It would be easy to assume that any angler worthy of competing in a national championship is the product of a dominating career.  Fact is, as Robert Degraffenreid competes this week at the Federation Nation Championship on chilly, wind swept Milford Lake near Junction City, Kansas he reflects with good humor about the early days when he was anything but dominating.

“Marvin Johnson got me started fishing, and the first event I ever competed in was one of Jim Morton’s Sport Bass Association tournaments back in the late 1980’s.  I showed up as a no-boater with a few rods and sat there in the back of the boat with a full-blown lunch.  I even brought a red and white-checkered paper napkin.  My partner looked at me like I was nuts.  He asked what I was doing.  I told him I was hungry and planned to eat,” laughed the good-natured 46-year old lawn man from Oklahoma City.

“I’ve fished tournaments for 20 years, and half of them were spent learning from the back of the boat as a co-angler.  I didn’t buy my first boat until I was 33 years old.  Then, Glenn Cunningham convinced me to join the BASS Federation Nation.  So I took his advice and joined the North OKC Bassmasters, and since then, I’ve been super fortunate to make the State Team four times,” said Degraffenreid, who claims Okemah Lake as his favorite Oklahoma reservoir.  “Give me a topwater frog or a swim jig at Okemah in May, and if we’re lucky, we’ll catch five bass that total 24 pounds.”

But what about this week in Kansas?  “I’d grade my optimism a B.  Milford Lake is a tough, tough fishery.  It has a 4-bass limit, not a 5-bass limit, and I’m guessing we’ll be lucky if 15-percent of the field catches a 4-bass limit each day.  The weather is going to get worse, so while I’m a shallow water power fisherman by nature, I could certainly foresee myself breaking out that Quantum spinning reel and 8-pound line if I’m desperate for a keeper.  That’s what I did at the Divisional in South Dakota, and it helped me qualify for this event.”

Degraffenreid didn’t mention packing a lunch, but based on the weather forecast, a thermos might serve him well.