Reel Chat transcript with LARRY NIXON - Major League Fishing

Reel Chat transcript with LARRY NIXON

Nixon shares his thoughts on his latest FLW Tour win on Lake St. Clair, how the sport has changed over the past three decades and his favorite go-to baits
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Larry Nixon proudly displays his 20-pound, 2-ounce stringer. Nixon's catch placed him in a tie for first place with Vic Vatalaro during the opening round of FLW Tour competition on the Potomac River. Photo by Gary Mortenson. Angler: Larry Nixon.
September 4, 2012 • MLF • Archives

Welcome to FLW Live Reel Chat. Today we’re joined by Chevy pro Larry Nixon of Bee Branch, Ark.., who recently took home the top prize of $100,000 after winning the 2012 FLW Tour Detroit River event.

With nearly $1.5 million in FLW career earnings, Nixon is arguably one of the most accomplished anglers in the history of the sport. After notching his most recent victory at the Aug. 23-26 Walmart FLW Tour event on the Detroit River, Nixon boasts four FLW Tour wins (including Lake Norman in 2007; Lake Wheeler in 2002; and Lake St. Clair in 2001) over the course of his 15-year FLW career. In addition, Nixon has recorded 19 top-10 finishes (including an incredible 14 on the FLW Tour alone). Affectionately known as “The General,” Nixon has logged 131 FLW events since 1998.

Today, Nixon is here to take questions from you, the fans. So, without further delay, let’s get started.

Q: Larry, how did it feel to get your first FLW Tour win since 2007?
— Pat Zak (Oakland, CA)
A: Pretty incredible is the best way to answer that one. There’s been plenty of events where I thought I had the fish to win but didn’t. At Lake St. Clair, I wasn’t too sure in practice but an area I found turned out to have the mother lode and I’m just fortunate to have finished on top.

Q: This is your second FLW Tour win on Lake St. Clair – so what’s so special about this body of water for you?
— Jim Interlandi (Chicago, IL)
A: Well, probably number one I spent a lot of time up there in 2004. I spent a lot of time learning the intricacies of the lake. I learned over a period of time, if you find the right area on St. Clair, they would be full of big fish. I just know the habits of those fish. They’re usually in large schools and if you catch one, that usually means that there are a whole lot more of them there. The key to St. Clair for me is the depth of water they’re in at the time of year. If it’s summertime they’re going to be in 10 to 16 feet of water. If it’s springtime, they’ll be in 3 to 8 feet of water. So it’s important to cover a lot of water (using the season as a guide) and find out what depth they’re in. If you have an idea at what depth the fish are at depending on the time of year, that really helps you narrow things down in a hurry.

Q: Larry, you mentioned that you had a poor practice leading up to the start of the Detroit River event. So how did you manage to turn things around?
— Jon Pageler (New York, NY)
A: When you talk about a poor practice, that’s a daily deal. The first day of practice I found an area where I saw some smallmouth schooling. It seemed like if I was in a half-mile radius I could catch some big fish. But the other areas I went to I didn’t have too much success. So I was able to pretty much eliminate most of the lake except for that one spot. And as it turned out that first spot had the mother lode. For me, practice was a way of eliminating a lot of water and figuring out exactly where I wanted to fish.

Q: Larry, despite the fact that many “young gun” pros have dominated the headlines over the past few years, you continue to prove that it’s not necessarily a young man’s game. So how do you do it?
— John Stebbins (San Diego, CA)
A: This question I get a lot of pleasure answering. I somehow always manage to find fish. I’ve been blessed with some god-given talents to locate and catch fish. I still try hard. I have some very good friends who are young guns who keep me up to date on the new crazes. These are things that take a lot of time to understand. Since I’m 62 years old, I don’t spend as much time with new baits so I have to thank the kids for keeping me involved as much as possible.

Q: Larry, how did you get so good at smallmouth bass fishing?
— Thomas Suk (Minnetonka, MN)
A: Well I grew up fishing the rivers in Arkansas and we had a lot of smallmouth here. I loved to fish for them – they’re so acrobatic. I don’t do very well on Champlain simply because I love fishing for smallmouths. I know what a smallmouth does all day long. I know their habits and their intricacies. I’m also a fan of spinning tackle, especially since my shoulder has been bothering me. And smallmouth fishing matches up very well with that.

Q: Larry, were you fishing isolated structure or open areas with some scattered weed cover during the Detroit River tourney?
— Ken (Gaines, MI)
A: This time I was actually fishing open, flat water. The area that turned out to be so good, there were little spots inside the sand grass that had good, clean bottoms. The smallmouths tend to like those types of areas. This particular tournament has exactly zero structure. The spot I found I staggered across it actually. You have to just go out there and let the wind blow you and drag, drag, drag until you find them. Now, next year they might be 1/2 mile away from where they were this year but they’ll be (holding) to relatively the same type of bottom. There was absolutely nothing on your depth finder to tell you that fish would actually be there so you really had to look for them.

Q: Were you fishing on the east or west side of the Belle River hump and what was your primary water depth?
— Ken (Gaines, MI)
A: I was fishing west of the Belle River hump, which is a noted area for smallmouths. I was out in the open water in about 15 feet. My primary bait was a Berkley Gulp Alive Jerk Shad in Arkansas shiner. It’s a shad-shaped lure about 5 inches long. I figured out pretty quickly that I needed a bigger bait to catch those 4-pounders. I actually ran out of those baits on the final day and had to fish baits that imitated that lure as much as possible.

