5 Rookie Lessons Learned - Major League Fishing
5 Rookie Lessons Learned
7y • Luke Dunkin • Angler Columns
EDWIN EVERS: From nerves to excitement as REDCREST 2024 gets underway
1m • Edwin Evers • Bass Pro Tour
DREW GILL: Pure forward-facing is not for everyone
1m • Drew Gill • Angler Columns
EDWIN EVERS: Out of the frying pan, back into the fire
2m • Edwin Evers • Bass Pro Tour
GRAE BUCK: Embracing the pressure of the Bass Pro Tour
2m • Grae Buck • Bass Pro Tour
MICHAEL NEAL: Bass Pro Tour rookies to watch in 2024
2m • Michael Neal • Angler Columns
JACOB WHEELER: 2024 will be ‘the great reset’
2m • Jacob Wheeler • Angler Columns
EDWIN EVERS: What’s all the fuss about forward-facing sonar?
3m • Edwin Evers • Bass Pro Tour
FLETCHER SHRYOCK: Preparation and versatility are key to success in 2024
5m • Fletcher Shryock • Angler Columns
BRADLEY ROY: Change your mindset to catch more fish in the fall
5m • Bradley Roy • Angler Columns
JOHN MURRAY: I’m returning to my West Coast tournament roots this week
6m • John Murray • Angler Columns
MATT LEE: Mercury pro’s blunt assessment of his 2023 Bass Pro Tour season
8m • Matt Lee • Angler Columns
JACOB WHEELER: The Freeloader made Guntersville a special win
10m • Jacob Wheeler • Angler Columns
ALEX DAVIS: Bass Pro Tour anglers are in for a treat at Guntersville (but bring some Band-Aids)
11m • Alex Davis • Angler Columns
KEVIN VANDAM: ‘It’s the most wonderful time of the year’
11m • Kevin VanDam • Angler Columns

5 Rookie Lessons Learned

Reflecting on my first season on the Walmart FLW Tour
Image for 5 Rookie Lessons Learned
Luke Dunkin Photo by Jody White. Angler: Luke Dunkin.
July 11, 2016 • Luke Dunkin • Angler Columns

(The writer's opinions and observations expressed here are his own, and do not necessarily reflect or represent the views, policies or positions of FLW.)

People have asked me what my first year on the Walmart FLW Tour was like. Well, it was like running headfirst into a hurricane for a few months. I came out the other side a little battered, bruised and smelling like fish.

It certainly wasn’t pretty at times, and in the end I fell short of my goal of qualifying for the Forrest Wood Cup. That’s disheartening knowing that the Cup will be on my home lake this year. It’s not an easy pill to swallow, but you have to take positives away from every experience. I definitely learned a lot of valuable lessons in the first tournaments of my pro career, and I would like to share those.


Lesson 1: Bass are really smart.

After 160 of the best anglers in the country show them all the obvious lure choices for several days in a row of practice, bass tend to get a little fussy. This was certainly the case at Beaver Lake. The fish chewed the hooks off of everything in practice. I almost lost an arm. I think they would have eaten a Helicopter Lure. But as soon as the event started that changed.

The guys that adjusted caught them. Guys like me that didn’t adjust got sent home early. There is certainly a difference in the first day of practice and the first day of competition at a lot of the venues we visit.


Lesson 2: Bass are really dumb.

They love you and leave you. They break your heart. They can make you look like a genius. They can make you look like a fool. Now, this is certainly not a lesson that I’m just learning this year. Anyone who fishes for these sneaky suckers can relate to this lesson. Searching for the missing puzzle piece to exact revenge on them is what drives us all.

One prime example of this happened to me at Lake Champlain. You could catch smallmouths after you literally ran over them with the trolling motor. It was insane. Try that with bass at Pickwick, Okeechobee or Beaver. Not happening. See Lesson 1.


Lesson 3: Adjust, adjust and then adjust some more.

The only constant in bass fishing is that there are no constants – except for Andy Morgan. See Lesson 5.

You have to make adjustments to survive multiple-day events. You can’t get bogged down by what happened in practice. This happened to me too much. A lot of the guys I know that perform day in and day out honestly never know how they’re going to catch them until the tournament day arrives. The Bryan Thrifts, Wesley Straders, Andy Morgans and Scott Canterburys of the world fly by the seat of their pants more times than not.

The one event where I really leaned on my gut led to my best finish and my first top-20 cut at Kentucky Lake. I got caught in the trap of memories a lot this year. Avoiding that pitfall is something that definitely comes with time on the water competing at this level. Veterans know to trust their gut because it has led them to the top 10 more times than they can count. That’s a big difference in a rookie and a veteran.


Lesson 4: A “road family” is as important as the right baits.

I can’t stress this one enough. Surround yourself with quality people you can trust. We are on the road a lot. It can be stressful. I am away from my wife and kids way more than I would like to be. Having great people that are just like family on Tour is a great feeling.

I am very fortunate to room with Wesley and Stephanie Strader. Traveling with them takes away a lot of the stress of the road. Steph normally cooks amazing meals for us and takes care of anything we need while we are out on the water. That’s such a huge deal. It ensures that we get to focus on the task at hand. Wes is a bass fishing encyclopedia. He remembers every bass he has ever caught in his lengthy career and is open to telling me what he thinks makes them so smart and so dumb.

I also lean on great folks such as Brad and Becky Knight, Anthony Gagliardi, Scott Suggs, Dan Morehead, Jason Johnson, Josh Weaver and my fellow TH Marine service crew member Corey Williams. The list goes on and on. There are too many great people to name them all. It’s really a tight-knit bunch of folks and basically a traveling circus. We all try to keep each other pointed in the right direction out there. 


Lesson 5: Andy Morgan has gills.

It’s not even fair that FLW lets Andy compete against us mere human beings. It’s a well-known fact that he eats Zoom Ol’ Monster Worms for snacks and washes them down with T-H Marine G-Juice. Andy wakes up every morning and catches 15 pounds of bass out of the hotel bathtub as a warm-up. He’s scary good. There could not be a better guy to represent our sport as the GOAT. Congratulations to Andy on getting like 47 top 10s this year and winning his 20th AOY. I think those are correct stats.

In all seriousness, fishing the 2016 FLW Tour was an incredible experience. I can’t wait for the Invitationals this fall and for the revealing of the 2017 schedule at ICAST. It can’t get here soon enough!