Optimistic about next year on FLW Tour

If you’ve been reading my column over the past month, you know that I’ve been in the southern U.S. fishing in some bass tournaments.
The last event took place this past weekend at the Sam Rayburn Reservoir in Texas.
This was the fourth of a series of four FLW Tour Opens. I fished in all four events this year and had the time of my life competing against some of the best bass anglers in the world on some famous bass fisheries.
The anglers who fish all four events accumulate points, with the top five in points after the four tournaments earning an early entry into next year’s Forrest Wood Cup, which is the championship event of the FLW Tour.
This is a big-deal event. Only 45 anglers qualify for it and they are fishing for a $500,000 first-place prize. As well, everybody who qualifies for the tournament earns a cheque and there is no entry fee.
Heading into the Rayburn tournament, I was 12th in points, not all that far back, so I had a chance to make a run at the top five. But I likely would need to come up with a top 10 finish.
The way it works is the higher you finish in the event, the more points you get.
After a decent practice, I was looking forward to getting the tournament started last Thursday morning. My buddy, Jamie Bruce, who travelled down to fish the tournament as a co-angler, pre-fished with me and we found some good numbers of fish in shallow water, with a few big ones mixed in.
We also found a couple of deep-water spots that produced some fish for us, but it was grind to get bites on this program.
My strategy would be to try and catch a limit as quickly as possible in the shallows, then move out deep and try to get a big fish.
We did catch a six-pounder in practice out deep, but we did not catch very many fish, so I did not want to take that gamble without getting a five-fish limit first.
I knew that the fishing was tough enough there last week that just catching a limit likely would be good enough to cash a cheque. Doing so was important to me and anything beyond that would be a bonus.
As it turned out, the fishing got tougher for me during the tournament, likely due to the warming temperatures that just seemed to make the fish lazy.
I was catching my shallow fish on a variety of baits, like topwaters, soft jerkbaits, and shallow running crankbaits. I managed to catch a limit the first day by around noon but couldn’t do any upgrading.
My five fish weighed 8.03 pounds, which landed me in 72nd place. As such, I had some work to do on Day 2 because they pay the top 60 in the these tournaments.
Day 2 started out pretty good—the first two fish I caught were around two pounds each. I then decided I had to go and try the deep spot where Jamie caught the lunker in practice and within minutes, my co-angler (a nice guy from Georgia) caught a four-and-a-half pounder!
I fished around the area for a while after he caught that fish, but neither of us got another bite so I moved back up to the bank and battled for the rest of the day to catch my limit.
I finally got my fifth fish with 10 minutes of fishing time left before I had to check in. I don’t think I’ve ever been so relieved and happy to catch a fifth fish in a tournament before!
They have a 14-inch minimum length regulation in Texas and during the day, I probably caught half-a-dozen that were in the 13.5”-14” range, but they were not big enough to keep.
My weight on Day 2 was 9.01 pounds, which moved me up to 56th place and I was able to leave with a cheque for $2,500.
I ended up in 14th place in the overall points race, which I was pretty happy with. If I can keep having decent finishes in these tournaments next year, I should have a good chance at qualifying for the Forrest Wood Cup.
Jamie, meanwhile, ended up in 34th place on the co-angler side, so we both left with some money, which made the 29-hour drive home to Kenora a little easier!
Now that I’m back home in Sunset Country, I’m taking a little break from fishing, which is about all I’ve been doing for the last six months.
I’m going to enjoy some deer hunting, as well as start planning for fishing the full FLW Tour next year that will begin in February at Lake Okeechobee in Florida.