Jay Yelas – Domination of the West in 1988

Jay Yelas in 1988, his rookie year of competitive bass fishing. Yelas would go on to win two AOY awards in the 88/89 season and cement himself in the professional bass angling world. Photo Novcember/December 1988 issue of Bass Fishing Magazine. Matt Vincent Author/Photographer.

Jay Yelas in 1988. Photo Nov/Dec 1988 issue of Bass Fishing Magazine. Matt Vincent Author/Photographer.

In 1987 Jay Yelas was a recent college graduate with little tournament experience under his belt. The fact is, though, by the end of 1988, he was not only an experienced tournament angler, he was an experienced winner.

His first big-time event took place in the summer of 1987 – the U.S. Bass U.S. Open held on Lake Mead. In that tournament he finished in 6th place and that launched his career. In the next 18 months he’d chock up five wins on four different western impoundments – including the 1988 Operation Bass Championship – and win two different Angler of the Year awards. Not too bad for a rookie.

I remember anglers coming into the shop at that time, the big sticks of the west, talking about this new kid who ate peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and slept in his van at the lakes for months on end. “He just showed up out of nowhere and now he’s taking our money,” they’d say. It wasn’t long after the name Jay Yelas became a standard in the southwestern tournament scene.

At the FLW Cup I had a chance to talk with Jay about those days and how they impacted his career. I think you’ll enjoy the conversation.