January 25, 2003 by Gary Mortenson
Georgia native survives early morning trauma to win by more than 8 pounds
CLEWISTON, Fla. - The way the day started for Pat Fisher, it was nearly a miracle that he was able to capture the one thing that has eluded him throughout his career - a win at an FLW Tour event. After racing more than an hour to his prime fishing location, Fisher made an early flip toward some floating grass mats and pulled out a 3-pound largemouth bass. However, little did he know at the time, he would have to throw it right back into the water.
"After I caught that fish, I called (tournament director) Bill Taylor to ask where my camera boat was," he said. "(Taylor) told me not to fish until the camera boat got there. I then told him I had already caught a 3-pounder. He said to throw it back into the water because I wasn't allowed to fish without a camera boat. Those were the rules. I couldn't believe it."
Eventually, the lost camera boat found Fisher. However, it was already too late to salvage what could have been an extremely important fish - especially given the difficulty of the bite over the previous 24 hours.
"Throwing that fish back really tore me up inside," Fisher said.
Although it was a tough break for Fisher, tournament rules expressly dictate that each angler is responsible for the location of his or her camera boat at all times during the final two days of FLW competition. In addition, the rules also clearly state that an angler cannot fish without the presence of an observer, in this case, the camera boat operators.
However, like all good champions, Fisher was able to remain focused.
"I didn't catch a fish for another 2 1/2 hours," he said. "But finally, I did get another bite. I was able to relax after that."
Relax he did. Between 10 a.m. and 11 a.m., Fisher landed a competitive limit to add to his day-three bounty - a 10-pound, 6-ounce stringer. If that wasn't amazing enough, he also managed to snare three more weighty bass - most within with 4- to 5-pound range - later in the afternoon. The result? Fisher walked away with his first FLW title with a stellar two-day limit of 32 pounds, 4 ounces.
Not surprisingly, Fisher was ecstatic with his victory.
"It feels awesome," said Fisher, who added his first tour victory to a growing list of accomplishments, including a fourth place finish at last year's FLW Championship. "This is what I've worked for for seven years. I always knew that I had the potential to win one of these things. I really feel like a finally graduated today."
Like most anglers, Fisher targeted floating grass mats in fairly shallow water. Specifically, Fisher landed the majority of his catch in the Buckhead Ridge area of Lake Okeechobee using a flipping technique with 50-pound test line and a Zoom craw worm. Fisher also said that he concentrated primarily on "staging" bass.
Ironically, though, Fisher said he wasn't entirely comfortable flipping toward floating grass mats at the beginning of the tournament. So, without hesitation, he asked for some advice from his good friend and fellow top-10 finalist Mike Surman. As it turned out, Fisher couldn't have asked for a better teacher.
"Mike taught me how to flip these mats," Fisher said. "Right back at you Mike."
With $100,000 in the bank, Fisher said that he will use the money to buy a new house somewhere near his hometown of Buford, Ga. However, he also acknowledged that his victory had given him much more than financial security.
"This win has given me the opportunity to accomplish one of my three goals I set for this year," said Fisher. "I wanted to make three FLW top-10s and win one tournament. And I've already accomplished the hardest goal of the three. It feels great."
But like all great anglers, Fisher said he would continue to look forward.
"The way I figure it, I have about 10 to 15 years of fishing left in this sport," he said. "My ultimate goal is to be the best. Someday, I want to be remembered as the next Kevin VanDam."
Couch doesn't mind taking a backseat to Fisher
Although Rick Couch of Ocala, Fla., was disappointed that he wound up in second place after the hard-fought contest on Lake Okeechobee, he admitted that losing to Fisher made it a little bit easier to swallow.
"Pat is a really close friend of mine and I told him before we even started today that I felt like he had a good shot at winning this tournament," said Couch, who was fishing in his first-ever FLW Tour event. "Then Pat told me of a dream he had the night before. He said, `You know, I think you might be right.'"
"Overall, I'm very pleased with my performance," Couch continued. "I was hoping for some big bites today, but my fish kind of evaporated on me. Hopefully, I'll get them next time. But hey, how can you argue with winning $35,000? That's a whole lot of money."
Like Fisher, Couch also used a flipping technique to land the majority of his 24-pound, 1-ounce catch. He said his bait of choice was a Rite Bite tube bait.
After getting a taste of his first final, Couch said he could hardly wait for the next FLW contest.
"I've spent four years as a pro and I really wanted to earn my way onto the FLW Tour," he said. "Last year I was able to do that after finishing fourth in the EverStart Eastern Division points race. This year, I looked at the FLW Tour schedule and said this is finally my year to move up. I'm really excited. I love to flip and the majority of the lakes on the FLW Tour this year are great flipping lakes. I'm going to win one of these things yet."
Morehead battles it out for third place
(Photo by Gary Mortenson)" BORDER="1" ALIGN="RIGHT">Although Dan Morehead of Paducah, Ky., was in share of the lead with Couch heading into today's events, he just couldn't put enough qualify fish in the livewell to compete for the title.
"I can't complain," said Morehead, who used a total catch of 20 pounds, 4 ounces to win $20,000 in prize money. "I just never got the big bites. What can I say? I had a great week and this is a great way to start the year. I'm not too disappointed."
Andy Morgan of Dayton, Tenn., finished the day where he started off - in fourth place.
"I really had a great two weeks down here," said Morgan, who also won the EverStart Eastern Division event on Lake Okeechobee two weeks prior. "So I can't really complain."
Morgan, who took home a check for $16,000 after landing a two-day stringer of 16 pounds, 4 ounces, used a black and blue Zoom crawfish to land the majority of his catch.
In fifth place was Todd Faircloth of Jasper, Texas. Faircloth used a total catch of 9 pounds to net $14,000 in prize money.
Best of the rest
Rounding out the top-10 finalists were: Clark Wendlandt (sixth) of Cedar Park, Texas, with a catch of 7 pounds, 6 ounces; Mike Surman (seventh) of Boca Raton, Fla., with a catch of 5 pounds, 5 ounces; Billy Bowen, Jr., (eighth) of Ocala, Fla., with a catch of 4 pounds, 13 ounces; Scott Dobson (ninth) of Waterford, Mich., with a catch of 0 pounds; and Rock Monteith (tenth) of Columbia, S.C., with a catch of 0 pounds. Monteith finished in 10th place by virtue of a tournament tiebreaker.
FLW action continues Feb. 12-15 at the Atchafalaya Basin located in Morgan City, La.
Quick Bites: Lake Okeechobee, Day 4