It’s Morgan … Again
Giving a speech is becoming old hat for Andy Morgan, who was recognized as Walmart FLW Tour 2016 Angler of the Year at the pretournament meeting and banquet of the Forrest Wood Cup on Wednesday. It marked the third time in four years that the Tennessee fisherman has won the title.
In introducing Morgan, master of ceremonies Chris Jones noted that Morgan once told him that he missed his high school graduation so that he could compete in a local tournament instead.
“That was true about my high school graduation,” Morgan told the crowd at the banquet. “I guess I figured I could make a living by fishing.”
An accurate assessment, considering that Morgan has earned more than $2 million during his career competing in various FLW circuits. He collected $100,000 for each of his three AOY titles.
Ranger Cup Winners Named
Fishing tournaments out of a Ranger bass boat can be rewarding in more ways than one. Five competitors in the Forrest Wood Cup were reminded of that at the banquet when Scott Arms, Ranger Boats’ promotion manager, announced the Ranger Cup awards given to the top five points leaders who fish out of Rangers.
They include Canadian pro Chris Johnston, who finished second overall in the Angler of the Year standings. He won a fully equipped Ranger Z518C with a state-of-the-art Evinrude outboard. Jacob Wheeler, second in the Ranger Cup standings and fourth overall in AOY points, got $10,000. Scott Martin, ninth overall and third in the Ranger points tally, collected $8,000 ($33,000 this season counting the $25,000 he won at Lake Champlain for finishing first in that event). Rounding out the top five in the Ranger Cup race were Mark Rose (10th overall in the AOY race) with $7,000 and Shinichi Fukae in fifth place (and 11th overall) with a $5,000 bonus.
Arms noted that Ranger paid out $155,000 in Ranger Cup bonuses to its high-finishing pros on Tour in 2016, and the program has paid out more than $17 million in its existence. Cup qualifier Scott Canterbury was another big winner. He got $25,000 for his first-place finish at Beaver Lake.
“I might add that this year’s top points finishers have earned more than $400,000 in Ranger Cup money during their careers,” Arms added.
Something for Everyone
In size and scope, this year’s FLW Expo at the Forrest Wood Cup surpasses its predecessors by several thousand feet and the number of vendors in attendance. The show took place at Huntsville’s Von Braun Center. According to Show Director Kim Lynn, there were 104 booths ranging in size from about 100 square feet to more than 1,000 square feet.
Sponsor, retail and display booths offered a smorgasbord of products and services including everything from fishing tackle to boating equipment, tow vehicle makeovers to organizations that promote fishing. The largest booths were reserved for FLW’s family of sponsors, including Ranger Boats, Evinrude, Mercury, Costa, Quaker State and a bevy of lure and rod and reel manufacturers.
Several free fishing seminars conducted by the likes of Hank Parker and Jimmy Houston and several FLW pros also awaited visitors. Likewise, free product samples and children’s attractions were offered.
Attractions weren’t confined to the inside of the arena. The annual Bass & Barbecue Festival included free samples to visitors both Saturday and Sunday.
Velvick Repeats as Cup Co-host
Former B.A.S.S. Elite Series stick Byron Velvick made his second consecutive appearance as co-host of the Forrest Wood Cup weigh-ins and takeoff shows with longtime master of ceremonies Chris Jones, and some folks are beginning to wonder if it’s going to be a permanent gig for Velvick.
At least one person hopes so: Byron Velvick. Since suffering back injuries in a boat accident on the California Delta and undergoing spinal fusion surgery in 2010, Velvick has never regained the same level of athletic ability that helped him win the WON BASS U.S. Open in 2001 and place in the top 10 of various B.A.S.S. events nine times.
Family duties also have made the 52-year-old Velvick more reluctant to continue his career in professional fishing. He’s the father of a 5-year-old and wants to spend more time with her as she grows up. However, Velvick is well-known and well-liked in and out of fishing circles, and his tournament background gives him some credence as a color commentator.
