Smithwick pro John Proctor qualified for the 2016 Bassmaster Classic by what some anglers consider the most challenging route, through a two-season process of qualifying through the B.A.S.S. Nation.

The B.A.S.S. Nation Southern Division champion from 2015, Proctor began the process in 2014 by competing in qualifying tournaments to make the 10-member 2015 South Carolina State Team. State team members all competed on a Southern regional tournament trail, and only the highest placing member from each state’s team moved on to fish in the national championship. The regional championship was held close to Proctor’s home along the South Carolina coast, out of Winyah Bay.

The national championship, from which only the top finishing angler from each region would earn a berth in the following year’s Bassmaster Classic, didn’t offer the same familiarity. In fact, it was held at the Ouachita River in Louisiana, where Proctor had never been. He took one pre-practice scouting trip and actually found the spot that ended up producing the fish he needed in the tournament during that trip.

Proctor hopes the same thing happens at Grand Lake, the site of the Bassmaster Classic, beginning this Friday. Once again, a pre-practice scouting trip Proctor took late last year was his first look at the lake.

Proctor began fishing evening jackpot tournaments while he was still in high school. He has been a member of the Conway Bassmasters since 2000.

“That was as important as anything to me,” he said about the weekly Tuesday night events. “That was what got me hooked.”

Proctor admits that being a long-time fan of the sport of professional bass fishing and many of the anglers he will be competing against will challenge his nerves. He is gladly embracing that challenge, though, and has been eager for this week to arrive.

“That has always been my dream: to fish the Bassmaster Classic,” Proctor said.

Fulfillment of the dream officially begins Friday morning.