Tai Au and Daniel Elias formed a facebook group “AZ Anglers” a few years back and its been a huge part of the fishing community here in Arizona especially for the tournament crowd. We had a Q&A with the both to discuss how it came about and much more.
Q: How old were you when you started fishing and what got you into it?
Tai: I was about 3 or 4 years old. My dad always enjoyed fishing and took our family out on camping trips to San Carlos. We mainly fished for sunfish and catfish.
Daniel: My father started taking me trout fishing when I was 3 or 4 years old. Some of my earliest fishing memories are crawling over boulders in Oak Creek Canyon in Arizona chasing rainbow and brown trout. At about 8 years old I caught my first bass with my grandfather at Lake Mead, NV on a small Rebel crankbait. I still have that crankbait and it’s on display in my fishing room at home. I’ve never used it since that day and I will never use it again.
Q: When did you realize this was something more than a hobby and you wanted to fish competitively?
Tai: It was when my brother dragged me out of the house to fish my first FLW event as a co-angler. At the time, I had lost everything and was living with my baby sister. I was depressed and lost. I had no motivation to do anything because I didn’t know what I wanted to do with my life. Before I knew it, I was leading the tournament going into the last day. All the stress and hardships from life didn’t matter. I ended finishing 2nd in that tournament nearly winning the 30,000 grand prize. Little did I know, it was that tournament that changed my life. The high of being in contention was what I was addicted to. I’ve been working hard to chase that high since.
Daniel: I was always a fan of bass fishing and in elementary school I had pictures of bass boats and professional anglers taped up on the walls in my room. At 12 years old I told my parents that I wanted a lifetime membership to B.A.S.S. As my birthday gift. I think it cost $200 back then and I made a deal that it would be a combined Birthday & Christmas present. Looking back, it was totally worth it! At 15 years old I met a man in a local sporting goods store that told me about local bass clubs that you could fish tournaments with. He said I didn’t even need a boat and I would get paired with someone who owned one. Seriously!? I was all in! I joined Apache Bass Club two weeks later. They actually made an exception for me to fish as an observer because their insurance wouldn’t cover me as a competitor until I was 16. I would get to fish for points and plaques but no money which was fine with me!
Q: When was your first tournament and how did you do?
Tai: It was a tournament held by Blue Water Marine at Patagonia. We fished in the middle of the pack.
Daniel: My first tournament took place at San Carlos Lake, AZ where I fished as a co-angler. I showed up worth two spinning rods and about 8 lures. I caught one fish that day on the only spinnerbait I owned and finished in almost dead last but I was hooked forever.
Q: What was the biggest learning curve going from fun fishing to fishing for money?
Tai: Fishing for quality and not quantity. Learning the seasonal changes and fishing the conditions.
Daniel: The single biggest factor for me was time on the water. Social Media wasn’t around when I was learning and the only way to learn was through experience or what you read in Bassmaster Magazine. It wasn’t until I got my first bass boat at 18 years old that I started to put together seasonal patterns of bass. Knowing seasonal patterns and relying on that knowledge is probably the single biggest factor for tournament anglers that compete on multiple lakes. Knowing those patterns and adjusting when weather conditions change is what separates a good fisherman from a great fisherman.
Q: Now that you are both very well established in the tournament scene and both have had a lot success, what are your goals moving forward?
Tai: My goal is to fish the FLW Tour someday. If I can establish myself there, I would fish the B.A.S.S. Opens to try and qualify for the Bassmaster Elites.
Daniel: I want to win another boat. Maybe a couple more Angler of the Year titles. I was awarded a Ranger boat when I won the Lucas Oil Open in 2010 and although I’ve come close since then and won numerous tournaments I’ve never won another boat. I’ve won a few AOY titles, most recently in the Wild West Bass Trail team series with my partner Tai Au. We are definitely going to try and repeat next year!
Q: Fishing is notoriously a tough passion to find balance with but you guys seem to do it very well. Do you guys have any plans to pursue this full time away from your current careers?
Tai: I would like to try and do both. Keep my career in insurance and fish the FLW Tour. There’s only 7 Tour events and I’ll only need a week off work for each one. I can’t risk my family’s well being on a gamble. My family and work will always come first.
Daniel: I am very happy with my career and I have a great balance between work and fishing. I definitely sacrifice quite a bit of sleep but I wouldn’t change it for the world. That being said, If the stars aligned and the right sponsor support came through I would have a hard time not pursuing fishing full time.
Q: When did you start the FB Group AZ Anglers?
Tai: May 2011. It was started to grow the sport of competitive bass fishing by exposing folks who already fish to the sport.
Daniel: About 7 years ago Tai Au called me with this crazy idea to start a group called Az Anglers and asked if I’d be willing to help him with it. I jumped on board and the rest is history.
Q: Did you imagine it growing to the amount of people it has now, and what do you attribute the success of the page to?
Tai: Not at all. I thought we were going to cap out at around 4000 members. Today, we have over 17,000 members. I attribute our success to the members who share the same passion we do.
Daniel: Never did I imagine Az Anglers would become what it is today. We’re now over 17,000 members strong and do our best to promote and lobby for fishing in Arizona. I think we have done the best job we can at keeping the group clean and inclusive to all people.
Q: What has been the best thing to come from AZ Anglers for you personally?
Tai: The best thing is seeing the community coming together to each other out in a time of need.
Daniel: I think seeing fisherman rally around a mutual passion and watched the men and women on there come together to share their passion. It always amazes me to see all the Az Anglers decals on cars and trucks driving around the state. I really enjoy meeting new people at the lake and tackle stores that have followed my endeavors through the group. It blows my mind really.
Q: Anything negative as it continues to grow?
Tai: It gets time consuming to manage.
Daniel: I think there’s always going to be bad apples in every bunch but luckily they are few and far between. As a whole the fishing community is comprised of people from all walks of life. For the most part they are very respectful and I’ve watched our members come together on numerous occasions to help fellow members in need.
Q: If you have a full day open to fish where are you going and what are you throwing?
Tai: It depends on the time of year, conditions, and lake.
Daniel: If I could go anywhere I would go back out to the North Carolina coat and throw a topwater for Redfish all day long. It’s something that I don’t get to do often but it can be so much fun!
Q: Least favorite Lake in AZ?
Tai: Bartlett Lake
Daniel: That’s a tough question to answer because I enjoy fishing different lakes and mixing things up. That being said I have a love/hate relationship with Lake Mead. I learned to fish for bass there. But I feel like one bass lives every 8 miles or so in that lake.
Q: If you guys go head to head 10 times in a row who is coming out on top?
Tai: It’s hard to say. Daniel is a great fishermen. I suppose it boils down to what technique, lake and time of year we’re fishing.
Daniel: That’s also hard to say. We each have our strengths which we are a successful team. I wouldn’t bet against me around the spawn and it’s always super challenging fishing against Tai under rapidly changing weather conditions or when fishing grass.
Q: Best advice you can give to someone trying to take it to the next level in fishing and be competitive?
Tai: Start out as a co-angler. You can fish as a co-angler in clubs, BASS Nation, Wild West Bass Trail and FLW (in that order). That way, you get to learn different techniques and lakes before you step up to the next level. Once you get to the next level, it’s about decision making, mechanics, and a little luck.
Daniel: Get out on the water! Put fishing, knowledge, and your reputation ahead of getting sponsors. Become a successful angler and the sponsors will find you.