From time to time, MLF checks in with its anglers to find out what they’ve been up to, what they’re listening to, who they’re following and where they’re heading while out on the tournament trail. This week, we caught up with legendary pro Larry Nixon.
You took 2020 off to get shoulder surgery and you thought you might come back for the tail end of the Tackle Warehouse Pro Circuit season. That didn’t happen, but you’re coming back now. How’s your health?
Well, we got the surgery done on January 6, and they wanted six months of recovery, at least. Well, six months went by and I still had two numb fingers, and with COVID going on, I really didn’t want to go to Little Rock to see anybody. I was kinda hiding from it, as much as I was trying to rehab here at home.
When I decided to go get my fingers checked, I knew that I wasn’t going to fish, period, if I didn’t get feeling back in my little finger and my ring finger on my right hand. Then I had to go to a neurologist, and I had to have another surgery on my elbow, to relieve a nerve there. My ring finger is perfect right now, my little finger is still a bit tingly, but it’s coming back. I can fish now – I’ve been fishing this summer, and I crappie fished this winter. I don’t have all of my muscle structure back in my right arm to fish a tournament yet, but I’m gonna fish.
How are you approaching this season? It’s got to have been a while since you took a whole year off from fishing.
It’s been forever. Once I got to where I could fish, I have fished three or four hours a couple days a week. I’m ready to go fishing. It’s going to take me a little while to get back to 100 percent, but I’m 70 or 80 percent, and once I get my all-day stamina back, I don’t think it’ll be a problem.
I’m planning on going somewhere before we go to Okeechobee to put in three or four days of fishing. I just can’t make up my mind whether I want to go to Rayburn and fish the Toyota Series down there or maybe the Harris Chain to just enjoy it to get back in shape.
Are you traveling with Joey Cifuentes again?
Yes, I am. I’m going to travel with Joey because he’s such a big help if I need something that requires muscle. I won’t be able to lift anything over 40 pounds with this shoulder ever again because of the procedure they had to do. It’s pain-free, but you don’t have the strength. I can set the hook, I can reel, I can do anything, but there are some things, like grabbing a battery, that are out of the question now.
Sounds like you’re going to need someone to carry your day-one bag at Okeechobee.
The last two years, I had a bag carrier pretty much every event because of my shoulder. If I catch me about a 25-pound sack, I’m going to be looking for a bag carrier.
Did you keep all your sponsors we’re used to, or is it going to be a new look?
It’s going to be pretty much all the same. I don’t have a motor sponsor; I’m footing that bill myself. But, after 42 years with one company, what can you offer another company other than your name? I tried that, and it didn’t work, it wasn’t good enough for them, so I finally just got one.
But, other than that, every one of my sponsors stayed with me. I never had an issue with that. I probably did more sponsor work last year, in February and March, before COVID shut me down, than I had in 10 or 15 years. I flew somewhere every weekend until the airlines shut down. In fact, on my last flight home from a seminar in Ohio, the plane was empty except for me.
Did not fishing last year give you a glimpse of what retirement might look like?
I could see it, I could feel it, and I didn’t like it. I still enjoy the sport, I enjoy fishing and going to the tournaments. COVID relieved a lot of the tensions I would have had if I’d been sitting there with guys going all over the place to the tournaments. But, it was such a struggle last year, that I couldn’t have picked a better year to go and get me a new shoulder.
But, I didn’t like it. I’m not really in the mood to retire, but it’s inevitable, this year may be the year that tells me I have to, but I sure hope not.
Well, you were still really competitive in 2019, so it seems like you should be able to stay competitive.
I agree, I made the FLW Cup the last year I fished, and I could have done well in it. If a few other guys hadn’t found the same key stuff I found at Hamilton, I’d have been a factor. But, we were dividing fish, and it kept me from having as good a tournament as I could have.
What are your goals for 2021?
I want to make the TITLE. It’s not the FLW Cup, as far as the big show, but it would be interesting to go out and have fun with those kids. My goal is to make the championship and have a decent year.
What kind of music or podcasts do you like to listen to on the road?
I listen to country music. I’ll find the nearest country station and drive it until it ends and then I’ll find me another one. I don’t have music on my phone or any of that stuff.
If you could spend one day in the boat with another pro, who would it be?
Definitely Andy Morgan. I like his style, he keeps it simple and basic like me, and you can always learn from somebody like that. I know I can’t handle my equipment like Andy because he’s still young and he’s got all the arms and hands to flip and pitch with. But it’s always good to fish with somebody that fishes your style.
Got any favorite snacks or drinks on the road or in the boat?
Lance crackers. The peanut butter and cheddar ones, the ol’ orange ones. I’ve got ‘em everywhere I go. I think the reason why I like them is they kind of stick with me a little bit. I don’t take but a pack or two a day, and it’s like a sandwich almost.
Any technique you’d like to improve on for the 2021 season?
I’m good with what I’m good at.
Is there anything you really miss about old-school tournaments?
I miss the old school. I was one of those people that could set down and dissect a paper map and go out there and find fish without having to look for fish on my electronics. I didn’t worry about looking at fish, I worried about finding spots where fish lived. The new school now is everybody is looking at their units and looking at the fish and then figuring out how to make them bite, and that definitely ain’t me.
I’m going to have to learn that. I have Lowrance ActiveTarget on my boat, but I’m going to be real careful that I don’t let it affect what I do and how I fish. I may not ever win again because of the way the guys are fishing now, looking at the fish, but I can’t worry about that. I’m going to learn it the best I can, but I’m not going to change the way that I fish.
I’d be real worried about it if I was 40 years old. In fact, I’d be worried about it to the point where I’d be out living with one on the bow of my boat right now to get as good as I possibly can be. Because you can’t compete with these kids right now, and that kind of fishing is available pretty much half the year, and it may be more than that.
Is there something you love about modern fishing? Big boats? Heated truck seats?
The most important thing about the modern tournament is the mapping system sitting right in front of your face. It’s semi-new now, but it’s still one of the things I really like about modern fishing. I’m not sitting there unfolding an old paper map having the wind rip it out of my hands while I’m trying to find another spot to go fish. That’s probably the most modern thing that I really like right now.
You still carry marker buoys, right?
Amen. I’ve definitely still got marker buoys, and I use ‘em. One of the hardest things right now for me to get used to with modern imaging is how fast the boat is actually moving while you’re looking for fish. When you’re cruising around there looking and see a school of fish over about 40 feet, you can move 40 feet in a blink of an eye and all of a sudden the fish are under your bloomin’ boat. On some lakes the fish don’t just sit there and wait on you, but with a marker buoy, can stop the boat and stay put, and it helps me to keep my distance from my target.