Fishin' for Competition
By Don Porter
“I always loved to fish,” says Gar Summers. “My dad was a fisheries biologist for the state for 38 years. Fishing was a job to him, but I love it.”
Gar, an Operations Specialist for Dominion Energy Utah, has turned that love of fishing into a semi-professional pursuit, competing in “club” tournaments during the warm-weather months.
Prior to competing, his fishing experience was no different than anyone else’s. “I’d just fish for fun. I lived five minutes from Pineview Reservoir. I would go to Lake Powell. My brother and I were into it. My dad would go when he was younger, and it was a family thing,” says Gar.
Things didn’t really change until after 2006, when he started working at Dominion Energy, which was then Questar Gas.
Co-workers Jason Hatch and Dale Skeen, both Supervisors for Gas Operations with DEU, heard his stories about fishing for bass on Lake Powell, and told him they’d like to go along. As Gar remembers, “They’re good guys, good people, and I got along with them; so I took them down to Lake Powell. It was off the charts, and it just blew up from there.”
“Those two have gone a lot with me,” he explains. “Then I got better and better at fishing, and tried different things. I really got into it because the company gave me vacation time to do it. They were very supportive of it.”
Another thing you need to understand about Gar’s on-the-water passion: He’s fishing for bass in Troutlandia. Anglers in the Intermountain West, for the most part, worship trout.
Also, it’s worth noting that Gar’s wife, Ana, is no self-described “fishing widow,” and his three daughters -- Jaycie, 26, Bailey, 22, and Emily, 20 – have all been supportive of Gar’s weekend-fishing pursuits.
Indeed, Ana encouraged Gar to buy a better boat after Gar, his father, and brother bought, fixed, and sold two or three lesser watercrafts.
“My wife told me I needed a new boat,” Gar explains. “So I found one in Oregon, I bought it, and I still have it. It’s a 2009 Ranger, the Cadillac of the boats. Buying that boat gave me the jump-off point to do whatever I wanted to do.”
He credits his participation in the tournaments to the kindness of other people on the water.
“I’d have never gotten into this if people hadn’t been nice,” Gar says. “I’d be fishing and ask other people who were fishing, ‘Hey, what are you guys doing?’ Instead of telling me to get lost, they’d invite me to fish in the tournaments.”
Eventually, Gar took the bait. The Dry Creek Open is the biggest tournament in the Twin Falls, Idaho area. It’s an invitation-only tournament, but does have a limited number of lottery entries. One of Gar’s new friends encouraged him to enter the lottery.
“My daughter and I got in – first try!” Gar says. “That was surreal and scary, but after that, I felt like I could do it.”
“You have so much fun” at the tournaments, he says. “They’ll have a barbecue, and they just make it fun.”
“As people read this article, they might say, ‘I’m going to go do that.’ But, it’s been so much homework and hard work on my part. It’s a lot of trial and error – and a lot of luck.”
Gar describes it as “a rollercoaster ride.” He’ll win one weekend and the next he bombs. Entry fees range from $60 at the smaller tournaments to $375 at the largest.
The prize money varies, too.
“An average tournament win would be about $600 to $1,000,” he says. “I just got back from a tournament in Oregon, just over the border with Idaho, called Owyhee, and I finished 10th place. Those big tournaments pay 10 places, so I made enough to pay for the gasoline to get there and back.”
Gar sums it up with a laugh, “Last year I probably won $1,500 fishing but spent, maybe, $6,500 doing it.”
He’s competed in nine tournaments this year, and guesses he’ll probably do 13 by the end of the season. Friends have been encouraging Gar to fish at the “federation” level – the next up from the club tournaments.
“I’m pretty content fishing these entry-level club tournaments,” he says. He is happy to remain at, using a baseball metaphor, the farm-club level. “Besides, I don’t remember a Saturday when I just sat in a chair.
Gar Summers catches two largemouth bass!
Gar’s 2009 Ranger, the Cadillac of boats!
Gar enjoys beautiful scenery and fishing during his weekend pursuits.
Gar’s catch of the day!