Bass pro Clifton Bradley coming to East Rowan YMCA
Bradley coming to Rockwell
By Linda L. Merrell
For the Salisbury Post
SWANNANOA — Clifton Bradley grew up in this sleepy little town of Swannanoa, just over 10 miles from Asheville. His father was a great fisherman who chose to teach his three sons the sport, instead of pursuing tournament fishing for himself. He spent years collecting bass magazines, cataloging them by months, and studying them to learn the patterns of bass and the best techniques for catching them.
Now, at the age of 53, Bradley still lives in Swannanoa, and he still collects and studies those bass magazines. His boyhood dreams of becoming a professional angler have come true. Imagine earning a living doing what most people consider a recreational sport.
“My brothers didn’t catch the bug like I did,” Bradley says.
Bradley fished through his high school years and one year of college, and then began tournament fishing with local bass clubs.
From 1983 through 1996, Bradley fished Bass Federation and placed anywhere from first to 25th place on a regular basis. Thinking he might need a “real” job, Bradley worked for UPS for 27 years, before retiring and again pursuing his love of fishing.
“I found out that if you didn’t have time to fish, you didn’t have time to win,” he said.
So Bradley returned to tournament fishing. Most of the tournaments have been in North Carolina, South Carolina and Tennessee, but he has fished from Florida to Canada, which yielded his largest bass at 11.75 pounds, several tunas weighing over 100 pounds each, and even a 250-pound shark.
Bradley’s UPS career, however, benefitted him in an unusual way. He made frequent deliveries to Claude Gouge, a pastor in Old Fort who was also a skilled machinist and enthusiastic bass fisherman. The preacher had invented a locking system for outboard motors to stabilize them during trailering. It had been patented as “MotorMate.”
Bradley and Gouge became good friends and fishing buddies. Bradley put a MotorMate stabilizer on his fishing boat and was soon getting inquiries at fishing tournaments. Clifton went back to Gouge with an idea: “Let’s sell these things,” he told his friend.
MotorMateUSA was born, and production began in Bradley’s basement with the help of his wife, Marsha.
The four foundational principles were that MotorMate would always be American made; it would offer a 100% guarantee; customer service would be a top priority; and owners would “give thanks to the Lord every day for all the blessings the company quickly began to bring,” Bradley added.
After a few years, Gouge decided to sell the business to Clifton and Marsha, who started marketing the product and grew the company as much as they could. The Bradleys then sold the MotorMate product line to EPCO Products, headquartered in Fort Wayne, Ind.
Bradley now represents EPCO and MotorMate at fishing events, boat shows and marina open houses.
Bradley’s greatest thrill, by far, has been teaching children to fish and sharing his testimony. His favorite kids event is the Mountain Music Kids Fishing Tournament at Lake Douglas, Tenn., in which he has been fishing for years. In its 28th year, the tournament attracts 400 entries.
Kids must be 16 and younger and have an adult guide. Every kid goes away with
something, perhaps a cash prize or one of dozens of new bikes.
A devout Christian, Bradley volunteers with the Swannanoa-based Hearts with Hands ministry and his local church. Marsha is by his side much of the time, but she’s not fond of tournament fishing.
“I like fun fishing,” added Marsha, “in good weather.”
Bradley will bring his boat to the Saleeby-Fisher YMCA, 855 Crescent Rd., Rockwell, on Friday, Sept. 14, 4-7 p.m.
He will give fishing tips and techniques and have casting contests with prizes for kids. There will be free hot dogs, chips, and Cheerwine as long as supplies last. A drawing will be held for a $100 Bass Pro Shop gift card. The event is co-sponsored by the YMCA and Lyerly Evangelical Church.