North Carolina’s Bryan New previously put all of his tournament fishing eggs into the FLW basket, and with good reason. The 29-year-old had pocketed nearly $400,000 fishing a variety of FLW events, many of them as a co-angler.
The recent turmoil in the world of big-time tournament fishing made New uncertain about his future in the sport he so loves. To give himself another option should he need it, he signed on to fish the Bassmaster Eastern Opens.
Now that New has won the initial Eastern Open of the 2020 season at the Kissimmee Chain, his first ever Bassmaster event, it may be one of the wisest decisions he has ever made. Provided that New competes in the remaining three Eastern Opens this year, which he intends to do, he will receive an invite to fish the 2021 Bassmaster Classic.
Also, since winning the Eastern Open at Kissimmee, New has put deposits on the Bassmaster Central Open tournaments and has found a co-angler. Fishing both Open divisions will double his odds for qualifying for the Bassmaster Elite Series, which has become his major goal for 2020.
New’s journey to the Classic and the Elites began when he and his older brothers, Gene and Michael, fished off their family’s dock at Lake Wylie for catfish and crappie. He caught his first fish, a bream, when he was 3 years old.
When New was in fourth grade, the preacher at his family’s church became aware of his interest in fishing. The preacher introduced New to Curtis Hilderbrand, a fellow churchgoer in his 40s, who was an avid bass angler. The new friends were soon casting regularly from Hilderbrand’s Bass Tracker.
“We fished for fun, mainly at Lake Wylie,” New said. “We never fished offshore. Curtis always threw a buzzbait. A buzzbait is still one of my favorite baits today. We fished spinnerbaits and Texas rigs, too.”
By age 9 New was walking to Earl’s Bait & Tackle, a mile down the road from home, where he would hang out and talk fishing with local bass fanatics. By middle school he had landed a part-time job there sweeping floors and doing other chores.
The week after New turned 16, the minimum age to compete in BFL tournaments, he fished a BFL event at Lake Norman as a co-angler. He caught enough bass to claim 20th place and a check for $161.
“I felt like I had won the Classic,” New said. “I’m making $50 a week at work, and I’d made $161 for one day of fishing.”
Thereafter, New regularly fished BFL tournaments as a co-angler. While fishing a BFL event at High Rock Lake in 2008, the year he graduated from high school, New drew out with North Carolina Elite Series pro Matt Arey. They became fast friends and often fished and hunted together.”
“We don’t have time to get together much anymore,” New said. “I learned a lot about bass fishing from Matt back then. Presently, I’m learning a lot from him about the business side of fishing. He’s very good at that.”
In 2012 New began fishing the FLW Tour as a co-angler and did so with the Costas Series the following year. New had phenomenal success fishing from the back of the boat, making the top-10 cut 42 times. He qualified for the Forest Wood Cup in each of the four years he competed on the FLW Tour. He won the co-angler side of the 2014 Forest Wood Cup, which earned him $50,000, and finished fifth, fourth and second the other three years.
In 2015 New began fishing the Costa Series as a boater and has cashed in with high finishes several times. His experience as a co-angler paved the way for his success as a boater.
“I could talk for three years about how to be a successful co-angler and couldn’t tell you everything,” New said. “I don’t claim to be a better fisherman than anybody, but in almost every tournament I fished as a co-angler I did the best I could have possibly done with the situation I was in.”
New’s number one rule for success as a co-angler is to respect the angler in the front of the boat and to understand that he has a lot more on the line and a lot more invested. He has found that many boaters will help a respectful co-angler catch fish.
Instead of crowding the boater by casting too close to his line or hammering his sweet spots, New would fish where the boater wasn’t casting. As a result he often caught bass that were being overlooked.
“I learned that I could catch fish throwing where you wouldn’t think of catching anything,” New said. “I still use that to my advantage today by fishing where nobody else is.”
Fishing as a co-angler forced New to truly adopt the “fish the moment” strategy, which has proven invaluable now that he competes as a boater.
“As a co-angler you can’t plan on anything because you don’t know what you’re doing next,” New said. “You have to evaluate what’s in front of you and try to determine the best way to catch a bass in that situation. I do that today.”
When he’s not a tournament gypsy, New works for fishing buddy Todd Sosebee who owns Sosebee Pavement Markings in Bessemer City, N.C.
“We paint roads, parking lots and other things,” New said. “If there’s pavement on the ground, we can paint it.”
New’s current sponsors include Greenfish Tackle and Fitzgerald Rods.