Some of competitive fishing’s most dramatic moments never make the highlight reels. They’re never liked or shared on social media, and they’re not immediately evident in the stats and standings. But for the angler prepared to act decisively and seize upon key opportunities, those unsung glories mean as much – if not more – than publicized triumphs.
Case in point: Jason Reyes, the Walmart FLW Tour pro from Huffman, Texas, who’ll make his second Forrest Wood Cup appearance next month on Lake Ouachita. Finishing 23rd in the points, Reyes posted his best season in nine years of Tour competition, but his description of meaningful moments goes beyond high finishes and a championship berth.
At a Glance
Reyes opened his season with a 26th-place finish on Lake Toho, where a fish just shy of 10 pounds anchored his effort. Three weeks later, he notched his best 2015 finish at Lewis Smith Lake where a bunch of plump spotted bass pushed him into third.
He’d continue his check-cashing streak with 57th at Beaver, 41st at Eufaula and 39th at Chickamauga before stumbling at the Potomac River and ending up 97th.
“At the first tournament on Toho, catching a fish that was almost 10 pounds was big,” Reyes says. “Anytime in Florida, you always think, ‘I have to catch a big fish.’ You might not catch a lot of fish, but when you catch one big one it kind of carries you. So that was big.
“Obviously, the third-place finish on Lewis Smith was also big, and I stayed consistent throughout the tournament there.”
After solid finishes on Beaver and Eufaula, Reyes entered Chickamauga completely unsuspecting of the unforeseen drama that likely determined his Forrest Wood Cup future.
“The second day at Chickamauga, at 1 o’clock I was sitting there with two fish in the livewell,” Reyes recalls. “That one day was about to ruin my season. I was about to throw up a bomb and weigh in only two fish, but I made the decision to put my head down and fish shallow that last two hours.
“I caught a 6 and a 4 and a couple other keepers and weighed an 18-pound bag,” he continues. “Without that two-hour flurry, maybe I’m not even fishing in August.”
Finishing 39th at Chick might not have earned him much fanfare, but Reyes holds tightly to the impact of what he accomplished.
“The windows of opportunity are few and far between, and they’re small, but if you take advantage of them you’re on the inside looking out, rather than the outside looking in,” he says. “It wasn’t a great finish, but without anyone knowing, I was sitting on a 110th- or a 120th-place finish – it was going to be that bad. When you move up from 120th to 39th in a couple of hours, that becomes a year-saver.”
Surely, Reyes would prefer a do-over on the Potomac, but consistency in previous events provided enough cushion to absorb a low finish without devastating results.
“That two-hour window [at Chickamauga] put me in the position at the Potomac where I just needed to catch a bass to make the Cup,” he says. “That two-hour window was literally do-or-die. I’ll remember that more than the 18-pound stringer of spotted bass I caught on Smith or the 9-pounder I caught on Toho. That was putting the grinders on.”
Why it’s Working
Reyes credits his successful season to what he describes as a clear state of mind born of stability in his personal and professional life.
Between tournaments, he runs a manufacturing and import company that services grocery store chains in the Houston and Dallas markets. Growing his business to a successful level helps finance his fishing career, while coaching his 6-year-old son Jesse’s baseball team helps balance the picture with a key element central to Reyes’ personality.
“Coaching has given me another competitive arena,” he says. “In business you’re competitive, and in fishing you’re competitive. When you have that drive, that carries over into everything you do.”
Despite adding another level of responsibility – one that compelled Reyes to leave a tournament practice for an in-and-out flight home to coach a game – coaching has been no distraction. In fact, Reyes says it’s been a pleasant break in the grind.
“Success on every level has allowed me to fish for several days in a row without getting distracted,” he says. “A lot of guys practice daylight to dark, and that’s good, but if you’re not focused the entire time, you’re not being as productive as you think.”
Waiting for Ouachita
Balanced by this inner peace and fueled by the momentum of his best Tour season, Reyes says he’s eager to tackle Ouachita.
“I think that because of the time of year it’s going to be a tough tournament,” he predicts. “It always seems that just catching a limit that time of year can be tough. But I’ve been there, and I know how it lays out. You can catch them deep or shallow, so I feel comfortable with that. Growing up around Sam Rayburn and Toledo Bend, I feel like I can break down the Ouachita grass bite, but I can also pull out and fish the deep finesse stuff if that’s what I need to do.”
Sizing up his second run at the Cup [he finished 73rd in 2010], Reyes considers this a chance to solidify a point with which he’s personally confident.
“There really is a sense of proving myself,” he says. “To get back in there and compete against the best of the best motivates me because I know I belong there. To do this on the big stage increases my desire to prove myself. I’ll be shooting to win because nobody remembers second.”