July 23, 2013 by Brett Carlson
Richard Peek just completed one of the best Walmart FLW Tour seasons in history from the back of the boat, culminating with the Co-angler of the Year award. That COY win gives him an automatic berth into the 2014 Forrest Wood Cup. While he likes having that prequalification in hand, Peek hopes to be towing his own boat to the 2014 Cup.
After three seasons as one of the best co-anglers in the game, Peek thinks it's probably time to make a move.
"I really thought I might be ready to move up last year, but as the deadline got closer I got a little nervous," said the Centre, Ala., native, who ultimately chose to stay in the co-angler ranks during 2013. "After this season, I can say the co-angler side is where I was meant to be."
In addition to the 2014 Cup berth, Peek's monetary prize for winning COY is a Ranger Z518 with a 200-horsepower outboard engine. At this point, he's not sure if he'll upgrade to a bigger outfit or fish as a pro from the 18-footer. He's just thankful he has the option, considering he thought he blew it at the final stop of the year on Lake Chickamauga.
"I had a decent first day, but I only caught two lousy keepers on day two," recalled Peek. "I thought I was done. I really thought it was over for me. My parents were there and I remember seeing them and giving them the thumbs down. Then I could slowly see the weights going down on day two. That made for the longest weigh-in ever. I was just fortunate the weights fell off like they did."
Peek, who prefishes a full three days with either Justin Lucas or Scott Canterbury, said 2013 was unique in that every one of his practices was bad. But bad turned about to be good in that it prepared him mentally.
"This was my third year doing this and it was the hardest year for figuring out how to get a limit. But that kind of prepared me for how tough it was going to be for the tournament; I knew what to expect. Every day was a struggle and a couple days there, I didn't get five bites. But I think that approach of always keeping your head in the game was the key to winning AOY.
"Practicing with Scott and Justin really helped too. They're both great fishermen with different styles - seeing both really helped. And I can't say enough about putting your time in on the water. Some say you can't really practice as a co-angler and it's all about boat draws, but I don't agree. Seeing that water really helps - whether it's learning what colors they like on a certain end of the lake or what size of crankbait I should be throwing. I always get in three days of practice so I feel like I'm prepared."
Peek got off to a fast at Okeechobee - nearly winning until Justin Jones hooked a 7-pounder with 45 minutes left on the final day. Peek made the next three cuts in a row, but never seriously contented for a win. He said the turning point in his season was Beaver Lake, the third qualifier of the year.
"At Beaver I had like almost a 6-pounder the first day. When I hooked that fish and got it in the boat, that's when I knew it was going to be a good year. I thought maybe I could make a run at the points title. That was the big one because Beaver has always been tough on me, just because of the time of year and the way the boater goes down the banks. Catching that big one took a lot of pressure off."
Employing a big-bite strategy is a fine line for Peek. He prefers to power fish with big swimbaits, topwaters and jigs, but acknowledged downsizing helped in 2013.
"The first two years on Tour I came out looking for big bites. This year I kind of came back and decided to fish for bites. You've got to remember you're fishing for fish the pros have already missed. So I did fish more with drop-shots and shaky heads. But I always have a big rod or two ready. Once I got a limit, it was time to put down the spinning rod and fish for big bites. And a few of those big fish go a long ways in a short season."
While he grabbed the points lead at Beaver, other co-angler big sticks like Jason Johnson, Mark Horton and Anthony Goggins, his old roommate at Auburn, were right there with him. His top-20 cut streak officially ended at Grand Lake, but he still finished 24th. And despite his two-fish day at Chickamauga, he still took 31st - besting Goggins in the overall race by 21 points.
"It was just a solid year of fishing hard and trying to be consistent, nothing spectacular," said Peek. "It's funny, I'm real good friends with fellow co-angler JR Wright from California. He told me before the year started that he was going to stay home so I could win Angler of the Year this year. And that's exactly what happened."
Peek reiterated that Tightlines UV played a huge part in his 2013 success.
"I believe I threw a Tightlines bait at every event this year in some form or fashion, whether it was a jig trailer, a finesse worm or a hog. I really believe that UV technology leads to more bites."
This was Peek's third co-angler points title as he won the Bassmaster Weekend Series Alabama South Division in 2010 and the EverStart Series Southeast Division in 2011. Other notable achievements include winning the second ever FLW College Fishing tournament and the FLW Tour Kentucky Lake event.
"Three years on Tour out of the back of the boat is enough. I think it's time to move on."
Peek is now playing the sponsor game. While he has some backing, a little more would make the decision that much easier.
"I'm probably 90 percent sure right now. I just need a few more commitments from people, I haven't seen a schedule yet and there are a few other considerations. But I'm very close. Seeing guys like Clent Davis, Drew Benton and Casey Martin come up, that motivates me. I fish against those guys a lot. I feel like I can compete and hold my own against those guys."