FISHING LEAGUE WORLDWIDE
As I sit here in Detroit taking time out from a family visit, I look back on the past season and try to find any positives. The things that could’ve gone wrong did go wrong, and I think that a lot of times, I wasn’t experienced enough or good enough to adjust to the circumstances. Bottom line: I didn’t make the Forrest Wood Cup.
So there I was, near the Blood River, leading the Walmart FLW Tour event on Kentucky Lake after days two and three, trying to concentrate and bring home the trophy and $100,000 top prize. Standing in my hip pocket was a cameraman, to my left were a dozen spectator boats, in front of me were 3-foot waves that periodically crashed over the front of the boat, and above me were clouds that intermittently threw rain and wind gusts my way. Oh yeah, and behind me, and I mean right behind me, were nine top pros who were all within a few pounds of my lead. Brutal conditions, a slow bite and a rapidly ticking clock … not exactly the meditative environment Plato or Aristotle would have chosen for contemplating the mysteries of life.
As I noted previously, Bryan and I were able to find a free weekend between tournaments to actually have a wedding. It was a miracle, I tell you. After our wedding on July 21, 2007, we headed to Edisto Island in South Carolina for our honeymoon. We had a great time, but it was a very rushed trip. After all, Bryan had to be back quickly so he could head to Hot Springs, Ark., to practice for the Forrest Wood Cup on Lake Ouachita. It was his first ever and he was psyched.
Well, it actually happened. For the first time in eight years, I’ll be sitting on the sidelines at the Forrest Wood Cup. As I sit here and drink in the intoxicatingly sour flavor that this revelation has left in my mouth, somehow I find myself savoring the flavor. Perhaps that’s because it’s the flavor of something that I will never taste again. At least that’s how I feel, anyway; that’s how I’m taking it. Never again.
My recap of the Walmart FLW Tour event on Kentucky Lake has less to do with this particular event than it does a feat I consider to be one of the most amazing in modern-day tournament fishing – but I’ll get to that later.
Lots of story lines will be going down this coming week as the Walmart FLW Tour closes out its regular season with the 2014 finale on Kentucky Lake. In addition to the 35 Forrest Wood Cup qualifiers to be determined, also on the line are the $10,000 checks awarded to each of the top 60 anglers.
Following a fairly successful career as a college angler, I decided to keep progressing up the tournament ladder. The year after graduating from the University of Florida, I fished what was then the Rayovac FLW Series as a professional angler. While I enjoyed some success in my first two tournaments, I quickly realized I had a lot to learn as I got farther away from my home waters.
Poor Lake Barkley. It’s as spectacular as the Grand Tetons and nearly as vast and full of wildlife in and around it. With its 58,000 acres of ledges and shoreline cover packed with bass, Barkley would be the top tournament destination in most any other state.
If you had told me I’d end up tied with Mark Rose in the Pickwick Lake Walmart FLW Tour event, I would have guessed there would also be a sudden-death fish-off on Monday morning. Pickwick in Florence, Ala., is a perfect place for a big tournament and coincidently one of my favorite lakes in the country. This time around, however, it didn’t treat me so well. I finished 58th. Don’t get me wrong, I’m always happy to finish in the big money, but this entire season has been way too stressful, as I’ve been on both sides of the bubble numerous times.
Of the approximately 170 anglers who’ll be competing, a relative few of them will be vying for one of the 35 Forrest Wood Cup slots available for the August championship. A few weeks later, the last Tour event of the season, at Kentucky Lake, will settle matters for good.
This week is the beginning of what I call the initial leg of the FLW ledge-fishing expert benefit swing. The Rayovac FLW Series event on Kentucky Lake, currently taking place, is the first in a trio of FLW events to be held on Tennessee River lakes, the latter two being the Walmart FLW Tour on Pickwick Lake and the Walmart FLW Tour grand finale on Kentucky lake. Each tournament promises to be a postspawn, offshore shootout, and like some other anglers, I’m not particularly thrilled with this part of the season, for a couple of reasons.
