Bass Fishing: “It’s the Journey We Love”

EQ Angler, Trey McKinney, reflects on his 2023 St. Croix Bassmaster Opens season and shares thoughts on moving on to the Bassmaster Elite Series in 2024.

Park Falls, WI – Bass Wunderkind Trey McKinney of Carbondale, Illinois finished 24th in the final St. Croix Bassmaster Open of the 2023 season last weekend at the Harris Chain of Lakes in Florida. Severe weather canceled day one of the competition on Thursday, which left the 18-year-old – and all other competitors – in a holding pattern. Sitting in 3rd place in the EQ Angler of the Year points race going into the Harris Chain event, McKinney knew he had all but sealed his berth to the 2024 Bassmaster Elite Series, even though his brain wouldn’t let him believe it.

“It’s crazy, it doesn’t feel right,” McKinney said early Friday morning. “We’ve worked hard to put ourselves in this position all year. Everything goes into it today. We had an off day yesterday and got postponed, so I’ve been a little nervous. I was excited sitting in the hotel room thinking about it last night and wondering if they’ll bite. It’s been an unbelievable year to be able to make it this far and be so close. It just doesn’t even seem right. Having my mom, my dad, my family, and all of my sponsors pushing me and just letting me live my dream. Being 18 and just being able to travel on the road, being able to stay in your truck a few nights. It’s not always the most fun, but it’s the journey that we all love, right? It’s the stories we can tell and… uh… hopefully we can tell stories after today. It’s unbelievable. It’s a dream come true, but we’ve got a little bit longer. We’ve got ten more fish to weigh.”

McKinney would indeed go on to catch five-fish limits on both days of competition in Florida, weighing a total of 26-1 – more than enough to maintain his third-place standing in the EQ points race and earn one of the nine coveted invitations to fish the Bassmaster Elite Series in 2024.

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A relieved McKinney hoists ’em high after day 2 of competition at the 2023 St. Croix Basmaster Open at the Harris Chain last Saturday.

“It’s kind of one of those dreams that… I mean… you always have it right here, you know? I’ve been dreaming of that moment walking across that stage one last time on the Opens and holding up that certification that proves I made it,” the St. Croix Rod pro staffer said before the day-two weigh in on Saturday. “It doesn’t seem right. It’s one of those things, as young as I am now, it’s going to be pretty amazing (fishing the Bassmaster Elite Series)… how much I’m going to be able to learn… how much I’m going to be able to travel… just make a full career out of it. It’s going to be pretty special. We’ve been blessed. I’ve met so many people, they’ve opened so many doors,” an emotional McKinney continued. “It’s hard not to get emotional when you just dream of everything. You hear of all these big names and you hear of the Elite Series, you know? And you’re like… I’m going to be fishing that! I’ll tell you what’s going to really get to me is being in the first bag line of one of those tournaments… waiting by the tank with hopefully five fish, and I look around and start seeing like, Palaniuk, I mean just… Hackney… just everything like that. That’s when it’s going to kick in. That’s when the emotion is going to just slam, and it’s going to be like, we did it. I’m very blessed and grateful. All praise to the Lord.”

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Trey and St. Croix Pro Staff and Show Coordinator, Cristian Simpkins, celebrate the 2024 Bassmaster Elite Series Qualifier award McKinney earned as a result of his 2023 Bassmaster Opens Series performance.St. Croix Rod wishes to congratulate Trey McKinney on his graduation to the Bassmaster Elite Series in 2024, just the very latest significant accomplishment in his remarkable, yet young career. “We couldn’t be prouder of Trey… the talented competitor and outstanding young man he is,” says St. Croix Vice President of Marketing, Jesse Simpkins. “At just 18, Trey has accomplished things in fishing that nobody else has, and that’s a testament to his family, his faith, his abilities and efforts, as well as the help of others around him. St. Croix is proud to be a part of ‘Team Trey’, and we have no doubt he’ll continue to set high goals and achieve them. The St. Croix family also offers its congratulations to the other eight EQ anglers who will be joining Trey on the Elites next season.”

Happy graduation day, and good luck, Trey.

Follow McKinney’s journey on Facebook and Instagram.

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About St. Croix Rod

Headquartered in Park Falls, Wisconsin, St. Croix has been proudly crafting the “Best Rods on Earth” for 75 years. Combining state-of-the-art manufacturing processes with skilled craftsmanship, St. Croix is the only major producer to still build rods entirely from design through manufacturing. The company remains family-owned and operates duplicate manufacturing facilities in Park Falls and Fresnillo, Mexico. With popular trademarked series such as Legend®, Legend Xtreme®, Avid®, Premier®, Imperial®, Triumph® and Mojo, St. Croix is revered by all types of anglers from around the world.

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