Having all the right lures and executing proper presentation are what catches fish in a tournament. However, Walmart FLW Tour co-angler Luke Dunkin knows that to win a Tour event and its $20,000 prize from the back of the boat, everything has to be darn near perfect.
“It [perfection] starts with getting to fish your style of fishing, the right pro partner and not losing a fish during the tournament,” Dunkin says.
Check, check and … almost check. Dunkin, of Lawrenceburg, Tenn., experienced as close to perfection as is possible this week on the way to winning the co-angler competition at Tour stop No. 3 on Beaver Lake. His only misstep was a single lost fish that he worried would cost him. It didn’t, and in the end his total weight of 18 pounds, 2 ounces was enough to hold off Tour veteran Todd Lee of Jasper, Ala., by just 3 ounces.
On day one, Dunkin’s pro partner Kevin Stewart fished points on the lower end of the lake.
“I did something completely different from him and was able to stay out of his way but catch fish,” says Dunkin, who relied on a Carolina-rigged 4-inch Zoom Z-Craw in green pumpkin.
Dunkin changed up to a Keitech 2.8 Swim Impact Fat swimbait in the sexy shad color pattern on day two, when he and pro partner Nick Hensley returned to the lower end to fish points. Both locations they fished reached down to 30 feet of water, but most of Dunkin’s bass were caught in the 5- to 15-foot range. He rigged his swimbait on a 3/16-ounce ball-head jig.
“The only thing special I did was glue the soft plastic body to the jighead to keep the swimbait from sliding down,” Dunkin says. “I have to thank Wesley Strader for the swimbaits.
“Also, Nick is a former co-angler and really knows how special it is for a co-angler to win one of these events,” Dunkin adds. “Nick gave me space to fish and catch the bass today. So I also have to thank him.”
The 31-year-old co-angler practices with Shad Schenck and is close friends with Strader. The two pros, who were there to congratulate Dunkin and snap photos of him when he was crowned champion, gave him plenty of advice on how to fish Beaver Lake.
“Just being around and getting to fish with these FLW pros allows you to learn a lot and catch more fish,” Dunkin says. “The dynamics of fishing from the back of the boat is one factor you rarely hear about, but it plays a major part in winning or even doing good as a co-angler in an FLW Tour event. Every day it’s different fishing out of the back of the boat. Some days you catch fish, other days your pro catches fish and some days you both catch fish. The biggest thing is to understand that every day is different and to adjust to your pro and what pattern he is fishing.”
Dunkin works full time at T-H Marine, so he’s already a part of the fishing industry professionally. However, he admits that winning $20,000 could motivate him to move to the front of the boat in the future.
“Maybe,” Dunkin says of switching to the pro side. “We’ll just have to see. You never know.”
Top 10 Co-anglers
1: Luke Dunkin – Lawrenceburg, Tenn. – 18-02 (10) – $20,000
2: Todd Lee – Jasper, Ala. – 17-15 (10) – $7,500
3: Dustin Evans – Eads, Tenn. – 16-04 (8) – $5,000
4: Clint Williams – Fayetteville, Ark. – 15-00 (10) – $4,000
5: Billy Dehart – Burlingame, Calif. – 14-15 (10) – $3,000
6: Bryan New – Belmont, N.C. – 14-13 (8) – $2,500
7: Kerry Barnett – Waldron, Ark. – 14-09 (7) – $2,000
8: Alan Lane – Church Hill, Tenn. – 14-09 (8) – $1,800
9: Timmy Thompkins – Myrtle Beach, S.C. – 14-08 (9) – $1,700
10: Sean Richards – Carson City, Nev. – 14-08 (8) – $1,600
Click here for complete results.