FISHING LEAGUE WORLDWIDE
Article17.Jun.2014 by Curtis Niedermier
20 Questions with AOY Leader Andy Morgan
Here we go again. For the second year in a row, Dayton, Tenn., pro Andy Morgan carries the Walmart FLW Tour Kellogg’s Angler of the Year lead into the final event of the season. And once again, the final event is being held on the Tennessee River, this time on Kentucky Lake. Morgan seems relaxed as ever, with his nonchalant, down-home attitude overpowering any pressure he might be feeling. He’s also an expert at dodging inquiries about the AOY race when questioned about it in public. We were able to catch up with him finally, however, and we fired questions at him about the AOY, his place in bass-fishing history and, much to his delight, turkey hunting. Here is our version of 20 questions (OK, it’s actually 24 questions) with Andy Morgan. 1. You won the AOY in 2013. Where does that rank among your career accomplishments? I’d say right up there at the top. My other top accomplishment was probably at the start of my career when I actually decided I could do this for a living, and that was in 2003 when I won the EverStart (now Rayovac) Series event on Lake Okeechobee. 2. You said that you weren’t really paying attention to the AOY standings last year, but were just focused on fishing. Was that a little fib? No. I’ve dealt with it before. I’ve been in the top five several times in the AOY, and it never worked out. The more you try to focus on winning the points and beating the other four or five guys up there, the more it hurts you. You better focus on catching fish and earning some money in that event, or you’re going to fail in both respects. 3. Cody Meyer is just a few points behind you in the standings this year. Are you paying more attention to the race this time around? Oh yeah, I can’t help it this year. It’s so close. We kind of made a pretty good gap on the top five, but both of us keep chomping on the heels of each other. Actually, it’s really fun that we’ve kind of run off on the rest of them. But anything can still happen. Look what happened to Glenn Browne and me in Detroit (in 2008) when we finished almost dead last. (They came into the event first and second in the points, but zeroed on the second day.) It is a lot of fun, but it’s just a good race. Cody and me trying to “out-cut” each other and beat each other in an individual tournament is profitable too because we’ve both made a lot of cuts and made some money. 4. Most people consider Cody to be a finesse expert. You have a reputation as being a power fisherman. Can we consider this AOY contest to be a showdown between finesse and power tactics? I think there’s more involved. I’ll pick up a spinning rod when I have to, and Cody’s probably the best in the country with a spinning rod. But you have to understand that Cody’s good at all of it. He’s well-rounded, and I don’t know that Cody’s not the most well-rounded individual to come off the West Coast. It seems like he’s come on the last three years and been really successful. He has no downside; he’s always getting a $10,000 check, and he’s a heck of a competitor, that’s for sure. Me being more on the power side, I guess, coming to the Tennessee River, it seems like I’d have the advantage. But in my opinion, I think the Tennessee River is becoming more of a finesse style of fishery, especially in the summer. I don’t know if I have an advantage on the Tennessee anymore. 5. How well do you know Cody? Have you spent much time with him? I’ve spent quite a bit of time with him because we’re always around one another at the events. Though I don’t know him super well. I know JR (Wright, an FLW co-angler), his running partner, pretty well. JR’s a hunter, so we always meet up out there on the water and chew the fat. I know Cody’s a good dude. He’s a straight-up individual, which I like. He’s not the type who’ll come up to you and tell you a lie. 6. How bad do you want to beat him? Oh, I want to win – ain’t no doubt about it. I don’t fish any other trails other than some little stuff at home, so I have six opportunities a year and a championship – if I’m fortunate enough to make it – to earn a living. I don’t treat any event like it’s any more important than any other. Each event is important for me to make some money. So I go out to try and win. The AOY is a nice bonus at the end of the year for a well-fought year. I’m not going to give up by any means. I’m not going to give it away. 7. Cody calls you the G.O.A.T. – the Greatest of all Time. What do you think about that? Oh, dude, I think it’s funny. I don’t know if I should be proud of being called a goat or not, but I’ll take it. It’s just Cody poking fun. 8. When you were growing up, did you think your name would ever be in the conversation about being the best ever? No. I still don’t really believe it. I have my days. I have my ups and downs. I’m just a bass fisherman, and sometimes it works out, sometimes it doesn’t. I know a lot of guys who are way better fishermen than me and more rounded than I am. It’s flattering, but it’s hard to be called the best, that’s for sure, because there are a lot of good anglers out here. There are a couple dozen who could win anything in the country on any given day. 9. Who was your fishing mentor growing up? I don’t know. I probably watched Larry Nixon more than anybody out there. I always liked Larry’s attitude, and he’s still one of the best fishermen out there. I always liked to watch his career and see how he handled things, and he handles pressure really well and still catches them. Nothing really got to him, and I like that mentality. 