Jacob Powroznik may perhaps be the best bass angler on the planet with no major titles, either tour-level wins or Angler of the Year victories, on his résumé. In two days, he’ll have a good chance to remove that label at the final Walmart FLW Tour qualifier on Lake Chickamauga.
Sitting 19 points behind Angler of the Year leader Andy Morgan, Powroznik has been here before. Last year he finished second in the points race to friend David Dudley, despite taking second at the regular-season finale on Lake Champlain. He also witnessed the 2008 AOY debacle where Morgan and Thrift, among others, tanked and allowed Dudley to win out of nowhere. From that standpoint, Powroznik knows anything is possible.
“This is bass fishing, nothing is guaranteed,” said the Virginian. “We could leave the marina and break down, you never know. So I’m approaching Chickamauga just like I do any other tournament. You still have to fish to make the cut.”
“This is Andy’s home water and we all know he’s going to be tough. I bet he’s been preparing for this one more than any other tournament in his life. And gall dang, you got Bryan Thrift in second, who’s now an awesome offshore fisherman. One of us three is probably going to win.
“We’ll get out there and mark our territory on the first day. But the second day of the tournament is where it’s going to be won and lost. Where is that one spot that hasn’t been hit? One of us is going to go over there and catch a big bag. I’m just going to put my head down and work hard trying to find one of those places by practicing from daylight to dusk.”
While Chickamauga was kicking out 40-pound stringers in the spring, Powroznik expects a much different event in the summertime. He believes most of the field will fish offshore, but he doesn’t buy the theory that the tournament will simply be a boat race to one of a handful of community ledges.
“Until I get out there on the water, I’m not really going to know what’s going on. I didn’t prepractice at all. I know Chick is small, but I have to believe there are going to be other places you can fish. There might be four or five community holes, but those spots might draw attention away from other good areas. I do know that great big ones live out there and you better believe I’m going to try for them.”
Last year’s experience has taught Powroznik to fish hard, enjoy the moment and let the chips fall where they may.
“You just put your time and effort in, and if it’s your time, it’s your time. Look at Drew Benton at Okeechobee. He pulls up to a stretch with just a few minutes left in the tournament and catches a 7- or 8-pounder. That’s when it’s your time. Everything just has to fall into place in my opinion.”
“Like Dudley says, never be satisfied. Even if I did win, it won’t change my focus. The thing I’m most proud of is being consistent the last couple of years. I’ve really improved my on-the-water decision making. I’m fishing what feels right instead of just doing what I did in practice. And that comes back to trusting your instincts. Fishing with confidence is just fun.”
That confidence helped Powroznik overcome what could have been a disastrous first day at Grand Lake.
“I had so many big bites that I didn’t get in. It was all my fault too. I was dialed in and they bit, I just couldn’t get them out. I could’ve given up with only 15 pounds and said it was over. But instead I went out there and told myself I was going to catch 20 pounds the next day and I caught like 19. That first day cost me some points, but the second day saved my season. You’re never out of anything in this sport.”
Since Grand ended, Powroznik has fished just about every day – mainly venturing out offshore on small lakes and ponds to get tuned in with the deep bite. He’s now at the point where he trusts his electronics and looks forward to offshore tournaments – especially ones with two major titles on the line.
“This time of year is what fishing is all about, but you can’t let that get to your mind. I’m just thinking about it as though it’s the first tournament of the year. If you start thinking, man, I got to catch this or that – I think that’s going to hurt somebody more than it’s going to help them.”