Joey Bissing suffered his second ACL injury in football as a freshman at Libertyville.
It proved fortuitous.
“My dad said he would buy me a Ranger bass boat if I quit football,” Bissing said.
That 2007 Ranger became a life-changer.
As a sophomore in 2018, he and Jackson Paden took Libertyville to its first sectional title in high school bass fishing with the big bass (4.37 pounds) anchoring their winning bag of 14.24.
Then came the learning experiences of Bissing’s junior year not going well at sectionals and Covid knocking out his senior year.
“If you’re not learning, you not going to get any better, that is biggest thing I learned in high school,” Bissing said.
Learning showed when I asked how he liked to fish.
“I’m good at throwing ChatterBaits and a jig,” Bissing said.
That’s an odd combo for a young angler.
“One I learned on the Chain, the other on Geneva,” he said, then explained. “Brad Marshall took me under his wing, taught me how to fish on Chain O’Lakes. Scott Schmidt taught me how to fish Lake Geneva and taught me how to fish deep.
“The Chain is really shallow, Geneva is super deep. It’s two different worlds, that’s kind of bass fishing. I am very fortunate to learn from those two guys.”
As to the college bass fishing life at the University of Tennessee, Bissing said, “We travel all over the country. What a crazy life I lead. . . . I’m here for a week, gone for a week, it’s hard to keep up with classes.”
This semester he has classes in Excel, communications, statistics and economics, while also taking an online class Spanish class from College of Lake County.
“I owe so much to my parents [Joel and Kim],” Bissing said. “I can’t afford to go [college fishing] without them. I owe everything to them.”
Bass fishing at Tennessee does not rank with the Vols having a storied women’s basketball (eight national titles, Pat Summitt) and football (six national titles, Peyton Manning) programs.
But they have Bill Dance, who made an orange and white Tennessee cap de rigueur bass-fishing attire. For the bass-fishing club, alum Harrison Smiddy, founder of Enduro Power Lithium Batteries, is the most important supporter. That explains the wrap on Bissing’s boat, a 2020 Ranger, which was finished a couple weeks ago.
Yes, Bissing uses his major in marketing and minor in communications.
Libertyville bass-fishing coach Bob Uliks appreciates how Bissing juggles life.
“This is something that I saw Joey really learn and understand as he started his college fishing career,” Uliks said “Being on the water 10-12 hours a day in practice and during competition takes a lot of preparation both mentally and physically, from the travel, being in the elements to staying hydrated, preparing your gear to nutrition and sleep, if you want to excel and succeed as Joey has you need to understand these concepts and adapt them to your daily life. That in conjunction with attending classes and keeping grades up makes Joey a complete athlete in my opinion.”
Bissing and Paden finished fifth March 4 at MLF’s Abu Garcia College Fishing Open at Lake Guntersville in Alabama to qualify for the national championship.
When I asked his advice for high school anglers, who have sectionals Thursday, he said, “Surround yourself with good fisherman who love fishing and learn from them. You have to take in everything they say.”
Bissing and Paden pass it on with JJ Fishing summer camps. Bissing said he has some openings this summer.
Reach Bissing, also a licensed Wisconsin guide, on Facebook.