DeerPassion: Tell us about yourself and how you got started fishing.
Duke Jenkel: I have always loved the outdoors, even as a little boy. Here in Southern Illinois we are blessed with a lot of outdoor opportunities, especially fishing opportunities. The county I live in was at one time the largest coal producing county in the nation. Our coal is surface mined, so they dig the dirt away that sits on top of the coal, then remove the coal that way. In return it makes what eventually is a large lake, until I was out of high school, anyone could fish these lakes owned by the coal company. I had tons of access to all kinds of water. My earliest memory of going fishing is around the age of 6 yrs old, my Dad took me and my brother to our farm pond. As I got a little bit older, my grandpa started taking me. He had started slowing down on working on the farm and he began fishing a lot more, I was his right hand man. When I graduated from junior high, I took my graduation money and bought a boat, a small aluminum boat 12' long with a small trolling motor. When I got into high school, I invited guys old enough to drive to go fishing, as long as they had a truck. I had a boat and places to go. At the age of 19 I bought my first bigger boat, a 16' aluminum boat with a 40hp motor, it was then that I began going to local public lakes.
DP: When and why did you decide to start fishing tournaments?
DJ: All through high school, I was pretty consumed with fishing, I watched every minute of it I could, Every Bassmaster episode on television, read magazines, went to seminars, anything related to catching more bass. I fished my first tournament at the age of 19, a small buddy tournament. We actually won, something like $125. I was hooked instantly. I saved up and bought my first fiberglass boat when I was 22, and at that point began fishing the local public lakes so I could fish more tournaments. As I experienced success, I began to enter more tournaments, I enjoyed the competitiveness of the events, I love competition. As cliche as it may sound, I felt like the Lord had blessed me with a talent and a love for the outsdoors, I just understood these things, enjoyed them. I was fortunate to experience a lot of success with things in the outdoors, both fishing and hunting. As I continued to have success fishing tournaments, new friendships were made, and I learned of more tournaments that were available both locally and regionally, I continued to elevate the level of tournaments that I participated in. I guess the rest is history.
DP: What's the largest bass you've ever caught?
DJ: 8lbs 3oz
DP: Where is your favorite place to fish and why?
DJ: I don't know if I have a set "favorite", I love Kentucky lake in the spring, from March to May, it's just awesome. Lake of the Ozarks in Missouri is another lake I really like.
DP: What are your goals as a professional angler and what keeps you motivated to reach those goals?
DJ: In the overall scope, really and truly, I just want to be able to make a living in the outdoor arena. I don't care if my name is on a marquis somewhere, I just want to be successful to some degree. Yearly, you set goals to make the championship for each circuit you fish. You always strive to be the Angler of the year (it's like the league MVP in other sports, or the Nextel Cup Champion in Nascar). To reach the yearly goals you have to be focused, devote time to preparation, and make a commitment to put forth the best effort you can, there is no substitiute for hard work and dedication. On the overall goal: Only time will tell if I reach the overall goal of making a successful career in the industry. A good friend of mine who has been very successful in the industry explained it like this.. "Work hard, honor God, and let him take care of the details." (I profess to be a Christian, with that comes a commitment, it also comes with the mindset that the Lord has a plan for all Christians, foremost in that plan is the duty for all to share the gospel, to tell of the saving grace of Jesus Christ. I believe the Lord has given me an opportunity to chase a lifelong dream, he also expects me to do my job as a Christian as I go. So ultimately my goal is to be a good witness, in all that I do, leave the fine details to the Lord.) Roll this whole paragraph into my answer of what my goals are, and I guess I want to be successful, at all things. But foremost, I want to be the person God wants me to be.
DP: What has been the biggest obstacle in your career?
DJ: Without a doubt, financial stability. Our current economic climate makes it tough to gain "paying" sponsors, survival on winnings is very difficult, so you have to supplement your income with odd jobs, etc.
DP: What is your greatest strength as a professional angler?
DJ: Technique wise I love shallow cranking, based on my angling history, I tend to do well on most lakes that have vegetation.
DP: What is your greatest weakness as a professional angler?
DJ: Not being open minded enough. there are some techniques where I could obviously improve. But often I find myself sticking to closely to my pre-planned regiment during tournament day instead of listening to insticts. That seems to impede my success more than anything.
DP: When you're not fishing, how do you like to spend your time?
DJ: I like to cook, outside on my Big Green Egg. I love to hunt, in the winter I am a waterfowl guide, waterfowling is a passion. I also like to go fun fishing. No pressure, just go catch what you catch, relax and have a ball.