Best of the Bassmen
having success," Brauer says. "It helps that I have so many things going that I don't get to fish as much as I'd like, so I have a fresh attitude when I get to a tournament. In the early '80s, I'd guide for 20 to 30 days between tournaments. If I'd kept that pace up, I think I'd be burned out by now."
Brauer thinks he eventually will cut his tournament fishing to one circuit, rather than two, and continue working with a television show ("Bass Class" on ESPN) and with his various sponsors. That'll leave more time for fishing with grandson Colby in the pond behind the house.
Brauer was born in Nebraska and moved to Missouri in 1981. His father died when Denny was only four, which left him and his brother and sister without a male family figure--a common situation today.
"We moved to Seward, Nebraska," Brauer says. "We had a small stream about 300 yards from the house. We fished for anything that would bite. When we got a little older, we'd ride our bikes to some of the farm ponds, and that's where I started to fish for bass."
An uncle occasionally took the youngster fishing, but basically he was self-taught. "It's important to have someone to help in the beginning and the opportunity," Brauer says. "If I hadn't had that stream right where I lived I might never have generated that interest. It's hard to get fishing opportunity in the middle of a metropolitan area. We need to make sure that every youngster can be exposed to fishing because it is such a great pastime."
By the time he'd reached 25, an age when career choice is an imperative, bass fishing had become a passion rather than a hobby. "I turned a hobby into a profession," he says. "I started fishing bass club tournaments in 1976 and had success and decided to try the next level and was halfway successful my first few tournaments, so I went from there." He fished his first professional tournament in 1980 and went fulltime professional in 1982.
It is a chancy and occasionally dangerous life. In addition to the 50,000 or more highway miles every year, there are the rigors of weather. Brauer recalls a sudden storm that blew up when he was far from the dock on a New York lake. "The waves were maybe 15 feet high," he says. "It looked like