Persistence, perseverance, talent, heart, dedication, skills - all words used to describe Grove angler, Sheldon Collings, and the work he has invested in making his dream - of becoming a tour angler - a reality.

Earlier this month, Collings, 19, received the call which could change his life. 

In the call, FLW Tour Director Bill Taylor informed Collings his ranking as 10th in the Southwest Division for the Costa FLW Series, has earned him a chance to "move up" in the league.

Not bad for a young angler, who at 16 set his sights on becoming one of the youngest professional anglers within the FLW or Fishing League Worldwide.

"I couldn't be more thankful," Collings said. "I plan to be doing this for the next 30 to 40 years."

In the past three years, Collings has competed in on the T-H Marine BFL and the Costa FLW Series. He did so at a young age while finishing high school as a homeschooled student.

To explain the achievement in baseball terms, the T-H Marine BFL and Costa Series divisions are like the AAA and AA teams.

Reaching the FLW Tour, means Collings is being "called up" to the major league level of the FLW.

"It's something I've dreamed of since I was 5-years-old," Collings said. "I want to be able to prove to myself, and everyone else, that I can compete at this level.

A lot of people told me I would not be able to make it. I want to do this now, at the age of 19 and 20, rather than when I'm 30 or 40.

"I want to make a career of fishing."

Raising support

If everything lines up - and Collings is able to raise the more than $30k needed for entry fees from sponsors and individuals - he will join professional anglers like Jeremy Lawyer, Darrel Robertson, Zack Birge, Billy McCaghren, Bradley Hallman, James Watson and Randy Blaukat, on the FLW Tour in 2018.

Collings said he told Taylor he plans to take his place on the tour, if he can raise the $31,500 needed for the seven tournament entry fees. His first deadline, raising $7,000 for the tournament deposits, comes due on Thursday, Dec. 7. The rest of the respective $4,800 fees is needed prior to each tournament.

From talking with tournament pros, like Blaukat and Birge, Collings knows he needs to raise at least $60,000 - which would fund all of his expenses for the 2018 season. 

"I'll do whatever it takes," Collings said. "This has been my dream since I was 5. A lot of people don't get to chase their dream. I get to achieve it at 19. It's a blessing.

Collings said his parents, Mark and Julie Collings, are his number one fans - helping him spend the last three years of high school as a homeschooler. 

"It let me focus on fishing, fishing and more fishing," Collings said. 

With his parents help, he's also developed his own line of fishing lures - Fish Tek Jigs.  

Looking ahead

Collings said competing in the BFL and Costa tournaments has taught him a number of lessons - including how to talk to people and talk on stage. 

It also gave him a chance to fish on more than 30 different lakes in the past three years - exposing his techniques to a variety of weather patterns and lake types. It's also given him an opportunity to meet a lot of people. 

"This was definitely not handed to me," Collings said. "I've worked hard for everything. My parents have supported me, the town of Grove has definitely backed me - half of my sponsors are from Grove.

"I want to be the guy who came from a little bitty town. I want people to think of Grove and Grand Lake when they think of me. 

"I want them to say 'hey, he's from Grove.'"

Collings said fishing in the BFL and Costa Series has taught him to be "very humble."

"In one day, you can catch 20 pounds of fish, and then another, you can only catch two little ones.

"I used to get spun out really bad, but now it's taught me that it's just fishing. You cannot make another living creature do what you want."

Fishing in the FLW

Collings said fishing with the FLW series has been a joy, because the management team from the BFL through the tour, treats anglers well.  

"I never want to leave the FLW," Collings said. "They are the ones who got me started.

What's next

Collings left Sunday, Oct. 15, for the BFL Regionals, taking place in Shreveport, Louisiana. He's competing against a number of anglers - including his father, Mark Collings, who also qualified for the event.

In a few weeks, he'll fish in the Costa Series Championship, which takes place Nov. 2 to 4, on Kentucky Lake, a major navigable reservoir along the Tennessee River in Kentucky and Tennessee.

