By Rick Sheek
He’s a hard-working young man, and his goals are set high in professional fishing.
All Elizabethton native Derrick Snavely needs is a slight break.
“It’s going pretty good, but I’ve got a full-time job and it’s kind of hard to manage everything,” Snavely said this weekend from Rogersville, where he is employeed in the insurance business. “It’s just really hard to keep up at times. It’s hard to travel all over the country, and fish and work.
“I can’t put 100 percent into either one of them, but I enjoy it. I really like what I’m doing. Hopefully I can pursue it full-time until I get a sponsor.”
This is his is first year as a member of the Walmart FLW Tour. He’s had moderate success in two of the three events thus far.
In the opener at Lake Hartwell in Greenville, S.C., Snavely finished 39th and claimed a $10,500 payday. Next up was Table Rock Lake in Branson, Mo., where he signed in late and penalties made the tournament a disaster.
Just a few weeks ago at Beaver Lake in Rogers, Ark., he came in 19th and won twelve grand.
“I was happy to walk away with $10,500,” Snavely said. “I had never been on that lake. I practiced three days for the tournament.
“I didn’t do too well in Branson. I was penalized four pounds, and that really hurts. When it comes to ounces every little ounce counts.”
Snavely was headed to the circuit’s fourth stop on Saturday, at the Potomac River in National Harbor, Md. The event is Wednesday through Saturday.
“I’ve not really had time to go out and gain sponsorship with a day job,” Snavely, 31, said. “I just wanted to see if I could take the gamble. Hopefully after a few more I’ll get in the top 50.
“Then I’ll be happy. My goal this year is to make the FLW championship.”
Following Potomac are June tournaments at Kentucky Lake and Lake Champlain, N.Y. That wraps up the regular season heading into the Forrest Wood Cup at Lake Lanier, Ga.
“If I can get one more check this year, I’ll make a profit,” Snavely said. “That sounds crazy, because I’ve made $22,500 dollars and not earned a profit. So I’ve cut the expenses on my own, and a lot of people aren’t willing to take that gamble and take the chance to.
“I’ve paid for a year to fish. I’ve got three more tournaments, and pretty much what I’m going for is to break even.”
There is a $4,000 entry fee at each event. The FLW champion earns $1 million.
Snavely spent nine years coming up through the lower ranks as a co-angler, winning $84,555. In 38 tournaments, he recorded one win and eight top-10 finishes.
He prevailed three years ago in Lake Eufaula, Ala., with the FLW Eastern Series. Pocketing $25,000, Snavely landed a nine pound, eight ounce catch for the Big Bass Award and a 26-pound total for the day. “I was just trying to learn,” Snavely said. “It was a good learning experience, but I want to get to the highest level I could of fishing. I wanted to move up, and see if I could do better.”
Snavely is a Unaka High School and East Tennessee State University graduate. His father is Ronnie Snavely, the former Unaka basketball coach for whom the gymnasium is named.
“My home is Watauga Lake, where I grew up on,” Snavely said. “I started fishing in tournaments there and kind of moved on, kind of progressing.
“I was up there the other night walleye fishing. That was a good time, and I ended up catching a lot of fish. I don’t have much time to fun fish anymore.”
He stresses his family back in Stoney Creek are behind his endeavors.
“They’re very supportive of what I do,” Snavely said. “They are extremely supportive. My Dad enjoys golf, but my grandfather has always fished. They’ve given my a lot of support.”
Just win baby. Snavely isn’t frustrated, yet, about luring in some financial backing.
“It’s always about who you know,” Snavely said. “It’s more of relationships and just networking on who you know. Plus a lot of guys have really good sponsorships that haven’t won much, but then again if you do win you’re more apt to get a sponsorship.
“I’ve got some co-sponsorhips, but nothing to pay the entree fees. I guess I could get something, but I’ve never had the chance to take the time to generate sponsorship.”
The reason for Snavely’s early start to the Potomac is simple. He is unfamiliar with most of these venues.
“That’s another thing,” Snavely said. “As of the six tournaments, I haven’t been to any of the waters — except for Lake Champlaign in New York. All of the others I’ve never been to.
“(Potamac) is on tidal water, so it has a tide. I’ve never fished on tidal water, do I’m a little concerned. I’ll have to figure it out in three days.”