JASPER, Ala. – After taking the lead yesterday, Hoyt Tidwell of West Point, Tenn., knew that he had a chance to pull out a victory if he could fish deep. Tidwell got his wish as pro leader Brent Ehrler maintained his lead allowing the two to be paired up. Tidwell hauled in a 12-pound, 8-ounce catch to make his total for the week 34-1, providing him with his first ever win on the Walmart FLW Tour.
“This is awesome, I don’t know what to say; I’m just super excited,” said Tidwell. “This game is full of highs and lows and I have been doing this for a long time. This is my biggest tournament win ever; it just feels awesome.”
Tidwell, who is in the Air Force reserves and a poultry farmer, had to take a few years off from fishing due to deployment. He had never fished the tour for a whole season, so last year he made the commitment and ended up qualifying the Forrest Wood Cup. It was at the Cup where he received some baits from Ehrler that would help him to victory on Smith Lake.
“I got some Roboworms from him (Ehrler) at the Cup last year. I ran out of them so I ordered some for this tournament and they showed up Tuesday for me. It’s a 4 ½-inch worm and the color is called Halogram Dawn. There is no doubt that the fish wanted that color this week. Yesterday, when I fished with Jacob (Powroznik) I tried throwing different colors after I had a good limit but couldn’t get any bites. When I put that one (Halogram Dawn) back down I would get bit.
“I fished right below the boat all week. I would just sit there shaking that bait, trying to stay focused on exactly what the worm was doing down there. When you fish with guys like Stacey King, Jacob Powroznik and Brent Ehrler you know you are going to be around fish. That made it easier for me to focus on my fishing.”
Tidwell utilized a drop-shot essentially the entire week. He used a ¼-ounce weight on the first day because he was fishing in shallower water, but switched to a 3/8-ounce weight on days two and three when in much deeper water. Matched with that Roboworm, it made a deadly spotted bass rig. One other key for Tidwell was to keep the bait on the bottom and keep it moving. He would constantly let out or reel up line to adjust to depth changes.
“You just learn so much when you travel with these anglers. If you surround yourself with good anglers you can become a good angler.”
Tidwell earned a cool $20,000 for his efforts on Smith Lake this week.
“This has been a long time coming for me and I couldn’t do any of this without the support I get from my wife.”
Goggins rallies to second
When 28-year-old Walmart FLW Tour rookie Anthony Goggins came to the Walmart parking lot today he could almost smell the title. Towards the end of the weigh-in today the only person standing between him and his first victory was Hoyt Tidwell. Though he didn’t come out on top, Goggins put up one heck of a fight.
The Auburn, Ala., resident managed to increase his weight every day going from 4 pounds, 2 ounces on day one, to 10-3 on day two and finally recording the largest bag brought in by a co-angler all week with a 15-pound sack on the final day. His three-day total weight settled at 29-5 and earned him a check worth $7,500.
“I fished with a fairy wand (spinning rod) the last two days,” said Goggins, who is coming off a fifth-place finish on Okeechobee. “I had been fishing off of the back graph those days because the pro was nice enough to leave them on for me. Today my boater had some electrical problems and had to shut the graph off, so I decided that since I couldn’t look at what I’m doing I should cast a big jig.”
His plan to fish big baits on the final day was an excellent decision for the young rookie. The jig was a ½-ounce homemade jig green pumpkin in color with some red mixed in. He also threw a Carolina rig with a Cold Steel Walking Stick that produced three fish for him today. He threw both on 12-pound fluorocarbon.
“I just want to thank FLW and the boaters. Also, the volunteers at the boat ramp made this the best experience I have had at a boat ramp, thank you.”
Rest of the Best
Mike Hardin Sr., of Robertsdale, Ala., shuffled around the leaderboard this week before finally settling into the third position. His week started out strong with 10 pounds, 5 ounces on day one. He slipped on day two with only 2-15 and rebounded on day three with 12-0. His total weight for the week was 25-4, enough to earn a check for $5,000.
“It was just a slow day,” said Hardin Sr. “I got a lucky charm from my grandson and I think it helped me today.”
Local co-angler favorite Todd Lee of Jasper, Ala. , is no stranger to winning big events with FLW. Lee fished hard hauling in 8 pounds, 3 ounces the first day. He brought 5-1 to the scales on day two and added 8-13 to that, giving him a three-day total weight of 22-1. His fourth-place effort earned him a $4,000 check.
Josh Smith of Hamilton, Ohio rounded out the top-five co-anglers from Lewis Smith Lake. One of the more consistent co-anglers in this event, Smith posted 7 pounds, 14 ounces, 6-12 and 7-5 on days one, two and three, respectively. His total weight of 21-15 was good enough to earn $3,000 this week.
Rounding out the top 10 co-anglers at the FLW Tour event on Lewis Smith Lake:
6th: Tom Stark of Angola, Ind., 21-13, $2,500
7th: Jesse Wiggins of Cullman, Ala., 21-12, $2,000
8th: Rick Bowen of Jackson, Tenn., 21-0, $1,800
9th: Bryan Partak of Rockdale, Ill., 20-3, $1,700
10th: Alan Woodford of Winslow, Ind., 18-15, $1,600