With his shirt sporting the logos of fishing industry sponsors, ball cap and sunglasses, the Thonotosassa, Fla., angler looks every bit the average CITGO Bassmaster Open presented by Busch Beer competitor. And that he is, having just completed his second full season on the Southern Open circuit
But it's a good bet that Cepero's background is far different from that of his fellow Open pros.
The 32-year-old angler was born into a performing family. For 10 years, Cepero performed gymnastic stunts with his father, mother and sister as The Aguilars for Ringling Bros. Barnum & Bailey and other circuses. Under the direction of his Cuban- born father and Spanish-born mother, he traveled around the country doing amazing aerobatic feats.
"Right after that, I went into bull riding," Cepero said. "I had to do something different. I couldn't just sit home or work all day. I had to do something dangerous, I guess.
"I did bull riding for five or six years — one year professionally. I got injured real bad and got down on myself. That's when my wife and I bought a boat. And I started tournament fishing. I won some local tournaments and one thing led to another. And here I am."
Determined to carve out a career in professional fishing, Cepero finds little similarity between big-time tournament fishing and his former careers.
"The only thing similar is the traveling," he said. "Hotel rooms. You're constantly on the road. When I did stop bull riding and performing, I missed it. I missed traveling. I'd been to every state."
His fishing resume shows seven years of tournament competition on various circuits. His BASS card shows six tournaments, one top-50 finish (39th in the 2002 Southern Open event on Lake Murray) and total earnings of $1,200.
At the same time, Cepero has been hoping that BASS tournament emcee Fish Fishburne would never learn of his circus background. He could envision Fishburne talking him into do some gymnastics stunt on the weigh-in stage.
"No, please, don't tell him," he said. "I've got a bad back. I can't do all of that gymnastics stuff anymore."
BUSCH SHOOTOUT. Overshadowed by his first BASS victory recently at the CITGO Open Championship presented by Busch Beer at Toledo Bend Reservoir was another high-water mark for John Murray He became the first entrant into the season-ending inaugural Busch Shootout
Included in the Arizona pro's four-day winning weight of 64 pounds, 9 ounces, was a third-day catch of 21 pounds, which proved to be the largest single-day catch of the tournament.
That earned him a ticket to the Shootout, which will be held in September at an undisclosed site.
YAMAMOTO'S BEEF. An interested spectator in the on-going investigation into the so- called Mad Cow scare is Gary Yamamoto. The Texas bass pro, a past Classic qualifier and owner of one of the country's most successful lure companies, is also a cattle rancher and one of the world's top producers of delectable Wagyu Japanese beef. It is said to be the ultimate in marbling, flavor, tenderness, and juiciness.
The Dallas Morning News, in its profile of Yamamoto, said he "raises the world's most expensive meat on his East Texas ranches, $200-per-plate beef."
DID YOU KNOW? Virginia pro Curt Lytle separates himself from the typical bass pro with his hobbies: tracking, snow skiing and wildlife photography.
PRO BIRTHDAYS. Ohio pro Frank Scalish turns 43 on Jan. 3. Virginia's Chris Daves (32) and Robert Graham of North Carolina (43) share Jan. 6 as their birthday. Arkansas' Keith Green will blow out 42 candles two days later. Virginia pro Rick Morris will become 42 on Jan. 11.
IF I HADN'T BECOME A BASS PRO… Tour pro Brooks Rogers, who doubles as a guide on Lake Fork, Would likely have gone into the family construction business.
THEY SAID IT. "I am very surprised that I've been able to make the Classic the last four years. It's not easy to do. I think the fishing competition is getting stronger and stronger every year. I think that what sponsors look at is consistency at this level. I've been fortunate to be consistent over the last four years, and I've picked up some sponsors because of that.' Texas pro Todd Faircloth, who has qualified for the Classic in each of his four seasons as a pro.