How to Help

Want to help Sheldon Collings fund his fishing dream? Here's two ways:

1) Attend the fundraising event on Sunday, Oct. 22, at Honey Creek Outdoors. David Hale, owner of Honey Creek Outdoors, said the event will begin at 8 a.m. and continue through 5 p.m.

At about noon, Kelly Wertz, with Louisiana Grill will be dishing up a variety of smoked meats. For a donation toward Collings efforts, participants can feast on Wertz cooking, which includes smoked meats, cobblers, cookies and more. 

2) Can't attend the cookout? Make a donation either at Honey Creek Outdoors, with Hale, or in the account at Bank of Grove in Grove.

"It's a pretty cool, dang thing for sure," Hale said. "We want to try to do everything we can to make sure he gets there. Everybody from the community needs to get behind him. 

"A lot of guys fish hard, and at 35, never get this kind of opportunity. This will do big things for our community."

Did You Know?

Sheldon Collings current sponsors include: Honey Creek Outdoors, Curtiss Tate Tires, Angler Hub, Bass Militia Fishing Team, Solid Rock Foundation, Pelican Coolers, Costa Sunglasses, Fish Tek Jigs, Bionic Fishing, Sign Designs, Thrashers Sports Apparel, Lowrance, John Cotten Roofing, Wiz Plumbing and TH Marine.

One Thing With Collings

One person who inspires you

Matt Southern. I've never had someone get so excited for me as he does. He's my biggest fan. If I do it for anyone, I do it 100 percent for Matt and not for myself or my family. Even after a bad tournament, he's sending me encouraging text messages. I never thought, at the age of 19, I would have someone look up to me like he does.

One thing you can't live without

Fishing. If someone told me I couldn't fish, I'd be done for. It's all I live for. I think about it every day. Even when I'm deer hunting, I think about it. 

One thing that might surprise people

I believe in myself. I believe I can compete with all of the top names and be doing it for the next 30 to 50 years.

One piece of advice that's stuck with you

Never give up. If you can dream it, it can happen.

Thoughts from the FLW

"He's a very very highly determined [angler]. He has the skills needed to move forward. At 19, he is close to being one of the youngest anglers. I'm very excited to see young anglers come forward." - Bill Taylor, tournament director for the FLW Tour.

"He's already competed against some of the best anglers in the country. I think we're going to see a lot out of him. He's got a good head. I never have a problem with giving him the microphone [on stage]. He understands the promotional aspect of the sport.

"I think he has the heart and the head. A lot of people have ability, but he's one young man who understands that everybody can catch fish, but it takes sponsors to help you [on the tour]. I think he's going to do better and better. He's always smiling, always positive and always pleasant to work with." - Ron Lappin, tournament director Costa FLW Series.

"Sheldon has a passion. He's had it like nobody I've ever saw. He has a work ethic and desire. He reminds me of myself at his age. He's single mindedly focused. He's got a great support system and a great family behind him. 

"At his age, he has a tremendous amount of experience. I took me until my mid-30s before I had the kind of experience he has. He absorbs information quickly and has an intuitive mind. He doesn't have a lot of seasons on the water behind him, but the more time he spends on the water, the more he gets the information he needs. 

"He's just super humble and a down-to-earth kid. He doesn't have an ego, which is rare with so many his age. Even though he calls me a mentor, he's now a peer of mine. He's now someone I bounce ideas off of. He's given me a fresh look and a creative mind. Creativity and imagination is more important than experience at times.

"He'll do well. He's got the desire, and the passion." - Randy Blauket, professional angler.

"He's really smart, and pays attention to the small things. He reminds me of myself. He's really responsible and appreciative for everyone's help. I love coming to Grove and seeing how everybody is behind him and supportive of his career.

"I was a rookie in 2015, and came into the FLW Tour the same way, through the Costa Series. My best advice to him is to stay calm and don't worry about the 'tour'. At the end of the day, you're just catching five fish - and competing against the fish. Fish using your strengths and have fun. Sheldon is a natural. He should have a long career in it." - Zach Birge, professional angler.