GREENVILLE, S.C. – JR Wright doesn’t travel on the Walmart FLW Tour with hopes of becoming rich and famous. Sure, he’s competitive and wants to win, but he mainly fishes the Tour to help his close friend and protege of sorts Cody Meyer.
Back home the two fish team tournaments together. On Tour, they travel and practice collectively all season. To hear Wright tell it, he’s just along for the ride. If anything, he’ll help Meyer eliminate certain baits from time to time. But the truth is that the Truckee, Calif., co-angler is a rare bass-fishing talent, just like his protege. And together, they make quite a team.
At the 2010 Forest Wood Cup on Lake Lanier, Wright would have won if not for a dead-fish penalty. Eight months later and about 150 miles to the north, Wright got his redemption on Lake Hartwell.
“These lakes just kind of suit us,” Wright explained, referring to his Western contingent. “And these fish haven’t seen a lot of the stuff we throw.”
Wright opened the tournament in second place with 16 pounds, 3 ounces. On days two and three, when the other co-anglers faltered, he was remarkably consistent – catching 12-2 and 12-4. He finished with a three-day total of 15 bass weighing 40 pounds, 9 ounces.
“I fished three different styles this week,” he said. “The first day I was fishing beds in stained water and I threw a drop-shot (rig) with a Jackall Flick Shake. On day two they were relating to the bottom so I threw a wacky-rigged Trick Worm. Today I caught them on a spinnerbait (double Colorado blades) and a drop-shot that I throw down on the Delta. The worm on the drop shot was a Margarita Mutilator. It’s 7 inches long and I was using a 6-inch leader in about a foot of water. The key today was pitching to isolated stickups. But every day the fishing changed.”
Wright wanted to thank his pros for giving him ample water to fish and his family for supporting him as he travels thousands of miles away from his home several times each year. And he also wanted to thank Meyer, who he considers to be like a son.
“I’m very fortunate to practice with Cody, who everyone thinks is a finesse fisherman. But believe me, he’s not. He’s one of the best frog fishermen I’ve ever seen and just an overall great angler. And all our work together paid off big time in this one.”
For winning his third FLW Outdoors tournament and his first FLW Tour event, Wright took home $25,000.
Moo Bae’s goal at the start of the FLW Tour season was to win the Co-angler of the Year award. And after the first two Majors of the year, Bae is off to a great start. After taking fifth at Beaver Lake to start this season, Bae finished second at Hartwell. His 11-pound, 7-ounce limit on day three brought him all the way up from seventh.
“To be honest, I was only shooting for second,” he said. “I didn’t think it was possible to catch JR. He had a big lead and he always catches them. I really have to thank Mike Reynolds. He was my pro partner the first day and we fished together again today.”
Bae said Reynolds focused his efforts in the clear water near the dam Saturday. The West Friendship, Md., co-angler caught three largemouths and two spotted bass on a 7-inch Aaron’s Magic straight-tail worm fished on a 1/8-ounce shaky head.
“JR’s a great fisherman and he deserves it. It does seem like I come close a lot, but I’m very happy with two top-10s to start the season.”
For finishing second with a total weight of 33 pounds, Bae earned a check worth $7,500.
Rest of the best
Richard Peek of Centre, Ala., launched up the leaderboard from 12th to third after catching a limit worth 11 pounds, 4 ounces. This is Peek’s first season fishing the FLW Tour after stepping up from the National Guard FLW College Fishing circuit. Peek took sixth at last year’s College Fishing National Championship and in 2009 won the Southeast Division qualifier on Lake Okeechobee.
He finished the Lake Hartwell tournament with 30 pounds, 14 ounces, earning $5,000.
Jeff Sprague of Forney, Texas, caught a limit Saturday weighing 7 pounds, 13 ounces. That moved him up from fifth to fourth place with a total weight of 30 pounds, 11 ounces. Sprague earned $4,000 for his first FLW Tour top-10 finish.
Andy Scholz of Reno, Nev., slipped to fifth place after catching four bass Saturday weighing 6 pounds, 5 ounces. Scholz finished the event with a total weight of 29 pounds, 14 ounces, earning $3,250.
“Each of the first two days I caught a 5-pounder on a white spinnerbait,” said Scholz. “That really seemed to be the key for the big ones.”
Rounding out the top 10 co-anglers at the FLW Tour event on Lake Hartwell:
6th: Tommy Milligan of Seneca, S.C., 29-12, $2,500
7th: Mike Helton of Jeffersonville, Ind., 29-5, $2,000
8th: Nick Hensley of Cumming, Ga., 27-11, $1,800
9th: Doug Caldwell of Kane, Pa., 27-8, $1,700
10th: Spencer Shuffield of Bismarck, Ark., 26-4, $1,600