Kentucky native adds Wal-Mart Open victory to ‘dream' fishing season
ROGERS, Ark. – By any objective measure, Dan Morehead of Paducah, Ky., has had a career year on the FLW Tour. And today was no different. Bolstered by a two-day catch of 28 pounds, 8 ounces, Morehead once again dominated the competition in one of the most important tournaments of the year. In fact, his win at the prestigious Wal-Mart Open was so spectacular that none of his fellow finalists could even get within 8 pounds.
If winning the top prize of $200,000 wasn't enough, Morehead also tightened his vice-like grip on the 2003 FLW Angler-of-the-Year title – increasing his lead over his nearest competitor by 51 points with only two tournaments remaining on the year.
“It feels great. If you're going to win a tournament, this is the one to win,” said Morehead. “If I could bottle this and sell it, I'd be rich. This has been such a good year that I hope that I never wake up.”
Morehead now boasts more than $500,000 in career earnings, eight top-10 finishes and two tournament titles on the FLW Tour. In addition to his Wal-Mart Open victory, Morehead has netted a third-place finish at Lake Okeechobee, a 23rd-place finish at the Atchafalaya Basin and an eighth-place finish at Lake Murray this year alone.
Amazingly enough, Morehead attributed his success in 2003 to a renewed interest in the sport of archery.
“I shoot a lot of archery, and that sport is 100 percent mental,” he said. “I really concentrated on it this winter, and I really think it's helped me to stay focused. You guys might not know this, but if I'm not in a bass boat, I usually have a bow in my hand.”
However, some sage advice from a good friend hasn't seemed to hurt Morehead's chances either.
“My buddy has a saying, ‘Believe it, achieve it, doubt it, do without it,'” said Morehead. “I've thought a lot about that this year. And I really believe it's true.”
And that advice seemed to come in handy today. Although Morehead had the lead going into today's competition, he stumbled early on – missing three fish for the first time all tournament.
“Almost immediately, I lost a 3-pounder,” he said. “I wound up losing three big fish today that I know of, and I should have come back with 18 pounds. But after I caught my third fish, I was able to start to settle down and come back into the zone. Towards the end, it seemed like every decision I made was the right one.”
Morehead said that he targeted bass near the Prairie Creek Marina in about 8 to 10 feet of water.
“I kept my boat in about 10 feet of water parallel to the banks,” he said. “For the most part, I used a Mann's Minus-8 bait to catch most of my fish throughout the week.”
Although Morehead also used Mann's suspending jerkbait and jig-head worm, he said that line size and rocky bottoms were the primary keys to his success.
“I only used 8-pound-test line, and that really seemed to be the difference,” he said. “And as long as I was ticking that chunk rock, I got bit. If I wasn't hitting rocks, I wasn't catching fish.”
While victory was sweet, Morehead said it was only half the battle as the 2003 Angler-of-the-Year title is finally within striking distance. But then again, so is the pressure.
“I'm going to savor this victory, but there's a lot more work to be done,” he said. “I'm really focusing on that Angler-of-the-Year title and making the Jacobs Cup. Right now, I have the momentum and I'm going for broke.”
Morehead's victory has also set the stage for the next FLW tournament on Kentucky Lake. If he were to do well there, the AOY title would almost certainly be his. And he knows it.
“What I'd really love to do is hit them hard on Kentucky Lake,” said Morehead. “That way, I won't have to sweat it out during the last tournament of the year.”
To be fair, Morehead shouldn't be the one sweating anything right now.
Although no one would blame him for being disappointed after finishing in second place at the Wal-Mart Open two years in a row, Randall Hutson was not about to feel sorry for himself.
“It's kind of hard to be down about this,” said Hutson of Washburn, Mo. “I had some tough luck this morning, and I lost two good, good fish, but it probably wouldn't have been enough to beat Dan anyway. And anytime you can go from 86th place to making the top-10 cut and winning $100,000, you've got to feel pretty good.”
Hutson, who rallied hard to make the top-10 cut after only catching 6 pounds, 1 ounce on the first day of competition, used a combination of jerkbaits and Lucky Strike jigs to land the majority of his catch throughout the tournament.
However, if it wasn't for the wind, things might have ended up differently.
“If the wind was blowing, I think I would have been able to catch a big sack of fish today,” said Hutson, who ultimately landed a total catch of 19 pounds, 13 ounces. “Overall though, it was a wonderful week.”
Despite the fact that he came up just a little bit short in the finals, Hutson, said that he has no regrets.
“I now have four top-10 finishes on the FLW Tour, and in three of those tournaments, my co-angler won the title,” Hutson said. “I hope I can win one of these things on Beaver Lake someday, but I'll take second place anytime. It was a great finish as far as I'm concerned.”
Moran sheds rookie image
Using a catch of 18 pounds, 9 ounces, Russ Moran of Murfreesboro, Tenn., grabbed third place and a check for $54,5000 in only the fourth FLW tournament of his career. In many ways, Moran was arguably the happiest angler on the weigh-in stage when all was said and done.
“This is absolutely the greatest thing I've ever been involved with,” said Moran. “It's everything I expected and then some. I think I wore my rabbit's food down to the claws today.”
Moynagh nets fourth place
A native of Carver, Minn., Jim Moynagh said that he had absolutely no expectations coming into Beaver Lake. So, when he found out that his catch of 18 pounds, 3 ounces in the finals was good enough for fourth place and a check for $39,000, he seemed almost relieved.
“Every day I went out there I didn't know if I was going to catch a fish or not,” said Moynagh, who used a jig worm to land the majority of his catch. “Today, I caught about 10 or 11 keepers so I had a lot of fun. It was just a great tournament.”
After struggling on the tour all year long, Aaron Martens finally turned in a performance worthy of his stellar reputation. Using a two-day catch of 17 pounds, 1 ounce, Martens captured fifth place, a check for $33,500 as well as some much needed confidence.
“Besides yesterday – where I struggled all day and only caught four fish – it was a great tournament,” said Martens. “I was finally able to get some good practice time and it paid off.”
Best of the rest
Rounding out the top 10 finalists were Rock Monteith (sixth) of Columbia, S.C., with a catch of 15 pounds, 14 ounces; Rick Clunn (seventh) of Ava, Mo., with a catch of 11 pounds, 11 ounces; Scott Martin (eighth) of Clewiston, Fla., with a catch of 11 pounds, 4 ounces; Jim Eakins (ninth) of Nixa, Mo., with a catch of 8 pounds, 10 ounces; and Wesley Burnett (10th) of Hot Springs, Ark., with a catch of 4 pounds, 3 ounces.
FLW action resumes May 14-17 at Kentucky Lake in Gilbertsville, Ky.