Opens profile: Smith puts faith over fishing

When Florida’s Blake Smith attended Polk State College, he minored in religion with thoughts of becoming a minister. After graduating, he attended the University of South Florida thinking he might venture into politics. He wound up being a professional bass angler.

This revision may have been inevitable. Smith was hooked on fishing practically before he was born. His father, Capt. Keiland Smith, guides mainly fly fishermen for freshwater bass and saltwater species. Keiland is a fly-casting instructor and also hosted one of Florida’s first fishing radio programs.

Smith began fishing bass and redfish derbies as a youngster. He won this first tournament, a local youth derby, at age 11. Two years later he held two I.G.F.A. records. One for largemouth bass and another for channel catfish.

He continued to fish bass tournaments in central Florida, as well as the IFA Redfish Tour and Lucas Oil Pro Ams. He did especially well on the redfish tours. In 2015 Smith began fishing professionally with FLW and now competes on the MLF circuit.

This season he added the 2021 Bassmaster Southern Opens to his schedule. After the first two Opens, he is third in the Southern Opens Angler of the Year standings and poised to qualify for the Bassmaster Elite Series.

If Smith stays among the top three in AOY points after the final Southern Open at Lake Norman, he will be at a crossroads. Will he switch to the Elites or stay with MLF? He and his family are praying about what to do should they face this dilemma.

“It would be a fun opportunity,” Smith said. “I like the idea that you have two years to requalify for the Elites once you’re in. My title sponsors, Yamaha and Skeeter, would like to see that happen.”

Smith’s fishing success has never taken precedence over his faith. He has taken part in mission trips to seven countries including Africa, Europe and South America. His wife, Meagan, has also served on missions overseas. They have been blessed with five children, all girls, from 8 months to 9 years old.

The Smith ensemble travels together to the tournaments whenever they can. This has become more challenging since the birth of their fifth child. Meagan takes on the enormous responsibility of organizing the troop, cooking meals and teaching the children.

The family’s primary focus is faith. They speak about their faith at over 30 events a year, including Meet the Pros Nights, Fellowship of Christian Athlete groups and other functions. They strive to live their family slogan, “Faith Over Fishing.”

Smith’s sponsors include Mission Culture, Skeeter Boats, Amped Outdoors, All Service, Yamaha Marine, Gary Yamamoto Baits, Lowrance, Extant Labs, Power-Pole, Berkley, NuThreadz, Arctic Ice, Abu Garcia, Ao Coolers, Gill Fishing, Flat Out Tungsten, 320 Watersports Ministry, Idols Aside Ministries and Motorguide.’