GAINESVILLE, Ga. – He passed on the opportunity to become a general in the U.S. Air Force National Guard, but Retired Colonel Timothy Dearing advanced to the top of his co-angler ranks with a convincing win in the Forrest Wood Cup on Lake Lanier.
Two years ago, after 38 years of military service, Dearing found himself contemplating this career-capping advancement. Ultimately, it was the advice of his wife Lisa that convinced the Loudon, Tenn. co-angler that it was time for a life transition.
"My wife said 'Why do we want to do that?'" Dearing said. "(The promotion) was signed by the president, but my wife said "Why don't you retire and go fish while you're healthy enough to live your dream?'"
Dearing opened his tournament campaign by placing third on day one with a limit catch of 9 pounds, 6 ounces. He struggled on day two and caught a lone keeper that went 2-3. The final round, however, saw Dearing's finest effort and as soon as he took to the stage, he proudly displayed a nice bass for the crowd at the Gwinnett Convention Center.
Dearing missed his day-three limit by one fish, but he was the only co-angler to break 10 pounds this day and his 11-pound, 4-ounce catch was the day's largest. At the final tally, Dearing's three-day total of 22-13 gave him a winning margin of 2-9 and earned him $50,000.
"This is just an awesome experience," Dearing said. "Being in the military, I'm very goal-oriented and I had two goals for this season: I wanted to make one top-10 and I did that at tournament in Okeechobee (8th place, FLW Tour Open). Also, I wanted to qualify for the Forrest Wood Cup. Once I did that, I just relaxed."
All three days of the event, Dearing caught his fish on a dropshot baited with Roboworms in Aaron's Morning Dawn. Knowing that many others would be dropshotting with that color, Dearing sought to make his rig stand out by dipping each worm's head in chartreuse dye.
"Everybody puts chartreuse on the tail, but the fish would come up and nip at the tail (or the worm) and I kept losing the tails," Dearing said. "I said 'I'm going to turn this around and see if they'll take the head.' They did, so I started hooking fish. I think that little bit of chartreuse on the worm's nose just made it different from everybody else's."
Dearing used a ½-ounce weight to get his bait down quickly and stimulate strikes in deep water. He used braided main line and 10-pound Gamma fluorocarbon leader. The high sensitivity of a Denali Norwood rod proved essential in detecting subtle strikes.
Dearing thanked FLW Tour pro Brandon Coulter, who befriended him and made a profound impact on his tournament career. "Five years ago, we met at an FLW event and I walked up to him and asked him if he ever took anybody out to help them learn to fish. He took me out three or four times and we've become good friends. I traveled with him all year and I wouldn't be here without him."
Dearing also expressed his appreciation for the love and support he gets from his wife and 9-year-old daughter. Lastly, pointing toward heaven, he gave thanks for the protection he received throughout a career that included combat missions during both Gulf wars.
Slow start doesn’t deter second-place Smith
Josh Smith, of Hamilton, Ohio probably didn't care for a 31st-place start on day one, but rather than lament catching a single fish for 2-2, he powered his way back the following day by locating three nice keepers that weighed 10-6 and lifted him to third place. Today, Smith added another trio of fish, these going 7-12 and increasing his tournament total to 20-4.
"You always here guys saying 'never give up,' and that's just what I always do – I don't even question that," he said. "I broke off a 3-pound fish Monday right before we can in and that would have made a big difference in this tournament. But I didn't let that bother me. I told myself I can catch a fish on every drop and that's just how I look at it."
Smith caught all of his tournament fish on a dropshot with 6-inch Roboworms. He rotated colors between Morning Dawn, Prism Shad and Aaron Marten's Pro Shad. Although he fished shallow and deep during the tournament, his keepers all came from deep. Brush piles and standing timber were the targets.
Dalbey stages big comeback for third
Clearly, the best comeback story of the co-angler division belonged to Rich Dalbey, of Greenville, Texas. Not many anglers can keep themselves mentally and psychologically intact when they go fishless for more than a day and a half. That's what Dalbey faced and rather than fold up his tent, he kept his head in the game and rallied to finish third.
After blanking on day one, Dalbey found himself with no fish at 2 o'clock on the second day. Fortunately, his luck changed and the next hour would deliver a quartet of keepers that weighed 10-2. Adding another four weighing 9-3 in the final round gave him a total weight of 19-5.
"I just never gave up – I knew that it was just one bite at a time," Dalbey said. "I fished clean in this tournament and never lost a fish. I did all that I could."
"In this tournament, a lot of people talk about how you're guaranteed a check, but I'm too competitive. I came into this tournament swinging for the fence and going for the win."
On day two, Dalbey caught one fish on a 3/8-ounce War Eagle finesse football jig with a finesse worm and the other three on a dropshot with a green pumpkin Zoom trick worm. Today, he caught his fish on a ½-ounce Sworming Hornet Fish Head Spin with a pearl Zoom Fluke Jr. and a 1/8-ounce shaky head with a green pumpkin Zoom trick worm.
Day three DQ drops Krekovich to fourth
Matt Krekovich, of Granite City, Ill. entered day three with a lead of 4-1, but a rules infraction resulted in day-three disqualification and he ended in fourth place. On day one, Krekovich caught 11-9 (second-largest bag of the tournament). He added 7-5 on day two and ended with a total weight of 18-14.
The rule states that co-anglers may not cast while their pro partner is not standing on the front deck. In Krekovich's case, pro leader Jacob Wheeler was at the live well culling a fish and the co-angler made a few casts.
Best of the rest
Rounding out the top-10 co-angler leaders at the Forrest Wood Cup were:
6th: Rob Hicks, of Lula, Ga., 17-5
7th: James Waller, of Cypress, Texas, 17-1
8th: Nick Hensley, of Cumming, Ga., 16-3
9th: Richard Peek, of Centre, Ala., 15-12
10th: Ralph Myhlhousen, of Council Bluffs, Iowa, 15-8