Yamaha Teenage Pro Living Tournament Dream

 

Yamaha Teenage Pro Living Tournament Dream

by Craig Lamb

Andy Ortega recalled with a laugh the moment that sparked his dream of becoming a tournament angler.

The 8-year-old was channel surfing when the remote control found The Bassmaster’s® TV show. The wide-eyed youngster watched as a boisterous, animated Michael Iaconelli landed an 8-pound largemouth from Lake Amistad.

“He banged his head against the dashboard and just went crazy,” recalled Ortega. “I thought that was cool, seeing him get so excited about just catching a largemouth bass.”

The “going Ike” moment led to the purchase of a Batman rod-and-reel combo by his parents. Lucy and Andres Ortega then took their son to a local pond and he caught a catfish. He was hooked but wanted more. Ortega seriously wanted to catch a largemouth. That would come soon, at state record proportions.

Andy Ortega, Yamaha Pro Staff

This year, Ortega, a senior at Permian High School in Odessa, was granted his wish of being home schooled to free up time to compete in the 2017 Bass Pro Shops® Bassmaster® Central Opens.

He finished ninth at the final event on Grand Lake O’ The Cherokees. After taking the lead on Day 2, numerous well-wishing pros approached him at the weigh-in. All recognized that success is in the near future for Ortega.

Ortega spoke with the same detail and clarity as a seasoned pro when describing his pattern at Grand Lake. Keep in mind that he is only 18 years old, and started tournament fishing just four years ago.

“In practice I set out to catch resident largemouth in the backs of creeks on a buzzbait,” he said. “I expanded my pattern to pea gravel shorelines for catching schooling fish during an early morning bite.”

Ortega discovered during the tournament that his buzzbait moved too quickly through the strike zone.

“The largemouth were there but the bite was off,” he said. “The fish needed a slower moving lure to stay longer in the strike zone.”

He switched to a 6-inch Evergreen Shower Blows 105. The pencil design and unique action does everything from walking the dog to chugging. Ortega slowed his presentation to keep the lure moving sideways instead of forward.

Recognizing slower was better became a wise move that put him in contention to win. On Day 2, Ortega took the lead with a limit weighing 12 pounds, 7 ounces, for a total of 28-6.

There is more to home schooling than freeing up time for the tournaments. The nearest suitable bass fishing water is four hours away at Lake Amistad.

“After Andy did so well in junior tournaments we had to make a decision on how to enable him to keep fishing,” said Lucy. “We are so far out in West Texas that we might be away from home for several days, just so he can get in the practice time at Lake Amistad.”

Ortega is unhindered as an aspiring tournament angler living in a world surrounded by oil fields and few places to go bass fishing. The workaround began in the days of the Batman pole and push button spincast reel.

Lucy Ortega discovered the Bassmaster CastingKids® program and it’s connection with the San Angelo Bass Club. She entered her son in the 7-10 age group of the national flip, pitch and cast competition.

What was lost in fishing time was gained with the mechanics of making baits land on the bull’s-eye of a casting target. Ortega took third place at the national finals held at the 2009 B.A.S.S. Federation Nation Championship®.

Ortega joined the junior club and finally caught his first largemouth. Tears of joy streamed down his face after landing the prized catch. Yet distance to fishable water continued to be a handicap. Ortega made the most of every trip.

“I had trouble catching bass but I just loved the competition,” he recalled. “It was a competitive thrill, and I just kept going for it with every trip.”

Eventually, success came in multiples. Ortega won four junior club angler of the year titles over five years in the 11-14 age group of his club. To keep the competition fair for other members the tournament director moved Ortega up to the next age group. He won the 15-18 year old angler of the year title in his first season. For the next three seasons he qualified for the state championship, coming in second place each year.

Success also came outside the tournaments. At the age of 11, Ortega caught a 10-pound largemouth from O.H. Ivie Lake that qualified as a Catch and Release state record.

In 2015, Ortega joined the Yamaha Pro Team.

“Adding Andy to our Pro Team gives us the opportunity to connect with high school anglers as they continue to grow and establish themselves as future pros,” said David Ittner,  Tournament and Pro Staff Manager, Yamaha Marine Group.

“Andy’s enthusiasm and dedication for the sport caught our attention through his interactions with Yamaha on Facebook®,” continued Ittner. “His fishing ability and maturity extend well beyond his years, and we are proud to support Andy’s dream of becoming a bass pro angler.”

“He paid his own way, traveled on his own,” said Lucy of his Open season. “We gave him permission if he studied and worked hard.”

The booming West Texas oil industry supports the family. Lobo Valve Services is a family-owned business, and Andy works full time in the field for his mother and father.

The hours away from the water are spent in deep study. Ortega makes the most of a subscription to The Bass University®, coincidentally founded by Iaconelli.

“Every single day I watch the instructional videos, take notes, study and test myself,” he said. “I have studied every single scenario that I might encounter, treating it just like an academics course.”

Ortega continues aspiring to reach his goal of making a career of the sport. He is motivated while remaining humble to his roots.

“People used to say I might be the next KVD, but I want to be Andy Ortega, the kid who earned it all on my own through hard work,” he said. “I want other kids to be able to look up to me later on, be a positive role model.”

Before Championship Saturday began the tournament leader followed his usual routine. He watched motivational videos. A favorite is Les Brown, the world-renowned motivational speaker and author of Live Your Dreams.

“Life takes on meaning when you become motivated, set goals and charge after them in unstoppable manner.”

Ortega is beginning to live one of his favorite quotes by Brown.

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This document contains many of Yamaha’s valuable trademarks. It may also contain trademarks belonging to other companies. Any references to other companies or their products are for identification purposes only, and are not intended to be an endorsement.

 

 

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