Don’t let the name fool you; hope is one thing Connor Rushing has, but preparation, determination, hard work, and a feel for a bite are some things Connor does just as well or better than hoping. Either way, after his first year in the opens he is looking for another year of success on the Opens.
It was over a year ago we first met a young Connor Rushing at the Junior Southwest Bassmasters meeting at Bass Pro in Denham Springs. Accompanied with his dad at the meeting, we visited with the two and were left with the impression this young angler was bound for success. The following spring, after a standout high school season, including winning a state championship, Connor set out with a tear across a few of the Bass Nation Opens fishing in the co-angler division for his first season in the opens. Not simply riding on hope, in one of his first events he outfished his boater from the back of the boat posting a three fish limit cementing a place atop the leaderboard. That set the tone for the season, as Connor enjoyed tremendous success in his first season on the Opens.
I recently chatted with Connor to catch up on his offseason work, his goals for the new season, and to chat about how his first season went. The first thing I had to ask him was just what was going through his mind when he decided to skip an Open to fish the High School National Championship with partner Ethan Simon when he was leading in the points on the Opens!? His response was just what you would expect from a guy with his head where it belongs. It was an easy decision really, he had made a commitment fishing as a team and he wasn’t going to miss out on finishing what he had started. Sure that’s a little cliché but to hear the words come out of his mouth you have no doubt of their sincerity. What wasn’t cliché? Seeing Connor put up pounds on the scales in event after event as a co-angler. So it seems only natural that he should make the jump to fishing the opens as a boater.
hOPEN for Success
February 2021, Volume 122
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I am certain the year will be full of new challenges so I asked about the transition from High School Fishing to the Opens. “It’s a totally different environment and the amount of stress that can overcome you can be unbearable. Especially knowing that the majority of the field has been fishing longer than I have been alive.” As intimidating as that sounds, in light of his performance last year I had to know just how he set himself up heading into those kind of high pressure events. Like a true pro he treats it as just another day on the water. “I prep mentally and physically the same for almost every tournament. I look at any tournament as just another day on the water and that helps me tremendously mentally.” No stranger to the mind game of fishing competitively where you have to first catch yourself to catch the fish Connor says “fishing is a huge mental game and you have to stay focused and you have to stay calm or else you will spin out.” With that kind of even keel you know to expect good things to come from this young angler.
The goal this year you ask? “My goal is to make at least one top 20 this year (as a boater).” Not just hoping for success but ever preparing for it by putting in the work, Connor sees this year as a year “for learning things that I just couldn’t learn fishing as a co-angler.” Not just even keeled but flat out humble, Connor says he doesn’t “expect to compete with all the heavy hitters in the opens my first year fishing as a boater but I’m okay with that; like I said I’m going into this year ready to learn.”
Teaming up to help him learn and compete this year, he’s not going into the game unprepared. Connor has secured help from a few sponsors that he’s counted on in the past, and a few new names in the industry. Nates Buck Bait will again be in Connor’s corner, and likely be sported on his head as his “lucky cap”. Another favorite of Connor’s is his go to rod and lure source, Cajun Tackle House. For all his boat care needs Connor has teamed up with a pro-grade group of Cajun Outboards and Front 2 Back Boat Service; two names synonymous with the boat care industry in Louisiana. Wack’um Bait Co. will be another go to this year for spinnerbaits, jigs, and buzzbaits, along with soft plastics and tungsten by Shongaloo Outdoors. Reach out and support some of these great Louisiana Companies.
In addition to learning, Connor is itching to launch on a few of the lakes on the schedule this season. While the first stop on Lewis Smith Lake in Alabama (a deep fishery known for its spotted bass) isn’t exactly his type of fishing he is looking forward to the “huge learning experience…where the majority of the fish caught there are spots.” The second stop this year is one Connor says he is “most excited for…I’ve been there before so I have a little knowledge of how it fishes and the lake is full of grass so I always have something I have confidence in that I can fall back on if I need to.” Rounding out the year will be a final stop on Grand Lake in Oklahoma. Connor says “I have also never been there but from the research I have done it seems to be mostly a shallow fishery kind of like back home.”
The research, determination, hard work and poise are evident on the surface any time you talk with Connor. With all that he’s put into fishing, he’s also got a heart for giving back to the sport. He sees his time on the water and lessons learned as examples worth passing on. When asked what he’d say to the young high school angler trying to follow in his footsteps he says: “Stick with it and don’t let bad tournaments get to you. Treat every time you’re on the water as a learning experience and pay attention to even the tiniest of details. YouTube is your best friend. Use it as a tool and you can learn a lot without leaving your house.”
Check in with us and follow Connor on the BASS Opens this year and support a Louisiana kid chasing the dream!
Recent top 3 finish by Connor with teammate Alex Heintze in the Fishers of Men tournament on the Spillway in January. Connor and Alex racked up a 16.57 pound bag to hit the victory podium.
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A recent tournament winning stringer of 19.41 pounds by Connor Rushing (right) for a new Atchafalaya Basin personal best tournament stringer for him.