June 13, 2014 by David A. Brown
Marcus Sykora epitomizes the all-America dream of a working guy working on his bass fishing career. How's he doing? Well, last weekend's victory at the Walmart Bass Fishing League All-American on Wilson Lake pretty much sums it up.
The $100,000 paycheck will certainly help with everything from future tournament expenses to all those things this dedicated family man likes to do for his wife, Andrea, 6-year-old daughter, Madison, and 4-year-old son, Mason.
But beyond the immediate cash flow, Sykora says he's thrilled with that elusive prize - punching his ticket to the Forrest Wood Cup on South Carolina's Lake Murray, August 14-17.
"Earning a spot in the Forrest Wood Cup means everything to me," he says. "It's the highest platform - the pinnacle of our sport. Starting through the grassroots level of the BFL and getting to that pinnacle is very exciting. It's something I'm very proud of. Hopefully I'll represent the BFL nation proudly."
Sykora, who qualified for the All-American through the Illini Division, has 22 top-10 finishes in the BFL, with eight victories to his credit. In 2012, he claimed a trio of victories on Lake of the Ozarks, Truman and Barkley.
In addition to his BFL accomplishments, Sykora has also been a solid competitor in the Rayovac FLW Series Central Division. Here, he has two top 10s on Lake of the Ozarks (seventh in 2010, third in 2013).
Is he pondering a step up to the Walmart FLW Tour? The State Farm Insurance agent says it's coming, "at some point in time."
"I don't know if my timing is right," Sykora says. "I have young children at home, and I have an important business to run. It's definitely something that's on my mind. There are a lot of moving parts, and I don't want to be on Tour and have to worry about anything stressful back home.
"I'm 37, and I think I'm just now entering my prime fishing years," he adds. "You have to have enough experience to be consistent. The more seasoned you become, the more of a weapon you can be."
Making his home in Osage Beach, Mo., Sykora says his Lake of the Ozarks home waters have provided a diverse training arena in which to hone a broad range of fishing skills that will serve him well in just about any scenario he faces when fishing on the road.
"We're doing everything from flipping way up underneath docks in a foot of water to fishing structure in 25," Sykora says. "Also, we have four distinct seasons, and I think this is what makes Midwestern fishermen very successful. We get to see a lot of different phases that the fish enter, so we get a good idea of their habits, movements and forage base.
"The only thing we don't have is grass," he continues. "If we had grass in Missouri, I think we'd have it all."
Sykora says he was a Tennessee River fan long before his win on Wilson. But with an assortment of Ozark powerhouses within easy reach, Sykora says he's lucky to have his roots planted in such an awesome fishing region.
"We have Truman Lake, which is a lowland reservoir that's really flat with lots of timber, stumps and wood; we have Lake of the Ozarks, which I would call a borderline highland reservoir with a lot of fish at a lot of different depths; and we have Table Rock, which is a highland reservoir with crystal-clear water," he says. "So within an hour's drive of my house, I could be fishing a tournament one day where I'm fishing less than 5 feet, and the next day I'm fishing more than 40, and I don't skip a beat. I think that's really what the Ozark-style fisheries have done for me as far as preparation outside the state of Missouri."
With the whirlwind of All-American "love and support" still swirling around him, Sykora admits he's had little time to start planning for Lake Murray. Nevertheless, he points to the pressure-cooker mentality of his BFL roots as a refining tool that should help him perform in multiday events like the four-day Forrest Wood Cup.
"I like that in the BFLs you don't have the time constraints of a multiple-day event, so you're not away from home as much," he says. "But what I think makes the BFL such a challenging format is that you have to catch big fish and catch them now. You're not fishing for points; you're fishing for the win.
"Also, you're not only fishing against guys who travel out of their zip codes, but you're also fishing against the top sticks on that lake," adds Sykora. "You have to make quick decisions. Everything has to go right, and you only have eight hours to make it go right."
If things go well, this All-American champ will have four eight-hour opportunities to earn another trophy - a much bigger, brighter trophy - at the Forrest Wood Cup Aug. 14-17.
For the complete story of Sykora's All-American victory, click here.
For more about the Forrest Wood Cup, go to ForrestWoodCup.com.