With the 2014 Walmart FLW Tour under way, there’s a lot more to do than just go fishing every day. I just finished up the Lake Okeechobee event in my hometown of Clewiston, Fla., where I snuck out of town with a 17th-place finish. But my boy Brett Hite really set the stage and almost broke records with his first day catch of just under 35 pounds. Lake Okeechobee is on fire and the fishing is fantastic.
Most people think that when professional anglers are done with the tournament, we just sit around waiting for the next event. That’s far from reality. I’m currently driving right now to Shreveport, La., on a 21-day turnaround where every one of my days is chock-full of things to do — like promotions, filming TV shows and getting ready for the next event at Lake Hartwell in South Carolina.
This week, we’ll be filming some shows in Shreveport on the Red River and another show on Caddo Lake trying to catch some big ol’ Louisiana bass. With the extreme cold weather hitting the rest of the country (except South Florida — I still have my shorts on by the way), it could be a challenge. But that’s what I love about fishing — the challenge of catching bass in so many different circumstances and conditions.
The first show I’m going to shoot in Shreveport will be on Caddo Lake and I’m going to be fishing against two high school anglers that are hot sticks in the area. I’m excited about this show because I’ve taken a new roll at FLW helping promote and represent high school and college fishing across the country.
After that, I’m off to Birmingham, Ala., to do some promotions and then on to Guntersville to do some more film work. I’ll finally end up at Lake Hartwell getting ready for the first day of practice for the second Tour stop.
I’ve been to Lake Hartwell a couple times and it’s an interesting lake. There’s a lot of water and a lot of different ways to catch them. It’s kind of never wracking to be honest with you. Growing up on Lake Okeechobee in South Florida, the bass don’t stick to traditional patterns or movements like they do on reservoirs around the country. I looked back a couple years when Jason Christie won the event on Hartwell when the lake was high and muddy — similar to the conditions we’re going to have this year. But again, the x-factor is the weather. Extremely cold weather with extremely cold water temperatures could make the bite completely different than when Christie blew away the competition on a spinnerbait in shallow muddy water. The deep bite could be something to focus on just like Brent Ehrler did two years ago to win with a big football jig out deep.
The great thing about Lake Hartwell is that you have plenty of options, from fishing shallow with crankbaits and spinnerbaits to fishing out deep with big jigs and drop shots. Another option is to focus on largemouth or big spotted bass. The cool thing about Lake Hartwell is that the spotted bass have come on strong over the last couple of years and you could put together a 15- to 18-pound bag of spotted bass for four days in a row, which could easily put you in contention to win.
One of the things I love about fishing the Walmart FLW Tour is being able to fish so many different types of water. Growing up in South Florida, we’re pretty one-dimensional — shallow and grass. That’s about it. So when I go to lakes like Hartwell, Pickwick, Kentucky Lake or some of the other stops across the country, I sometimes feel like a duck out of water. But to be honest with you, that’s what makes fishing and this profession so much fun. People ask me all the time, don’t you just like to fish shallow most of the time since that’s what you do in Florida? But I really like to stay versatile by experimenting and trying all types of fishing – from drop-shotting in 40 feet of water and throwing jigs up around docks to throwing spinnerbaits and square bills along shorelines.
I think that’s one of the reasons why I’ve had some success over the years. Because when I go to some of these lakes that are a little different than what I’m used to, and I start catching them on a different technique, it’s actually more fun. And when I start establishing a pattern catching them in a different way, it kind of excites me and gives me that extra edge and puts a little pep in my step. And to be honest, that’s what you need to do well. To do well in tournaments, you have to have confidence and you have to be having fun. And that’s what fishing the FLW Tour allows me to do. So I’m really looking forward to this next event.
I’ve got about 20 more days in front of me of promoting, filming and getting ready for the next event. Then I’ll be back in Florida to spend some time with the family. That’s really the toughest part of this sport – getting in this truck and leaving Clewiston and my family behind. Again, most people think that professional fishermen show up and fish a tournament and go home and sit around waiting for the next tournament. That couldn’t be further from the truth. We’re constantly on the move with sponsor obligations, taking care of our equipment and keeping our skills sharp. It’s a full time job, but I love it. I’m definitely looking forward to the next event. Wish me luck and I’ll talk to you soon.