By Todd Ceisner
There’s no doubt John Hunter Jr. has taken his lumps in his two-plus seasons at pro bass fishing’s top tier. His nine triple-digit finishes stand out. So do the other five results ranging between 80th and 94th.
What isn’t evident, though, from a cursory examination of his tournament ledger is the amount of knowledge and experience he gained from each event (good and bad) – and that he’s starting to apply in subsequent tournaments. After spending his first two seasons at the pro level on the Elite Series, he had to transition to the FLW Tour in 2018 and now finds himself one more superb finish away from possibly qualifying for the Forrest Wood Cup.
It’s been a process dotted with frustration and doubt, but he’s turned a corner this year. Through six FLW Tour tournaments, he’s already collected more checks (three) than he did on the Elite Series (two) and is optimistic about the season finale at Lake St. Clair at the end of next month.
For Hunter, a 26-year-old who qualified for the 2016 Elite Series in his first year out of college, there’s no sense in dwelling on past failures. He’s anticipating future successes.
“I definitely looked at it through a positive light,” he said about his Elite Series tenure. “In fishing, you’re always learning. I had moments where I caught them here and there and a lot of times, I was doing the right things, but wasn’t catching the breaks. A lot of it boiled down to experience.”
When it became apparent he wasn’t going to meet the criteria to requalify for the Elite Series in 2018, he shifted his focus to the FLW Tour. He looked at it as a fresh start.
“I was still young but discouraged wasn’t how I was feeling,” he said. “I looked at it as a positive. I got great experience and learned a ton and it made me a way better fisherman. I was a totally different angler leaving the Elites than the one that came into it.”
Florida’s Not So Bad
In his BassFan Angler Profile, Hunter lists “any lake in Florida” as his least favorite lake. He’s not alone in his blanket disdain for Florida fishing – he finished 94th and 101st in his two Elite Series tournaments in Florida – but he joked that he may have to come up with something else in the wake of his performance in the Sunshine State to kick off the FLW Tour season.
After making the money at Lake Okeechobee in the opener (54th), he finished a career-best 3rd at the Harris Chain of Lakes and came out of the first leg of the season with a renewed zest about fishing in Florida.
“It was a big confidence booster,” he said. “Fishing is all about confidence and when you’re fishing well, you’re making the right decisions. I felt like, from a personal standpoint, I started the year right, conquering Florida water.
“It was a great way to start the year. I’ve always worried about Florida because I’ve always struggled down there. I’ve had good practices, but never made the right calls in tournaments to make it work. I did it this year in both.”
After his strong start, three straight results of 90th or worse knocked Hunter back to 108th in the Angler of the Year points, which would’ve translated to dead last in the Elite Series. Rather than wallow, he turned a 91st at Smith Lake into a positive, opting to focus on his day-2 haul (11-08 versus 8-08 on day 1).
“The fish were biting, but they were really skinny,” he said. “My co-angler was 2nd after day 1. It seemed like every time he set the hook, it’d be a 3-pounder and we were doing the same thing. On day 2, I had almost 12 (pounds), but day 1 was a killer. It’s hard to make up a big deficit on a lake without big fish.
“It would’ve been easy to fold and give up. Those finishes suck and they’re hard to digest and tough to handle. In order to make it in this sport, you have to forget what happened yesterday. If you caught them or not, it’s not relevant to today.”
He missed the money by less than two pounds and then finished 20th at the Lake Norman Bassmaster Eastern Open before taking 11th at the Kentucky Lake FLW Tour two weeks ago, missing the day-4 cut by half a pound. That finish saw his name rise 38 spots in the points standings and he knows he’ll need a similar (or better) outcome at St. Clair to get near the cutoff for Cup qualification, which currently sits at 42nd after factoring in double qualifiers.
“After those two bombs, the old me probably wouldn’t have been able to turn it around,” he said. “I’ve learned that when you get in a rut, you have to forget about it and get yourself out of it. This year, I’ve been able to do that.”
He’ll head to St. Clair with the good vibes of his 26th-place finish there in the Elite Series finale a year ago still fresh in his mind.
“I need a good one at St. Clair, but I have confidence I can get it done there,” he added.
More Than a Side Gig
Last year at this time, Hunter didn’t know a whole lot about tempered glass, but he knew he wanted to find a solution for the water spots that consistently marred the display screen of his electronics. He also wanted to devise something similar to the screen protectors that are used for smartphones.
Hunter has spent the last year developing Graph Glass, a screen protector for fishing electronics.
For the amount of money people spend on boat electronics, he said it made sense to try to devise something to protect the investment.
“I know I’m extremely hard on iPhones and I knew (tempered glass) was good at keeping my phone safe,” he said. “That’s all I knew, but now I’m quite the expert on it.”
The idea for Graph Glass came about, Hunter said, early on during the 2017 season.
“My graphs got covered with water spots and I had them for three months,” he said. “I tried to wipe some off and some wouldn’t come off. I thought it was ridiculous.”
It wasn’t long after that he dropped his phone, but the screen protector did its job. It wound up with a crack, but the phone was still intact.
“I thought, ‘Why don’t we have these for electronics,’” he recalled.
He started researching design options (proper thickness, hardness, etc.) and what the manufacturing process entailed and ways to make it work for marine electronics. He spent much of last offseason branding Graph Glass and having prototypes built for various popular units made by Humminbird and Lowrance (Garmin options are in the works as well).
“I put a lot of time and effort into it, but it was something I was doing no matter what,” he said. “I have a really busy mind. I don’t like to sit idle for very long. Even if I’m home for a week, I feel like I need to be doing something.”
Several anglers on the Elite Series and FLW Tour are currently using Hunter’s product on their units and he’s heard very few complaints.
Graph Glass is 99.9 percent transparent and users will notice no clarity reduction if they’re wearing polarized sunglasses. It’s also hydrophobic, which means it repels water, and oleophobic, meaning it’s oil repellent.
“It not only protects the screen, but keeps it clean,” Hunter said. “Normally, if you have a bunch of water spots, they’re hard to get off. You can take a dry rag on Graph Glass and they’ll all come off. You can spray it, but you don’t need to.”
Hunter has inventory for several models and close friends are helping him with order processing and shipping duties when he’s on the road for tournaments.
“Hopefully, it’ll grow at a rate where I can bring on hired help,” he said.
Graph Glass is currently available through Tackle Warehouse and direct from GraphGlass.com.
“Hopefully,” Hunter said, “it continues to grow where I can develop more products and improve what we can to make it better.”
> In the below video, Hunter demonstrates the difference between electronic units with and without Graph Glass installed on them: