By the time Dennis Tietje graduated from LA Tech in 1987 with a degree in agri-business, his interest in fishing had advanced from catching bream and crappie with his dad around their south Louisiana home in Roanoke to trying his hand at catching bass on D'Arbonne, Claiborne and Cross Lake.
"My roommate's family had a camp on Cross Lake so we fished there a lot. We'd also sometimes sneak off to the lake at the Moose Lodge in Ruston and it was on that little lake I learned how to fish a plastic worm," Tietje said as we visited recently.
Today, the affable Tietje – last name pronounced "T.J." – is a professional bass fisherman, trying his hand against the big names on the pro circuit, fishing the Bass Master's Elite and Open circuits which hold qualifying tournaments all over the United States. However, there were several steps along the way before he decided to take the plunge competing against the best of the best.
"After graduating, I returned home to become a rice and crawfish farmer on our family farm. It wasn't long though before I joined a bass club down there and realized that I could compete quite well on that level. I fished the Louisiana Federation for several years and made the nationals twice," Tietje recalled.
"This gave me an itch to take it a step further so I sat my wife and two sons down and told them my dream and asked for their feelings. All three assured me I had their support and were behind me all the way. There is no way I would have committed to this venture without their support," he added.
Tietje leased the farm out to a friend, bit the bullet and signed on the fish the Elite circuit and began lining up sponsors. Today, that list of sponsors is impressive, including Bass Pro Shops, Southern Barbecue Sauce, Nitro Boats, Jeff Davis Bank along with several other sponsors.
"These sponsors are great and are absolutely necessary to have because fishing a circuit like this is quite expensive. Even so, the funds received from sponsors covers roughly only about half the expenses so a prospective pro fisherman has to dip into his own resources to make it work.
"My wife, Trudy, and I own a pizza restaurant which she runs while I'm away and this supports my family while I'm fishing," said Tietje.
The long hours of driving and pulling a bass boat across country can be tiring and the expense of booking a motel in the areas he fishes can get excessive. However, Tietje hit the mother lode when he was invited to join four other pro anglers in renting a house for a week at each tournament site.
"Terry Scroggins, one of the anglers, took me under his wing when I started out and invited me to join three others in renting together," he said.
Obviously, Tietje made a favorable impression on Scoggins when he introduced him to his other three room mates – Scott Rook, Davie Hite, and the leading money winner, multiple Bass Master's champion and arguably the most popular professional bass angler on the circuit today, Kevin Van Dam.
A question that comes immediately to mind is what it's like to be sharing living quarters with the famous Van Dam.
"Kevin is one of the most genuine guys you'll ever meet," Tietje said. "He is a true ambassador for the sport and if there was ever anything he could do for you, he'd do it; he's the real deal. I feel really blessed to have been invited into this group," he added.
Tietje will be hitting the road in March for Florida for the first of 2012's contests, and he's pumped.
"I know my ability and that I can fish with these guys," he added. "I'm confident that I'm very close and that this will be my year."
Glynn Harris Outdoors is proudly sponsored by DSK, Ltd. of Minden.