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Zoneloc On Tour: Jay Yelas 30 years gone by

Dave Landahl
Published January 25, 2017

Zoneloc pro Jay Yelas has been a familiar name in the world of professional fishing since the late 1980's. That's right, Jay's been around a long time. In fact he's heading into his 30th season as a pro.

Along the way, Yelas has accumulated some serious hardware. The Bassmaster Angler of the Year title, along with the FLW Tour Angler of the Year title (twice). Oh yeah, that little Bassmaster Classic championship as well.

Jay Yelas (Joel Shangle/BassFIRST)
Recently Jay's success in competition has been limited, but like any professional athlete, it's about how you deal with adversity that shows the true mark of a champion. Yelas sure is that, a champion.

So, how does this veteran pro stay motivated to get on the road and compete? Simple. He loves to fish.

"Every morning I wake up and want to go fishing," said Yelas. "I love to fish. Even if it's not bass fishing, I love to fish. When I'm home I fish for steelhead and salmon, and some saltwater fish, too. I love it."

Early on Yelas approached tournament fishing with a total gung-ho attitude.


"When I started as a pro, I treated fishing like I was an Olympic athlete in training," said Yelas. "Early on in my career, my focus on bass fishing was all day every day. If I wasn't fishing for bass, I was studying them, reading maps, cleaning my boat, and prepping my tackle. Everything I did was focused on tournament fishing success.

"At one point I was fishing 30-plus events in a year."

Tough times have not dampened Yelas' spirit to compete.

"The last three years of competing have not been very good for me," said Yelas. "Last year was my worst year as a pro. I could analyze it to death, but what I really need is to get out and catch bigger fish.

"Tournament fishing has always been a momentum game. You get your confidence up and get on a roll. I just can't worry. That doesn't help your performance. For me, fishing is fun, and I no longer have the highs and lows that I had early on in my career. No more rollercoaster ride. I've learned to adjust to both the good and bad days."

Jay still has one big goal on his mind.

"I want to win the Forrest Wood Cup," said Yelas. "Nobody has ever won all four of the major titles in professional bass fishing. I have three of them.

"I need to focus on being consistent and qualifying to fish the Cup again. Otherwise, I can't win it.

"I love to fish and compete. The challenge is still the same as it was years ago, I'm just older. I love fishing for bass. I love to compete.

"Every day, there is a sunrise, and there is always a new challenge to catch fish. I'm very thankful that I have this career. I just love to fish."