May has been a busy month. I’ve been doing a lot of work on the water, in particular guiding on Lake Guntersville. Last November I traveled to Panama City, Fla., to get my U.S. Coast Guard captain license. I then started a guide service that sees me on Lake Guntersville in the spring and fall and on Lake St. Clair in Michigan during the summer.
Scott Martin talks to us from the water of Kentucky Lake about his practice for the final two events of the season.
We live in a unique time in human history. Social media has brought people together like nothing else – ever. Can you imagine 50 years ago being able to trade hunting stories with Fred Bear? How about asking Ernest Hemingway about writing “The Old Man and the Sea,” and what his inspiration for it was? It would have been pretty cool, huh?
“Defense wins championships.” How many times have you heard that and seen it proven true? There’s no denying that in the truest sense of most sports, a smothering defense in football and basketball, or a dominating pitching performance in baseball, is nearly unbeatable.
My name is Allison Thrift, and I’m the wife of Walmart FLW Tour pro Bryan Thrift. I’m excited to be writing this blog for FLW, and going forward I hope you enjoy our stories from the road – and of life off the road as well. For now, I wanted to share with you the story of how Bryan and I got together, and my first reaction to all the craziness that is the world of professional fishing.
This past week was a whirlwind. We just returned home from the Texas Bass Classic in Quittman, Texas, on Lake Fork. This event is hosted every year by the Professional Anglers Association (PAA) and includes the top 15 anglers from the Walmart FLW Tour, Bassmaster Elite Serieas and PAA. It really is an honor just to be invited. This was Stetson’s third time to compete, and it was, like always, an amazing event.
Back in my band days, I was focused on playing music. I practiced every waking minute; I wanted to be the best. I breathed, ate and slept music. When I made even the slightest mistake I was extremely critical of myself and worked even harder to make sure it never happened again. There were very few things out of my control that could happen. I felt that if I worked extra hard, nothing could go wrong other than the occasional broken stick or string. I also had no distractions in those days.
Lake Murray Report
The mid-week high for the first full week in May in Lake Murray Country will flirt with 90 degrees, and the 10-day forecast shows no highs of less than 80. Seemingly, the cold has finally fled, allowing the lake to get back on track from the dirty, cold water that has filled the lake thus far. Lake Murray’s current surface temperature is 72.3 degrees, up 5 degrees from a week ago, based on the USGS water data website.
Treat yourself like an athlete
As fishermen we are considered athletes. No less than ESPN has recognized this through its ESPY awards. There is no doubt that as we spend hours fishing, we undergo a lot of physical exertion throughout the upper part of our bodies. Truth be known, however, if a majority of fishermen was required to run a seven-minute mile I don’t think many of us could do it.
“Normally they’re pretty much done spawning by now,” said Andy Wicker of Pomaria, S.C., which is just east of Murray’s upper end. Wicker, who with a Clemson University teammate finished second in the 2012 FLW College Fishing Championship on Lake Murray, fished a local tournament recently and found that there were still large numbers of bass on the beds.
The Walmart FLW Tour has been a big part of my adult life, as I’ll relate in future blogs that involve some of the tournament stories that Stetson and I share. Before I get into the fun stuff, though, I’ll give you a little background on Stetson and me. I’m a graduate of the University of Arkansas at Little Rock with a bachelor’s and master’s in middle childhood education, and I worked in the medical and insurance fields for eight years. After meeting Stetson at summer church camp when I was 15, we started dating a year later in December 2003 and were married in 2009. “Girlfriend” and – eventually – “wife” weren’t my only titles in those days, as I was also Stetson’s fishing partner for numerous tournaments and circuits while we were dating and at the start of our married life.
Professional tournament fishing is normally a rollercoaster ride with plenty of ups and downs, but this season so far is nothing but downs.
Lake Murray bass have been reading from a different script than normal this year, and the result has been good early season catches by local anglers, according to former Walmart FLW Tour pro Michael Murphy, who lives by Lake Murray.