“I would love to be a part of the FLW Tour, but I don’t have any expectations other than making it known that I’m very interested,” says Velvick, who took a leave of absence from tournament fishing last year. “Trish [Blake, FLW’s president of marketing] called me and asked if I would be interested in co-hosting with Chris. I said sure – what a compliment.”
In 2004, Velvick, who lived in California before moving to Boerne, Texas, and Lake Amistad, starred in the television series “The Bachelor.” He says he still plans to fish local and regional events when his schedule allows.
Denny Brauer: The Goal Still Beckons
The dream is diverted, but not defeated.
When Denny Brauer qualified to fish the 2016 Forrest Wood Cup through the 2015 Costa FLW Series Championship, he knew that winning the tournament would be a long-shot affair.
Not that he’s rusty, or that he hasn’t kept up with the latest lures, techniques and fish-finding equipment. But a four-day tournament in August takes a grueling toll on anglers young and old, and the 60-something Texas pro doesn’t have the strength or stamina he had in the days when he was THE MAN. His latest quest ended on day two at the Cup when he weighed in a small limit to place 38th in the standings.
It’s the dream of every FLW Tour angler to win the Forrest Wood Cup. For a few, the dream is to become the first two-time winner. For Brauer, being able to hoist that big silver cup over his head even once represents a bigger accomplishment. He would become the first person to win all of bass fishing’s major milestones: Bassmaster Classic winner, FLW Tour Angler of the Year, B.A.S.S. Angler of the Year and Forrest Wood Cup champion.
Brauer has the trophy hardware that proves he managed the first three. It’s the Forrest Wood Cup championship that has eluded him in five tries. Not that Brauer needs much embellishment to his record – he’s already one of bass fishing’s immortals – but the very best tournament anglers always have a scratch that they have to itch, and winning the FLW Tour’s grandest prize is Brauer’s.
“I thought I had a pretty good game plan going in. It was about the same as the leader’s [John Cox] – fish the back ends of feeder creeks that had cooler spring water coming into them,” says Brauer, who resides in Del Rio, Texas, with his wife, Shirley. “I fished four days in pre-practice with my son, Chad, and I had a couple of 20-pound-plus days. But those kinds of fish weren’t there in the tournament. Something changed; it just happens.”
Brauer lost three good keepers in the two days he fished, including two on Friday that might have boosted him into the top 20, and settled for five small keepers and 15-14. No excuses from him, though.
“If losing two fish hurts you that bad in a tournament like this, you’re probably not going to go on and have what it takes to win anyway,” says Brauer. “It just wasn’t meant to be this time. That’s part of the game.”
Looking ahead, Brauer probably has a shot at returning to the 2017 Cup through the FLW Series. He’s currently 12th in the Southwestern Division standings with one more tournament to go. That’s at Oklahoma’s Fort Gibson Lake in late September. That event will decide the top 40 anglers and co-anglers who’ll represent the Southwestern Division in the National Championship on Missouri’s Table Rock Lake in early November.
If he’s the top divisional angler there, or finishes among the top five after the divisional titles are decided, Brauer will return to the Forrest Wood Cup in 2017.
“I want to win this tournament [the Forrest Wood Cup] so bad,” admits Brauer. “Forrest Wood has been a hero of mine for a long time. Winning that cup with his initials on it would be really special.”
The odds of doing so might be against him, but Brauer has faced and overcome such odds before. That’s why he’s Denny Brauer.
Guido Doing Better
Among the FLW pros in attendance at the Expo was Dion Hibdon of the famed fishing family from Missouri.
Dion’s father and family patriarch, Guido Hibdon, is suffering from colon cancer and undergoing chemotherapy treatments back home. Needless to say, visitors and vendors at the Expo expressed their concern for the elder Hibdon and assured Dion that his father was in their prayers.
