Making the Leap
New Builds On His ABA Experience To Launch Pro Career
By John N. Felsher
Growing up on the shoreline of Lake Wylie near Belmont, N.C., Bryan D. New dreamed of becoming a top bass pro from an early age and hungered to test his mettle against the best anglers in the nation.
“I was probably about six or seven years old when I decided to become a professional bass angler, maybe even sooner than that,” New recalled. “When I was growing up on Lake Wylie, I fished as often as I could, not just for bass, but for everything. Whenever I saw bass fishermen going down the bank in front of my dock, I thought that looked so cool. I grew up watching Hank Parker and Bill Dance fishing on television and wanted to do what they did when I grew up.”
Before he turned 31 years old, New achieved both of those goals by winning his first two professional tournaments at different levels. In 2020, he won the first Bassmaster Open Series tournament he entered. This year, he won the first Bassmaster Elite Series event he fished, but he got his start by fishing American Bass Anglers events.
“I learned a lot fishing ABA events,” New detailed. “Every event is significant because it’s more knowledge in that angler’s head. A person can learn a lot just fishing in general, but when fishing a tournament, an angler learns more and learns how to make decisions. When something’s not working, people think what they can do to make it work, whatever the situation might be. If those decisions work, that gives the person the confidence and knowledge to continue.”
While still in high school, he entered ABA Bassmaster Weekend Series events as a co-angler and won a tournament. Then, he made the jump to fishing the series as a boater and qualified for his first Ray Scott Championship.
“I fished the ABA Weekend Series and had some success there,” New said. “The first year I fished the Weekend Series as a boater, I made the Ray Scott Championship. I finished third at Old Hickory Lake in 2017. That was the turning point. I went out on a limb. I made a very bold, gut decision and it worked.”
Holding seventh place on the final day during the May 2017 Ray Scott Championship on Old Hickory Lake near Hendersonville, Tenn., New decided to make a long run to a place he had never been before.
“On the last day of that 2017 tournament, I was pretty much done,” he recollected. “I remember seeing a creek on Google Earth way up the river about 95 miles. I had never been to this creek in my life. I did the calculations and figured I could go up there and make it back with a few gallons of gasoline. I went up there and I caught some fish. When I got back, I had two gallons of gas left in the boat.”
The gamble paid off. Catching a 13.44-pound bag, New jumped from seventh into third place. He finished the championship event with 39.17 pounds and pocketed a good check.
“Fishing that tournament gave me a lot of confidence,” New explained. “I had done well in tournaments before, but that was really the start of the hot streak that I’ve been on for several years now.”
He continued that hot streak by fishing more ABA tournaments. He qualified to fish the April 2019 Ray Scott Championship. During that championship on Lake Eufaula near Eufaula, Ala., New led the last three of the four days of competition. He finished the tournament with a perfect catch of four five-bass daily tournament limits to win with the championship with 98.70 pounds.
In that 2019 championship, New held second on Day 1 with 25.69 pounds, but took the lead the following day with a 25.61-pound bag. He capped his third day of competition with an 8.80-pound bucketmouth that also landed him the tournament lunker title. Helped by the big bass, New’s Day 3 sack weighed 26.03 pounds, one of only two bags exceeding 26 pounds caught in the event.
“I learned a lot through all the events I fished, especially at the Eufaula championship,” New commented. “I learned a ton that week. I made it look easy, but I was learning more and more every day.”
New capped off his winning effort during the 2019 Ray Scott Championship by landing 21.37 pounds on the final day to seal the victory by more than eight pounds. During that tournament, he caught most of his fish on a white Greenfish Tackle swim jig tipped with a Rage craw trailer, or a Greenfish Tackle Creeper Head Jig sweetened with an Oil’ Monster worm.
“The process that I’ve used my whole fishing career was to take tournament winnings to fund the next step,” New advised. “When I had enough funds built up from whatever level I was on to step up to the next level, I did it. Fishing as a co-angler, I made enough money to start fishing as a boater. I just went one step at a time. I didn’t skip a single step.”
For winning the 2019 Ray Scott Championship and catching the largest bass, New pocked more than $100,000 in cash and prizes, including a new 21TRX Triton boat equipped with a 250-horsepower Mercury Pro XS outboard motor. Winning that event gave New a financial jumpstart to his next level of competition, the Bassmaster Opens, and attracted the attention of sponsors who could help him in his pro career.
“Winning more than $100,000 will change anybody’s life,” New quipped. “I got a lot of press and exposure because of that. I was able to help my sponsors and pick up some new ones. That financial help went a long way toward the next step. That prize money from the 2019 Ray Scott Championship definitely helped out, not just to get to the Elites, but to afford the Elites.”
Less than a year after winning the 2019 Ray Scott Championship, New entered the Basspro.com Bassmaster Eastern Open, held Jan. 15-17, 2020, on the Kissimmee Chain of Lakes south of Orlando, Fla. The 29-year-old angler won his first Bassmaster Open event by putting 149.5 pounds on the board. He pocketed another $52,500 for the victory.
The rookie fished several more Bassmaster Opens throughout the year and finished the season as the 2020 Bassmaster Opens Angler of the Year. With cash in his bank account, sponsors backing him, and a building reputation as an excellent angler and competitor, New made the next leap in 2021. He headed back to Florida to fish his first Bassmaster Elite Series tournament.
