Trey McKinney's Early Season Success

Illinois pro angler Trey McKinney's start to his Elite Series career has been nearly perfect

Illinois pro angler Trey McKinney's start to his Elite Series career has been nearly perfect, as he's leading the points after two events and has already notched his first win. Having just barely turned 19 years old, he's setting plenty of records for "youngest ever" for Bassmaster. He's already rewritten the record book as the youngest to fish the trail, win an event, lead the points, and earn a "Century Belt" for eclipsing over 100-pound on Lake Fork in Texas, where he nearly broke the record with 130 pounds, 15 ounces.

Trey has been a rising star for years in all of the tournament ranks for a few years now, and he's made a massive splash at the top level of fishing to start 2024. We caught up with him to get his thoughts on his fantastic start and for the rest of the season.

A Dream Come True

While he's still very young, McKinney has dreamed of this chance to fish as a professional angler since he started tournament fishing. Now that it's here and he's having fast success, he can't believe it's happening.

"This is all like living a dream and pretty unbelievable," he said. "It's all part of the Lord's plan. It was a special moment to win that tournament and what we have all worked so hard for."

McKinney finished 12th at his first event on Toledo Bend and then added the win on Fork, doing the same thing, utilizing his electronics for big prespawn bass.

"On Toledo, I was focusing on those fish getting ready to spawn," he said. They weren't quite there yet and were roaming around and staging. Most of these fish came on a jerkbait. On Fork, there were a lot more of them doing it, and I caught them primarily with a jerkbait, some on a jighead minnow, and a Neko Rig."

Scoping Shades

McKinney is a versatile angler who can catch them in any way possible. He's also part of the new generation of anglers who are deadly with forward-facing sonar. It was a big part of his win on Lake Fork and quick ascension to the top of the sport.

Everything about his setup is dialed for the best performance, from his electronics to his sunglasses. Many anglers talk about different sunglasses lenses for the conditions and water clarity, but McKinney says it's also crucial for seeing his screen.

"It makes a big difference in how clear your screen is and what you can see on it," he said. "On cloudy days, I wear the Bajío Nippers with violet mirror lenses, and when it's bright out, I wear a blue mirror. I've experimented with them all, and those give you the best picture of the conditions."

Of all the different frames, he says that the Nippers fit his face the best, and he's a big fan of their durability, no matter how much neglect he gives them.

"I'm rough on my stuff, and my sunglasses are always on my hat or dash of my truck or lying around on the boat deck," he began. For them to stay clear without scratches is really saying something and pretty crazy. Both the plastic and glass versions are excellent, but I do prefer the glass lenses; they've been incredible."

Looking Ahead

His next two Elite Series events will be held in Florida, and he took the time for some pre-practice of both the Harris Chain and St. John's River before they went off-limits. Now, with the points lead, he has some extra motivation to keep it going.

"Those two could be very tough on me because I'm not a 'Florida guy' and have only fished one tournament in Florida," he said. There's so much to learn down there because it all looks so good. I'm starting at square one and nervous about keeping the AOY lead."

Even though he's known as a "scoper," his real passion is shallow-water fishing, which he grew up doing in Illinois. "The difference between their shallow water in Florida and what I'm used to back home is totally different," he said. I'm hoping to survive in Florida and then move on to the rest of the schedule."

Trey McKinney has arrived and is no longer just someone to watch as he moves up the ranks. He's now a legitimate threat to win any event on the Elite Series schedule. If he continues this success, he might also become the youngest to win a Bassmaster Elite Series Angler of the Year title.