“Hammer’n” the Home Lake Curse
by Mariah Stevens
Photo courtesy of Travis Lyons
Going into a professional tournament with a “curse” on your back would make any fisherman nervous, and Brandon Perkins said he was no exception to the pressure and nerves.
Perkins grew up in the Pickwick area and has lived there his entire life. The lake town that is known for some of the best fishing and boating in Tennessee has always been home and one of his most comfortable fishing spots. However, Perkins knew going into the National Professional Fishing League (NPFL) tournament on Pickwick this past July that all eyes were on him.
In the professional fishing realm, there is such a thing as the “hometown curse” or “home lake curse” which means the local fisherman is supposed to have the upper hand, but most of the time the local falls short.
“Fishing is definitely harder on your home lake,” Perkins said. “You have to be able to respond mentally to the challenges of being the hometown pick because you’re never the underdog when you’re fishing your home lake. You’re the favorite and you’re supposed to win”
Perkins has been fishing with his father since he was a young boy, literally. Perkins stated he was so small that he would ride in the rod locker inside the boat when it was cold outside. As Perkins grew up, school, sports, and a full-time job began to take over. There were a few gaps in Perkins’ life where fishing wasn’t a top priority due to other responsibilities pulling him in other directions.
“I never saw myself being able to fish a tour on top of keeping a full-time job in medical sales,” Perkins said. “I knew I could be competitive, but the question was always ‘Could I make enough money fishing to keep my family stable?’”
In 2009, Perkins won the ABA National Championship at Pickwick and that punched his ticket to the professional side of the sport. He was able to get sponsorships and deals and start fishing minor league trails such as the FLW Costa series and Toyota series. These minor league trails proved to be beneficial for Perkins because they sent him to his first Forest Wood Cup in 2016.
Perkins is now fishing the National Professional Fishing League and loving every minute of it.
“I love the point I'm at right now,” Perkins said. “I don’t aspire to fish for a living, but the ride I’m on right now is pretty cool. I’m able to work a steady job, be home for events, spend time with my family, and I get to fish. It is really the best of both worlds.”
Having the ability to stay home for a tournament not only benefited Perkins, but also the local community as well.
“I always wanted tournament trails to come here locally because it would affect everything positively: businesses, community, hotels, restaurants, gas stations, and more,” Perkins said.
Perkins knew that bringing in tour tournaments would have a great impact on his community because he personally knows how much money anglers have to spend when they are out of town for tournaments. He wanted his community and local businesses to experience that stream of income themselves.
Businesses throughout Hardin County rely on the locals and the tourism and fishing crowds to keep their business afloat. Over the past year, the Hardin County Tourism Board has really started working on bringing in tournament trails and Perkins is excited to see the fishing industry come in and economically support his local community.
In 2021, there are three major tournaments launching out of Pickwick Landing State Park located in Hardin County, which Perkins stated hasn’t happened since he was a little kid.
“I am thankful the chamber of commerce and the tourism board sees the opportunities that these tournament trails bring in,” Perkins said. “I am so excited to see the revenue from these tournaments positively impact our community at the local level through the small businesses.
Locally run small businesses are important to Perkins because they are the backbone of Hardin County. Outside of Hardin County, a small business that Perkins holds near and dear to his heart is Hammer Fishing Rods.
Sandie and Shane Cox, owners of Hammer Fishing Rods, are two very special people to the fishing community. To Hammer Rods, it’s more than just fishing; it’s community and it’s family.
Before Hammer Rods became one of his sponsors, Perkins watched how Sandie and Shane were involved all throughout the fishing community from high school tournaments to benefit tournaments, and he saw the passion and true care they had in their hearts for others, which reflected in their business. Perkins was so impressed that he approached Hammer Rods himself in regards to a sponsorship.
“I knew I wanted to work with Hammer Rods because of the type of people Sandie and Shane were,” Perkins said. “The way that they ran their business and the way that they gave back to anglers and the community was what drew me in. Sure, there’s a lot of different rod companies out there that make good rods, but there’s only one rod company with Sandie and Shane.”
With his Hammer Rods rigged up and ready to fish, Perkins didn’t exactly do much fishing at all in the days leading up to the tournament. For this ledge tournament in the middle of July, Perkins knew it was going to prove to be a battle. These fish offshore were pressured and scared due to the fact that they’ve been getting thrown at consistently for the previous three months. Due to the circumstances, Perkins was very conservative with his casting during practice.
“During this practice, I tried to be strategic,” Perkins said. “I spent my entire day behind the wheel of my boat looking at my Lowrance electronics trying to find schools of fish. When I’d find a school, I wouldn’t throw at them, so essentially, I didn’t fish in practice.”
Perkins had other anglers asking him if he was going to win, and his only response was “I don’t know because I haven’t thrown on many or hardly caught anything.”
However, his practice method proved to be effective as he secured a win on Pickwick with a three-day total of 55-pounds, 11-ounces.
Perkins caught his fish on a bait that he refers to as a “spoon”. He threw this lure on two different rod options: Hammer Elite 7’ 6” Swimbait Rod and a Hammer Elite 7’ 11” Extra Heavy. Perkins chose the 7’ 6” because the longer handle makes it easier to cast your bait and doesn’t wear you out, but the 7’ 11” extra heavy, which he refers to as his workhorse rod, allowed him to cast the spoon even further. Perkins also caught a handful of fish on his Hammer JAK 7’ 3” Heavy Series rod paired with a football jig.
During this tournament, Perkins was also able to try a new prototype rod that Hammer Rods is actively working on, a 7’ 9” glass composite rod.
“I was excited to use the new prototype, but due to the time of the year, I didn’t get to use it as much as I wanted to,” Perkins said. “This rod is designed for a 10xd crankbait and deep cranking. It has a lot of bend and a ton of perks to it. I know if this tournament had been two months prior, I would have caught a lot of fish on this rod.”
Hammer Rods is also planning the release of two new rods that Perkins is anxiously awaiting to put to use.
“Hammer has two new glass composite rods that I didn’t have in my boat for this tournament, but I know I’ll have my hands on them soon,” Perkins said. “They’re releasing a new chatter bait rod and a rattletrap rod. They’ll both be a little smaller and shorter with the chatter bait rod being 7’ 4” and the rattletrap rod being 7’ 2”, and I’m super excited to give them a try.”
Photo Courtesy of Travis Lyons
Although Perkins was named the sole winner of the tournament on Pickwick, he says fishing is not a one-man job. Perkins knows he has a great support system behind him with his family, sponsors, and the local community.
“Without my family and my sponsors backing me, I could never do this,” Perkins said. “My wife Tisha holds down the fort while I’m gone, and my girls, Laken and Lola Fisher, are so awesome and supportive. The girls write me letters to open every day while I’m gone, and it’s just so cool to have their complete support”
Perkins contributes his success to his family and the help of others. He states his dad really set the foundation and taught him so much about the sport as he grew up, and as he grew older, he was able to learn so much from other anglers.
“I wouldn’t be here today without the help of others,” Perkins said. “I’ve got an awesome family and awesome sponsors. I’m no better than any other fisherman out there, but I’ve got the best team on my side.”