Hook, line & sinker

Prospect angler finds success with bass fishing, tournament circuit

Jamie Verab, a Prospect resident and 2001 Naugatuck High School graduate, is the founder of New England Bassin, a regional bass fishing team and individual tournament circuit.–CONTRIBUTED

To call Jamie Verab an achiever wouldn’t do the 34-year-old Prospect resident and 2001 Naugatuck High School graduate justice.

Verab was ranked a top 20 high school goal keeper in the country when he played soccer for Naugy. He earned All-NVL, All-State and All-New England honors as a Greyhound before going on to play men’s soccer for the University of Connecticut.

Verab, who helped UConn win the Big East championship in 2001 and 2004, went on to play professional soccer for the Western Mass Pioneers and finished his playing career as a semi-pro in 2005-2007.

“I have never been OK with being OK at something,” Verab said. “Everything I do is at 100 percent or it’s not worth doing.”

Following his professional soccer career, Verab needed a new challenge. He found it in 2006 on Lake Lillinonah, which is located between the boundaries of Bridgewater, Brookfield, New Milford, Newtown, Roxbury and Southbury.

Verab and his brother, Paul, joined a fishing club with two buddies, and started fishing in bass tournaments.

Over the past 12 years, Verab used his competitive nature to win over 30 tournaments and qualify for six national championships. Last year, he entered 31 tournaments, landing a first-place prize, and his biggest catches to date are a 9.15-pound largemouth bass and a 6.25-pound small mouth bass.

Verab doesn’t consider himself to be a professional, though.

“I don’t call myself a professional fisherman because I do have another job that I make a living at,” Verab said.

Verab spends his days teaching at the Hartford Journalism & Media Academy Magnet School and coaching baseball and soccer at Weaver High School in Hartford. After earning his bachelor’s degree from UConn, Verab received his teaching certification from Southern Connecticut State University and a master’s degree from Central Connecticut State University.

“There are about 20 to 30 percent of pros that actually make money fishing,” Verab said. “I know of anglers who have tried it and lost $60,000 to $70,000 a year and never took home a check.”

“Fishing isn’t easy by any means, and yes you do have some tough days on the water,” he added. “The rule of thumb is if you can consistently meet the catch limit in each event you have a great chance of finishing at the top.”

Having a good boat also helps. Verab’s first boat in 2007 was a new 17-foot Stratus he bought with his brother. He joined the Nitro Pro Staff a few years later, and today rides in style in a new 2018 Z-20.

Verab does much more than just cast his own line. He has directed local and regional fishing events, and in 2015 he founded New England Bassin, a regional bass fishing team and individual tournament circuit.

“Our slogan for N.E. Bassin is ‘The Future of Bass Fishing.’ We have lasting relationships and sponsorships across the country,” Verab said. “We have set the bar pretty high and we are continuing to grow for all the right reasons.”

New England Bassin started with 70 anglers and now has over 250 members in six states and 21 divisions. Annual membership costs $60 for adults and $25 for youth, and membership grants access to compete in events throughout the six-state region of Connecticut, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, New Hampshire, Maine and Vermont.

The circuit started in April and runs through October. This year, N.E. Bassin will hold 115 events.

“There is a little something for everyone,” Verab said. “Each of the 21 divisions consists of five to seven events. Last year, we paid out of $46,000 in prize money. We also have our own clothing line and apparel.

“During the previous offseason we decided to open up a high school rep program to get more kids involved. We had a bunch of applications throughout the region and narrowed it down to 15 to 20 kids for 2018.”

Juggling the responsibilities of a teacher, coach and fisherman all while being the regional director of a bass fishing tournament circuit may be difficult for some, but Verab has a secret to his success.

“I found a long time ago that the key to success in anything is proper time management,” Verab said. “A lot of family and friends ask how I can do all of this. I don’t even know at times, it probably helps that I am single.”

For more information on N.E. Bassin, visit www.nebassin.com or find the organization on Facebook at www.facebook.com/nebassin.