Pembroke Pines, Fla.
Whether you like Thomas Cooprider’s (a.k.a. Coop) comments or not, the mustachioed man is ready to go make his voice really heard at this year’s finals. “It’s all about fun,” says Coop. “If I can make someone laugh and cut the stress with a comment that’s great because I don’t know about the other guys, but I’m starting to get a big knot in my stomach.”
Since he finished in third place in last year’s competition, the highest placing “non-professional” hunter or angler in Total Outdoorsman Challenge history, Coop has had one thing on this mind: training to win this year. “Last year didn’t go over very well with me. I beat myself, and I can’t let that happen again this year,” he says. The HVAC technician has been training since right after the tournament: fishing everyday, shooting his bow five times a week, and shooting sporting clays with his mentor, and fellow finalist, James Harrod. “James and his wife are Master Class shooters, so I’ve been learning a lot from them,” says Coop, who won the shotgun discipline at last year’s finals. “He bests me most of the time, but if he has an off day at the finals and I’m on, you never know.”
When he’s not hunting for alligators in the swamps of Florida, Coop can be found with a fly rod and a baitcaster in his truck, fishing canals and waters on his lunch break. “The problem we have here in south Florida is there is almost too much water to fish,” he says. “Lake Okeechobee, the Keys, we have peacock bass down here, and catching them on a 5-weight fly with a minnow pattern tied on is just awesome.” But after the comments and the gator hauling, Coop is just looking to have a good time.
“It was such a great time last year, I made a lot of friends—my boys and I even went to Alabama with Marissa (Lee-Saser, a 2007 finalist) this fall,” says Coop. “But I’m ready to back up my comments next week.”