“One day before I left for Florida, the owner of Pulse Fish Lures called me, and I picked them up as a title sponsor,” New elaborated. “I’m definitely very proud and fortunate to have them. I’ve been using their products for years, and I caught some fish with their lures at the Ray Scott Championship on Eufaula in 2019.”
Just a week before turning 31 years old, New fished the ATECO Bassmaster Elite tournament, held Feb. 11-14, 2021, on the St. Johns River in Palatka, Fla. New won that event, plus another $101,000, by catching 79 pounds, 7 ounces of bass.
“A person only gets one chance at a first impression,” New remarked. “To do it on my first try is pretty awesome. It is pretty neat, and it’s an experience I’ll never get back. I think only one other person, Derrick Remitz, ever won his first Bassmaster Elite event. I won it, but something else happened that’s almost as important. I’m now in the group of the best competitive bass anglers that exists.”
New only fished the St. Johns River once before, in 2020. After a slow start with only 12 pounds and 22nd place on the opening day of the St. Johns tournament, New added 20 pounds, three ounces on the second day. Increasing weight again, he caught 21 pounds the third day.
Heading into the final day in sixth place on the St. Johns River, New tallied a 26-pound, four-ounce sack to win with more than nine pounds to spare. Numerous highly skilled professional anglers compete many years before winning a major tournament. This young angler scored four remarkable achievements in three straight years before turning 31 years old.
“I had two deals going on in that St. Johns tournament,” New revealed. “I had two shell bars not too far from the blast-off. With about 15 minutes to go on the third day, I caught two more fish to fill out my limit. Without those two fish, I wouldn’t have made the final day cut. The other deal was mainly just fishing pads. It took me a little while to get dialed in, but once I got dialed in, I was on point.”
On the St. Johns River, New enticed 17 of his 20 weigh fish by pitching a black and blue Zoom Zlinky soft-plastic stick worm to lily pads growing in one to three feet of water. He fished it on a 7-foot, 3-inch heavy-action Fitzgerald Fishing Stunner HD rod, topped with a 7:1 Abu Garcia Revo STX reel loaded with 18-pound-test Sunline Shooter fluorocarbon line. He used a pegged 1/8-ounce tungsten weight and a 5/0 Berkley Fusion19 flipping hook.
New caught his other three keepers on a 1/2-ounce Berkley Warpig rattlebait fishing shell bars in five to seven feet of water. To fish this lure, New used a 7-foot, 3-inch heavy-action Fitzgerald All-Purpose rod with an 8:1 ratio Abu Garcia Revo AL-F reel packed with 22-pound-test Sunline Shooter fluorocarbon.
“Fishing the Elites is a lifelong dream come true,” New stated. “I came out and won my first one. I make it look easy, but I promise you, it’s not easy. I’ve dedicated my life to it. It’s not only about the accomplishment, it’s about the path that I took and all the hard work for all these years that finally paid off. To me, that’s what it’s all about. It’s not about fame or money. It’s about all the hard work and finally succeeding at my goal.”
Put into a position where a lifelong dream sits within reach, many people collapse under pressure. New rose to the occasion.
“Fishing the Bassmaster Elite Series is a whole different world from fishing ABA events or even the Ray Scott Championships,” he commented. “It’s pretty cool to look over on a morning and see Mark Menendez and Greg Hackney sitting in their boats. They’re two of the greatest ever with reputations earned over many years of fishing all over the country and under all kinds of conditions. But honestly, it’s just another tournament. When I’m fishing, I don’t worry about anything other than the fish. I’ve been around fishing my whole life. Within about a 100-mile radius of my house, there are probably 15 to 20 of the best anglers in the world and I fished with them and against them my entire life.”
Somewhere out there, a young person might read about Bryan’s accomplishments and want to be the next Bryan D. New, just like how New admired Bill Dance and Hank Parker years ago. What would Bryan say to that person?
“The two most important pieces of advice I can give anybody is, one, never give up on your dream,” he advised. “Always keep fighting for it. It doesn’t matter how many times you get knocked down, keep fighting for it. Second, bad things happen. Don’t make them happen, because when you make them happen, you’re going to get hurt. There were several times that I made enough money fishing to step all the way up to the top, but I could very easily have gone bankrupt if I would have done that at that point. Be smart with your money. Don’t force things. Keep working hard. When it’s your time, it’s going to happen. I know that I’ve been blessed with success and I think that’s because I stick to what works for me -- family, my practice schedule and never forgetting that’s it’s not me against any of the other anglers. It’s all about the fish.”
For now, the hottest new Elite pro on the trail will continue working his “day job” with a pavement marking contractor. The company paints markings on roads, highways, and other places. After winning three major events and a series Angler of the Year title in three years, New eventually wants to win the Bassmaster Classic.
“The guys I work for are like family,” he said. “They are my friends. We go to work, but really, it’s just the guys getting together and hanging out. When the day does come to move on, it will be kind of sad, like moving away, but my ultimate goal is to win a Bassmaster Angler of the Year title and be crowned a Bassmaster Classic champion.”
Who knows what will transpire for Bryan D. New, his wife Brittany, and their young daughter Braylen in coming years? If the trend continues, most like it will be great things.
(Editor's Note) In twelve BassMaster events appearances in the last two years, Bryan has already won $202,981.
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