Posted by Z3 MEDIA STAFF on 11/27/2017

Story by Matt Pangrac - photos courtesy of Sheldon Collings

Grove, OK - At 19-years-old, Sheldon Collings’ tournament accomplishments rival those of anglers who are nearly three times his age.  

The Grove, Oklahoma teenager already has 46 career tournaments with FLW under his belt and boasts career earnings of nearly $90,000.  

In 2016, Collings qualified for the BFL Regional on Lake Dardanelle in Arkansas.  Fishing as one of the youngest anglers in the field, he weighed-in three consecutive limits topping the 15-pound mark to win the regional by over 5-pounds and qualify for the 2017 BFL All-American.  

For the past three seasons, Collins has also competed in the Costa Series, fishing the Central Division in 2015 and the Southwestern Division in 2016 and 2017.   He qualified for the Costa Series Championship in 2016 on Table Rock Lake after finishing in 17th in the Southwestern Division.  

In 2017, he was 8th in the Southwestern Division of the Costa Series points after finishes of 16th place on Sam Rayburn, 20th place on Grand Lake, and 58th place on Lake Texoma.    At the Costa Series Championship earlier this month on Kentucky Lake, Collings narrowly missed fishing on championship Saturday, finishing in 11th place out of the nearly 200 boat field.  

Thanks to Bryan Thrift’s double qualification, Collins earned an invitation to fish in the 2018 Forrest Wood Cup next in Hot Springs, Arkansas on Lake Ouachita.  

To recap:  19-years-old.  2016 BFL Regional victory.  2017 BFL All-American qualifier.  Back-to-back Costa Series Championships.  2018 Forrest Wood Cup qualifier.  2018 FLW Tour qualifier.  

While the on-the-water achievements at such a young age may seem improbable, they are the result of a carefully planned out strategy that Collings and his family put into motion when he was just 10-years-old and decided that he wanted to become a professional bass fisherman.  

“I went to public school in Missouri until my sophomore year,” explained Collins.  “I was missing a couple days a week to fish tournaments, and they told me that fishing wasn’t a sport and that they were going to fail me if I kept missing class.  The week after my principal told me that, my parents started homeschooling me.  I started taking on-line classes and ended up graduating two months early."   

Living on Grand Lake, Collings would fish every day and do school work in the evenings.  The strategy allowed him to spend countless hours on the lake honing his skill. “I probably wouldn’t be where I am today if I didn’t start homeschooling,” he stated.  “I really believe that if you grow up on Grand Lake and fish it as much as I do, you can go compete anywhere in the country and be a factor.   Guys like Jason Christie, Tommy Biffle, Edwin Evers and others learned on Grand Lake and they compete all over the country.”

When he was 15, Collings spent a day in the boat with FLW Tour veteran Randy Blaukat.  The two became friends and today Collings counts Blaukat as one of his biggest mentors.  

“I have to give a ton of credit to Randy Blaukat because I’ve learned so much from him both on and off the water.  He is the reason why I have the sponsors that I have today, because he taught me how to approach sponsors and speak to crowds.  I used to be a really shy person but now I’ll talk to anybody.”

Collings is currently working on securing enough sponsorship dollars to make the jump to the FLW Tour this upcoming season.  “I have a lot of good people backing me and I have a good support group of friends and family, so I’m trying my heart out right now to become financially stable enough to fish the Tour next year,” he explained.  

“All I’ve ever wanted to do was fish professionally, and the way that I look at it, I want to fish at the highest level as young as I possibly can.  I’d rather do it at 20-years old than at 40-years-old.”  

As a result, Collings has once again taken a non-traditional route and decided to forego college in an effort to focus all of his energy on the water.  “I know that a lot of people will have an opinion about my decision, but I just feel like college would take away from my fishing time,” explained Collings, who recently started working part-time at Honey Creek Outdoors on Grand Lake.  

It’s all part of doing things his way both on and off the water.  “I don’t ask for help and I don’t ask people what they’re biting on.  I just go out and try things that I think will work.  It’s the most humbling sport out there, because one day you can go out and catch 20-pounds and the next day you can go out and zero.  I think that’s one of the reasons why I like it so much,” he explained. 

Figuring things out on his own is the primary reason why Collings’ was able to capture the BFL Regional title on Lake Dardanelle in October of 2016.   “I’m not afraid to try anything, anywhere,” he said with a laugh.  “At Dardanelle, I won throwing a squarebill below the lock on riprap and I had never heard of anybody doing well fishing that way on that lake.”

Growing up in the age of social media, Collings has faced criticism online about how realistic his dream of fishing professionally is and the route that he has chosen.  The first real blow was thrown in 2014, during Collings’ first year competing as a boater in the Okie Division of the BFL’s at just 16-years-old.  

“I was nervous that entire season because I was fishing against 200 other guys including some of the best in Oklahoma,” he explained.  “I hadn’t has a great year, and three weeks before the final BFL Super on Grand Lake there was a post made about me online that wasn’t very positive.  There were a lot of things said about me, my friends, and my family.  It really upset me.

“That entire tournament, all I could think about was that post and how they said that I wasn’t going to make it in fishing,” Collings continued.  “Long story short, it really lit a fire under me and I ended up finishing in 5th place.  To this day, I still have people tell me that I’m not good enough and that I’m never going to make it.   It’s always in the back of my mind when I’m on the water and it makes me fish a lot harder.”  

Collings looks to the recent influx of talented young anglers in their 20s who have had success on the FLW Tour and Bassmaster Elite Series as proof that he can actualize his goals in professional fishing.  “The main person that I look up to on Tour is Zack Birge,” said Collings, referring to the 26-year-old Oklahoman who won the FLW Tour Rookie Of the Year title in 2015.

“He has helped me tremendously and has gone above and beyond to help me in my career.  That being said, I don’t want to try and be the next ‘Zack Birge’. I look up to those guys, but I want to make my own path,” he concluded.