“Dad’s feeling better, and the biggest thing he’s looking forward to is the end of his treatments five months from now,” says Dion. “We’ve been going fishing a lot [on Lake of the Ozarks] when it’s not so doggone hot, and otherwise Dad is getting along. When he had part of his colon removed they said it was in Stage 3, and they found some cancer in his lymph nodes. But the chemo seems to be working.”
Dion notes that what depressed his father the most about undergoing treatment was sitting in an oncologist’s waiting room as patients young and old, and in every stage of cancer, came and went.
“One of the first things he did was walk around the room and introduce himself to the other patients who were there at the time,” recalls Dion. “He told them that he figured he was going to be spending a lot of time with them and they might as well get to know each other.”
Guido Hibdon was diagnosed with throat cancer in 2000, but fully recovered from it.
State-Fish Art Contest Winners Announced
There are a lot of ways to turn children into champions of conservation. All it takes is imagination.
That’s the guiding premise behind the State-Fish Art program of Wildlife Forever, the conservation organization that seeks to ensure that the natural world will always be sustained.
In the case of the State-Fish Art program, the campaign to recruit youngsters in the ongoing struggle takes an indirect path that first engages their creativity – and then, hopefully, their commitment – through an art program that incorporate elements of writing as well.
When State-Fish Art was first conceived in 1998, a few hundred children took part, with their chief assignment being to render a state’s officially designated fish – be it a freshwater or saltwater species – in whatever art medium they chose. This year, almost 5,000 entries were sent in to program manager Karen Hollingsworth, and many of them were on display at the FLW Expo in the Von Braun Center at the Forrest Wood Cup in Huntsville.
This year’s grand champion is Nasa Xu, 12th-grader in Katy, Texas. Her artwork depicted the Texas state fish, a largemouth bass, chasing a shiner. Joe Colby, an elementary school art teacher in Condon, Ore., was named the Educator of the Year. Since the program began, Colby’s students have entered the contest every year. Colby won a $500 gift certificate for art supplies from Triarco.
Besides Xu (first place, grades 10-12), the rest of the top-12 finalists in the annual contest include Sarah Clayton of Ohio (grades 10-12), Electra Lowe of Tennessee (grades 10-12), Lydia Yan of Michigan (grades 7-9), Thomas Kim of California (first place, grades 7-9), Jacqueline Huang of Florida (grades 7-9), Jennifer Zhao of New York (grades 4-6), Michelle Zhao of California (grades 4-6), Jasmine Sun of Massachusetts (first place, grades 4-6), Meaghan Li of Florida (grades K-3), Kate Cropper of Illinois (grades K-3), and Jasmine Wang of Massachusetts (first place, grades K-3).
“The quality of entries this year was nothing short of spectacular,” says Hollingsworth, who notes that the concept for the State-Fish Art contest was suggested by a Midwestern fifth-grader. “There are a lot of good young artists, and we keep seeing more and more of their creativity at work. Also, we had a lot more international entries this year, from Asia, Europe, South America and Africa, in particular, which is pretty cool. This is our 18th year, proving that big things can grow from small beginnings given time.”
Each youngster who enters the annual contest is also required to submit an essay or other textual presentation that incorporates information about a particular state’s official state fish.
“The written component of each submission can take the form of an essay or poem, an interview, or even a combination of art and writing,” adds Hollingsworth. “Some of these get pretty creative too. Of course, the idea is to help children dig down into the environment of fish and other forms of life in the water and develop an understanding of how everything works together and is connected. When you have to write down words, you retain what you learn better.
“When we added the essay concept about five years ago, you could tell when you read some of them that they were more an exercise in cut-and-paste. But now you can tell they’re written more in the youngsters’ own words. It’s pretty phenomenal.”
The top three places in each age group for artwork and essays receive trophies. The six other finalists among the top 12 get medallions and ribbons, and all entrants are presented with certificates of recognition.
Sponsors of WildlifeForever’s State-Fish Art contest include FLW, Triarco, Rapala, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the U.S. Forest Service and the Great Lakes Fishery Commission – among others.
For more information, visit statefishart.org