Joseph Sanderson was a force to be reckoned with this KATS Texas season, coming in at 2nd place for Angler of the Year and claiming the title King of the Fish.

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We chatted with him about all things fishing, from early memories to mentorship, to get a better picture of the guy behind the title:

What’s one of your earliest memories of being introduced to the outdoors?

My earliest memories of the outdoors always started with my dad picking me up early from elementary school to go down to the coast and fish or to spend a weekend at the ranch. I remember all of my friends saying “Why do you always get to leave school early?” and responding “Because I am going to do fun stuff this weekend.” As far back as I can remember, there was nothing that satisfied me more than being on the water or in the woods.

How did your transition from recreational to competitive kayak fishing look like for you?

I grew up sneaking onto golf courses to fish ponds and running around Lady Bird Lake on the hike and bike trail to satisfy my itch to fish. Around my junior year of high school, I thought that fishing tournaments sounded fun and that I wanted to give it a shot. At the time, I didn’t even own a kayak. I started fishing tournaments out of borrowed kayaks; as long as it floated, it was good enough for me. I won the first kayak tournament I ever competed in, and knew from then on it was something that I was passionate about. After fishing eight or so tournaments out of borrowed kayaks, I was fortunate to get on Diablo Paddlesports’ pro-staff, and finally got my first kayak. It has been game-on full time since then!

Favorite fishing spot in Austin?

That is like asking a chef what his secret ingredient for a dish is! In all seriousness, I love Lady Bird Lake, because of the convenience and the memories I have made growing up there. It is such a unique fishery, in the shadows of downtown that is suitable to many different fishing styles. Decker is a close second, solely because of the tremendous frog bite day in and day out.

Who comes to mind when you hear the word “mentor”?

I am going to have to be cliché here and say my father. A mentor to me comes in the form of a role model, which my dad is in every sense of the word. He leads by example, working harder than anyone else to achieve what he does while treating people with the utmost respect along the way. Of course, he is full of wisdom (as are most parents) but his actions are something that I notice closely and try to mirror on a daily basis. Although many of the ways he teaches are unspoken, I have gained valuable knowledge and skills through his leadership and companionship.

Being a full-time student and being involved with competitive fishing couldn’t have been easy. How’d you find the balance?

If you know me well, you know that I jumped at any opportunity to get off campus during college and pursue the outdoors. This required some late nights in the library, missing out on some social gatherings, and a severe lack of sleep among other things, but I would not have changed anything from my college experience. To be successful in anything, there are sacrifices, and I accepted this when I knew that I wanted to pursue competitive fishing. Although my college experience was anything but stereotypical, it was unique and one that I am proud of.

Favorite fish dish?

It would have to be flounder that is battered in Italian breadcrumbs and sautéed in olive oil. Combined with a side of Caesar salad, you have a feast on your hands! 

How long have you been fishing KATS?

I just finished my second season with KATS. Although I have not been able to fish every tournament in the series either of the seasons, I am looking forward to trying to make them all in 2017.

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Beyond titles/awards, what does your involvement with KATS mean to you?

I have been fortunate enough to fish a lot of different trails through my competitive fishing career, including the FLW College series, some TTZ tournaments and other kayak tournaments. What separates KATS from other series is the camaraderie amongst the anglers. I have made some invaluable friendships and built relationships with other anglers that I wouldn’t have if I fished a different series, and that will last a lifetime.

What’s next – in life and in fishing?

Although a lofty goal, I would love to make it to the FLW or Bassmaster Elite Series. I have begun fishing more powerboat tournaments, and hope to continue this while still being competitive in the Kayak world. As for what’s next in life, I want to enjoy my younger years with relatively little responsibility. I want to be a role model for the younger generation and learn from the older, and enjoy every short minute that we have here on earth to the fullest extent. Oh, and catch as many fish as possible along the way!