XENIA — As a kid growing up in Xenia, Trent Cole Jr. and his siblings idolized legendary angler Jimmy Houston and imitated his techniques as they learned to fish for white bass and largemouth.
Now, after spending 12 years playing in the National Football League, the former Philadelphia Eagles and Indianapolis Colts pass rusher is attempting to follow in Houston’s shoes by qualifying for the Super Bowl of bass fishing through the St. Croix Bassmaster Northern Opens presented by Mossy Oak Fishing.
“As a child, I always dreamed of fishing in the Bassmaster Classic. After my NFL career, fishing tournaments was on my bucket list and I was going to go hardcore at it,” Cole said. “There is nothing like the Bassmasters. I have three chances this year to make the Bassmaster Classic.”
Cole landed a limit on Day 1 of his first Northern Open of the season at the James River a few months ago but wasn’t able to find a consistent pattern on the second day and landed in 144th. It is all part of the learning process for him.
“I made some mistakes from yesterday to today,” he said. “I got stubborn.”
Cole is currently competing in the second Northern Open, at Oneida Lake in New York. He was 85th after day one. It wraps up today and then he final Northern Open is at Upper Chesapeake Bay in Maryland Sept. 8-10.
Being an outdoorsman has always been part of who Cole is, from hunting to fishing around Caesars Creek Reservoir and farm ponds in Ohio. During his NFL career, he was never able to jump into the tournament scene but was always watching and keeping track of the anglers he was familiar with in New Jersey like Mike Iaconelli and Greg DiPalma, both of whom fished the James.
After he retired in 2017, Cole began fishing tournaments as a co-angler and now has moved to the boater side while also filming a television show on Sportsman Channel called “Blitz Outdoors.” His mindset for fishing tournaments doesn’t vary much from his approach to football.
“You have to do your homework and put in the time. I have definitely become a better fisherman.” Cole said. “The way I approach the game is the same way I approach this fishing thing. Now, I have opponents and the biggest opponent is trying to catch one of those big ol’ bass.”
Playing football was second nature for Cole, who racked up 90.5 sacks during his career, and in his next competitive career, he wants to develop the type of instincts his fishing idols compete with every day.
“The guys I’m fishing against are the guys I have watched,” he said. “It is like me being a pass rusher. I don’t think, I just do it. These guys out here, they know as soon as they see something it is a split-second decision on what to do. I’m trying to be better at another craft.”
The one major difference Cole noted in fishing is the individual nature of the sport.
“Only you can make the mistakes. It is all on you. I’m the type of guy where there is no room for mistakes,” he said. “I’m going to leave it all out on the water and do everything I have to do to be successful.”