Q: Larry, congrats on your St. Clair win. Which do you prefer, largemouth or smallmouth or are they each special to you? What methods do you prefer to use to catch each type? Thanks.
— Mark Burris (Knoxville, TN)
A: I love fishing both species but I prefer going to lakes like St. Clair where I can focus exclusively on smallmouths. Smallmouths need more subtle presentations. It requires tubes, drop-shots but when you get the right conditions, they’ll bit jerkbaits very well too. For largemouths, I throw a Jewel jig with a crawfish trailer. I also use a 1/8 to 3/16-ounce shaky head a lot.

Q: What’s your favorite go-to fishing method?
— Duane (Detroit, MI)
A: My favorite go-to fishing method is a shaky head – no doubt about it. Throw on some 6- to 8-pound line with a Bottom Hopper worm and day in and day out I can always catch fish.

Q: Had you ever fished that Belle River flat before in any other tournaments on St. Clair?
— Scott (Ann Arbor, MI)
A: Yes I have. The last time I was there I fished that same area. I don’t know why I didn’t catch them then. The fish weren’t actually on the Belle River hump but they were close. I still don’t know why I didn’t catch them; I was so close I could see them. But yes, I have fished that area before.

Q: Why did you choose the Jerk Shad as your drop-shot bait? I thought the Gulp leech was the best smallmouth bait?
— Mike (Erie, PA)
A: There’s a pretty easy answer to that question. I had a couple boxes of leeches but couldn’t get them to bite. I saw some 2- or 3-inch baitfish running around and picked that minnow up, put it on my drop-shot and started catching fish immediately. I tried fishing leeches later in the tournament but those fish really wanted that minnow.

Q: Hey Larry, congrats on the whole journey. I just wanted to know how you stayed so focused during your last win?
— Chris (Toronto, Ontario)
A: That was pretty easy. When you’re catching 4-pound smallmouths you have to stay focused. I was more worried about breaking fish off. Staying focused doing something you love is easy for me. You just kind of get in that zone and when you’re close to winning another event, it’s very easy for me to stay focused.

Q: How has the sport changed in your 36 years of fishing and how do you see it evolving in the future?
— Chris (Houston, TX)
A: It’s evolved so much. It’s come so far with the depthfinders, GPS and Lowrance Structure Scan. The sport is still enthusiastic. It’s still one of the greatest sports to me. I don’t think anyone has ever messed up his life bass fishing. As for where it’s going, who knows. I’m still shocked by all the changes I’ve seen over the last 36 years. But I hope I’m still here to see it whatever happens.

Q: How much longer do you plan to fish competitively? You’ve clearly still got it!
— Joe (Durham, NC)
A: Joe, I get asked that all the time. As long as I love it, enjoy it and my health doesn’t let me down, I don’t see any reason to quit – especially with all of the great fans I have rooting for me. So I’m going to continue on as long as I can.

Q: Were you worried that your area would run out of fish with Shin, McDonald and Shuffield all hammering it?
— Luke (Trenton, MI)
A: The last day I was pretty concerned. It was real rough that last day and I’m not a good rough-water fisherman. We’d culled a lot of fish there over a four-day event. But we all kind of dried up on those great big ones on that last day. I wasn’t sure what I had would be enough to win actually, but thank goodness it was.

Q: Did going to Lake Erie ever cross your mind?
— Luke (Trenton, MI)
A: Very fleetingly. Lake Erie is huge and I’m not a fan of monster waves and wind. Over a four-day event, you know that wind is going to blow at least one of those days. So it wasn’t really in my game plan and I didn’t spend one minute on Lake Erie.

Q: Why has St. Clair now become the dominant of the two lakes? It used to be that Erie was the better of the two. What has changed?
— Danny M. (Southgate, MI)
A: That is a very good question. I feel like the Zebra mussels have changed the characteristics of Lake Erie. There is more baitfish and food in St. Clair then I’ve ever seen before. I feel like a lot of fish have gone up river and (entered) St. Clair. And it didn’t used to be that way – seeing all of those stocky 4-pounders in St. Clair. So that’s my theory, the lack of baitfish in Lake Erie has driven those fish to move.

Q: Hey Larry, what would you say is your favorite bait to throw for fall bass fishing?
— (Springtown, TX)
A: I would have to say I love a Chug Bug. It’s very similar to a Pop-R. In the fall a lot of fish go shallow and when that happens, I love to start with a Chug Bug. A Chug Bug is similar to a Pop-R just longer and skinnier.

Q: What degree angle do you use on your tubes?
— Chris (Chatham, Ontario)
A: It’s pretty important that the line tie comes out of the tube at an angle or on the side.

Q: Larry, have you ever gone goose hunting? If you come up here to Michigan, I will take you on a great hunt!
— Duane (Detroit, MI)
A: Duane, I’d love to come up there and hunt with you but I have more duck hunting and goose hunting down here in Arkansas than I could possibly want. So I’m probably just going to stay here, unwind and relax with family and friends. But thanks for the offer.

Unfortunately, that’s all the time we have to chat with Larry Nixon today. Thanks, once again, to all the fans who tuned in and participated in today’s Reel Chat. And a special thanks to Chevy pro Larry Nixon, the 2012 FLW Tour Detroit River winner, for giving us his time and insights into bass fishing.