it feel?
I did it my first time out, [and that’s] extremely rare so I was really lucky…it’s a like a dream come true. It’s like—like I said—getting called up for the major leagues. It’s amazing. It’s something you work for your whole life and then when you do it, it’s just awesome.
How did your love of fishing start?
That’s a great question--there’s nobody in my family who fishes, I just got the bug one day and wanted to go fishing. [After some time] I thought I knew everything, and one day I was at the mall and there was a local bass fishing club there (Black Rock Bass Busters) doing demos. I came up to the guy and asked, “How do I join the club?” I went to a meeting, and [realized] you had to be 16 in order to join, and I was 15 at the time. So my buddy and I lied about our age, and the board asked us why we wanted to join. And this story was told to me by somebody that was in the room: when we left the room, there were a lot of guys that didn’t want us to fish, so the president at the time (Frank Ceriello) said, “These kids could be doing a lot worse than fishing. If we don’t vote them in, this club no longer exists.” And the rest is history…is that pretty awesome or what?
That’s pretty, pretty awesome…sometimes you have to bend the rules to get where you want to be.
The guy that did that? I call him my uncle. I call him my “Uncle Frank.” We became really good friends and we live next to each other. He’ll be here at the weigh-ins.