51-year-old fishing vet uses skills, experience on tour

Photo provided by Chad Morgenthaler
As a longtime veteran of the sport, 51-year-old Chad Morgenthaler has used his experience on multiple tours to help him stay at the top of the standings despite an abundance of younger anglers coming up. Morgenthaler is sponsored by Jasper Engines and Transmissions and has been for the majority of his pro career.

By Larry LaGrange

Chad Morgenthaler started out as an auto tech in Illinois, and that began an association with Jasper Engines and Transmissions. The FLW (Fishing League Worldwide) tour pro now sports a 21-foot Phoenix bass boat with a prominent JET logo.

“When I turned pro I was sponsored by Yamaha USA,” Chad recalled. “Yamaha of Japan approached Jasper Engines about the time they were coming out of NASCAR. They wanted to get more into marine products, so they thought it would be a good idea to have pro representation nationally. Just so happened that my boss at Yamaha knew about me and hooked me up with Jasper Engines. That’s been 12 years ago.”

Chad’s professional background in motors has helped him promote JET through the internet, social media, and other outlets. He also works with shop owners.

Chad decided this year to shoot for the FLW instead of the BASS tour. “They have a great program and their Florida schedule was better for me and my strengths. I like Florida. I’ve won over $500,000 fishing there over the years. Don’t know why that is since I’m from Illinois. Seems like I do well every time I go there.”

First Tournament a Success

The first event took place in January at Okeechobee and Chad finished seventh.

 “Fantastic way to start the year,” he said. “Nice points and good momentum. My four-day total was 67 pounds, maybe 10-12 pounds from first. I won an event in Florida a few years ago on the final day, coming back from eight pounds behind. It’s doable in Florida.”

Chad, like most anglers, prefers to fish shallow, but when you spend 13 years as a tour pro, you have to know a lot of techniques. He can fish a deep crank bait or a one-ounce structure jig.

“I like to catch fish any way I can,” he said. “The challenge is to figure out what will work on a certain day. The competition and figuring out the fish are what drive me and keep me getting up at four in the morning and out until dark, trying to find the most and biggest bass. It’s not about catching five; it’s how to catch the biggest five among 200 anglers. I have to go for big fish in almost every event to do well.”

Chad says that for fun fishing he enjoys crappie, especially locating them in deep water.

“I fish vertically and might catch 100 fish. I’d rather do that than get them up shallow in the spring. I have four Garmin graphs, two 10-inch and two 12-inch with side imaging, downscan, and Panoptix. I get a good idea of what’s around with those units.”

On the home front, Chad has been married to Debbie for 28 years.

“Up until a year and a half ago she was traveling with me as my business manager, but now she works for a wealth management agency. She does well with me being away; she got accustomed to that when I worked as a fireman for awhile. We don’t have kids, but our rescue animals keep her company when I’m gone.”

Nick’s Tutor

Several years ago, Chad introduced then 15-year-old Jasper native Nick Uebelhor to bass fishing tournaments in a benefit event in Illinois that Jasper Engines helped sponsor. From that point on Nick has developed into a serious fisherman.

“Nick makes no bones about it,” Chad said. “He wants to take my job some day. He picks my brain for info about different lakes. This is the first year he’s stepped higher; he’s into the Costa circuit.”

 Tournament fishing is not for the faint of heart.

 “The biggest challenge is that you’ve got to be able to mentally survive the highs and lows of the sport,” Chad said. “Things can go from bad to good and good to bad in a heartbeat. An example of good would be landing a big bass in the closing seconds of an event. The bad would be losing that bass that would’ve put you over the top. You have to be able to put these bad events behind you and move on. You can’t get that fish back so you try to forget about it.”   

 Another toughie is travel.

 “I drive 30-50,000 miles a year and I’m gone 8-10 months. That’s hard when you’re 51 years old, but I’m in good shape physically. I had bad angler’s elbow last year but was able to work through it. I do an exercise program called P90X that’s pretty taxing and keeps me strong. I work with nutritionists and eat well. That helps me make it through 12-hour days in practice and 10-hour days in events. Some months in the spring I have an event every week.”

Bassmaster Magazine has a long-running feature called “Day on the Lake” in which each month a pro is challenged to figure out an unfamiliar  body of water and catch the best five-bass bag he can catch in seven hours.  One recent issue featured a well-known pro angler who caught one fish that weighed one pound in seven hours. Chad was a participant and scored 26 pounds. Many top level pros try this stressful scenario and don’t do nearly that well. Chad had one of the bigger catches in the history of the event.

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