10. How did you get started in tournament fishing? When I was a small kid, 11 or 12 years old, I started taking a boat out on my own and fishing on Richland Creek. My dad and me used to fish a lot together. And I won a big tournament when I was 15. It was hosted by the Chattanooga Bass Association, and had 196 boats. Any extra money that I had after that was from fishing. I missed my high school graduation to go fishing because I had won the Pepsi-Cola tournament the weekend before. I think I won 1,000 bucks (in the Pepsi tournament), and the entry was, I think, $600 into the Jerry Rhyne tournament the next Saturday. I think that was the first pro-am that I’d ever seen. I ended up fifth in the tournament, and I think I won two grand, so I kind of doubled down on my money. I was fishing for entry fees. I didn’t have any money so I had to win one the Saturday before to get into one the following Saturday. That’s just what I did. I didn’t have much of a hanging-out party life or anything like that or get to play any sports back when I was a teenager because I fished every week. That’s how I made a living, and I had a truck and a boat, and that’s why I had that stuff – so I could fish for a living. As I got older I worked for my mom and dad. They had an electrical supply house, and they let me get off whenever I needed to go fish the Red Mans (now BFLs) and stuff like that. I would always fish a team tournament in the fall too. I guess we won about 15 boats and a truck or something like that. Everything I did was to try to earn a living. I earned a very modest living in the electrical supply house, but everything else I had was from fishing. I would go anywhere I had to to fish. 11. Wow, it sounds like you were very successful growing up. Any other major accomplishments that stood out? I set the all-time points record (for the Red Man series) back then. That was never broken until they changed the points scale. They had six tournaments in the Choo Choo Division. I fished all six of those, and they gave 50 points to the winner. I had 298 out of 300 points that year. I won four of the events, and I finished second in the other two. I tore everybody up that year. I won almost every tournament on Chickamauga that year. I won six or seven local events, a couple of boats, and, of course, all those Red Man tournaments. So that was a really good year. That was in 1992, and I was 19 years old. 12. What did all those local guys think about a 19-year-old kid kicking their butts every weekend? I shouldn’t say it was expected, but man, I’d been running with that crowd and always ran around with guys that were way older than me. I’d fished around those guys since I was 15 years old and was doing well, so I don’t think it was a huge surprise. And I owe a lot to those guys because I fished around a lot of good fishermen in east Tennessee. We’ve got a plethora of guys who can fish well all over the place. We’ve got a lot of water here – smallmouth water, spot fishing, largemouth fishing. It’s a good place to grow up to be a bass fisherman. 13. If you woke up tomorrow and turkeys were gobbling their heads off on a nearby ridge, and largemouths were busting topwaters on the closest lake, which direction would you be heading? I’d be heading right straight to that ridge with the turkeys gobbling, as fast as I could go. I’d probably step on my best rod to get out the door faster. My passion in bass fishing is strictly tournaments. I don’t go fishing just to catch them. I love to fish bass tournaments, and that’s where the excitement is for me. If you and me were going out there fishing, and you want to catch a big bass, and I know there’s a 10-pounder up there on a stump, I’m not going to out-cast you to catch it. I would rather see somebody else catch them – until we get to a tournament. Now, I’m going to out-cast you in a tournament. For me to go out to catch fish, it just doesn’t turn my crank anymore, but I’ve been doing it forever. To figure out a new technique or a new location, that excites me. But the real excitement is to go and figure them out in a tournament and actually catch them in the time period that we’re given. 14. When it comes to the outdoors, you have somewhat of a reputation as being a natural. You seem to make it look as if it’s easy to make the top 10 in a tournament. Is it? No, it’s really not. I’ve burned a lot of hours out there over the years. A lot of it is remembering what you learned and always knowing that things are changing in nature. I’ve hunted and fished enough to know that every second of the day things are changing. If you don’t roll with the punches enough and know that you have to keep changing, you’re going to get beat. I know to just keep grinding. You’re not going to catch them every day or every tournament. But some days you are. If you can take that and swallow it you’ll be fine. It’s not rocket science by any means. 