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Best of the Bassmen

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Published on: Aug. 2, 1999

Last revision: Nov. 3, 2010

Michael who?

Not even close--Missourian Denny Brauer was 1998 Angler of the Year on the professional bass fishing tour and is the first outdoor-person ever featured by Wheaties on their "Breakfast of Champions" cereal box.

Not bad for a kid who taught himself to fish and who discovered that he had a talent for catching bass that not only left other anglers bobbing in his wake, but that also makes him a fine living--he is the career top money winner on the B.A.S.S. circuit at about $1.5 million.

He learned much of his trade on what he thinks is the best bass lake in the country, Lake of the Ozarks. "It's amazing how it holds up year after year," he says. He can be on the water in minutes from his Camden County home.

There's a wrought-iron bass on the gate fronting the home that is set well back from a county highway on 500 acres. A dozen gobblers often strut on the back lawn, and the rolling, wooded Ozark hills stretch away far to the south.

Brauer and his wife, Shirley, love the home but don't spend much time there. The pro bass tour is demanding, and when he's not fishing tournaments, he's at sports shows giving fishing seminars or otherwise involved in the business of fishing.

It's a big business. He has designed a lure that is the current top seller nationwide, and he has business ties with an array of outdoor marketers, from automobile dealers to catalog outfits.

The Wheaties' tie-in came about because of the Angler of the Year honor. General Mills had agreed that whoever won the title would be featured on the cereal boxes, in company with 75 years of other athletes from Mary Lou Retton to Michael Jordan.

"Boy that got me fired up," Brauer says. "I fished as hard as I could. It was definitely something I went after and everything worked out right." Brauer won four major tournaments in 1998, including his 16th try at the Bass Masters Classic, the World Series of bass fishing. "It was a wonderful year. Everything came together and because of the successes in 1998 and previous years, it's given me a chance to be an ambassador for bass fishing," Brauer says.

But the animal rights group People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) protested. Ingrid Newkirk, president of PETA, said, "Anglers have no place next to real sportsmen like Michael Jordan and Tiger Woods,

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