15. Is there any part of fishing that is like kryptonite to you? Surely something must challenge you. I don’t like smallmouth fishing. I hate going up north and smallmouth fishing just because I’m kind of over that crap. There’s too much random luck in it. If you throw out a rod and stick it up in the butt-seat holder of your boat and then fish with another rod, well, the rod that you have leaning over the side of the boat beats you 90 percent of the time. I don’t like that randomness to it. When it comes to fishing, I like a skill set. I like to think that I might be able to cast better than someone else. That gives me an advantage. I like that aspect of fishing. I don’t like throwing a random tube across the bottom. That’s just too much random malarkey. 16. What are your practice and research strategies like? Do you pre-practice? I just try to read the moment. As far as pre-practice, heck, you could’ve gone to Kentucky Lake two weeks ago, and it might’ve been high and muddy and rained 12 feet, then by the time the tournament comes around it’s low and clear. There’s so much that changes. It (pre-practice) puts preconceived notions in your head, and you try to practice where you left them. They could be long gone. And usually at the end of the day it leads to failure. Now if you’re going to a huge body of water like Champlain and you’ve never been there, it might be a good idea to go there and see if you can run to Ticonderoga or run to the Vermont side. Because in three days of practice you can’t cover all that water. You might not find an area of water you’re comfortable with until the third day. 17. In a pre-practice report for Pickwick, you told Rob Newell that you had a side-imaging unit in your boat. A lot of people think you only use old-school 2-D sonar. So do you actually use side-imaging? Yes, absolutely. That’s the new thing coming up. I fought it and fought it and fought it. But not anymore. It’s still basic fishing, by all means, but that thing just speeds up the process. It cuts a lot of the work out of it, though that’s not to say that it’s going to be the answer for everything. You see a lot of these young kids coming up, and they’re the computer generation, and they’re doing really well. They understand that stuff more, and they like to operate that machinery. They do well. Especially for ledge fishing, that’s the future. Does it make you a better caster? Can you get farther under a dock than me? No. But can you beat me finding a little isolated rock pile? You’re dang right. 18. You have a daughter, right? Do you get much time to share with her in the outdoors? I have one little girl, Keylee. She’s 12. We get out quite a bit. We deer hunt quite a lot, we dove hunt and turkey hunt. Turkey hunting, of course, that’s during the fishing season. That’s the bass rut, as I call it. We don’t get to turkey hunt a whole lot, but spend maybe eight to 10 days doing it together. We deer hunt quite a bit together and hunt waterfowl. She’s gotten really big into that, so we’ll spend 10 or 12 days hunting waterfowl. 19. Where do you keep your AOY trophy? Is it safe to assume it’s in a room full of deer and turkey mounts? That’s exactly right, I swear to you. I’ll send you a picture of it. It’s sitting here on my fireplace in a pile of deer racks. I’ve got a bunch of skull mounts sitting around it. 20. Finish this sentence: Heaven on Earth is…. A frosty morning in November, somewhere in the Midwest, with giant scrapes and rubs as big as your legs on trees all around you. 21. If you weren’t a professional fisherman, what would you be? I’d be somebody in the outdoors. I’d probably run an outfitting business, something like that. I’d probably hunt and fish, basically like I do now, but it would be for pay. 22. You’ve spent a lot of time hunting and fishing on camera. What’s the most impressive thing you’ve pulled off on film? I actually killed a mule deer last year in Colorado, with my New Breed Eclipse bow, at 91 yards. I killed it on camera, with the camera right over my shoulder. That’s the best one I’ve pulled off right there. I tell you what, hunting on camera and making some shots, that’s pressure, because you work your guts out for a week or 10 days and finally get an opportunity. And you have someone there with you who’s worked his guts out too and wants to capture it and put in on television. 23. Finish this sentence: I have enough hunting and fishing gear to fill a …. Most of it’s hunting gear, and it’d probably fill a pretty long train. That would be mostly tree stands. I bet I have 200 tree stands. Dude, I’ve got tree stands in probably five different states. Of course, we’ve bought stands for years and years. You figure we buy 20 a year, and I’ve been hunting way longer than 20 years. And do I know where all of them are? No. 24. Some day when it’s all said and done, how do you hope that you’ll be remembered by the people who knew you? Just as a good guy that liked to hunt and fish. I hope they’ll sit back and think, man, that’s a pretty good ol’ boy there. He always treated you good, he caught a few and shot a few. That’d be good enough for me. For complete AOY standings, click here.