July 31, 2014 by Colin Moore
Charlie Ingram’s career as a pro angler tracks like the stock market chart of a blue-ribbon company: There are a few downturns along the way, but his graph trends generally higher. This year saw a definite uptick in Ingram’s profile when he qualified for the Forrest Wood Cup with a 31st-place showing in the Walmart FLW Tour Angler of the Year race.
As the folks down in his home territory of central Tennessee might say, he’s just proud to be there. The oldest pro in this year’s championship, Ingram doesn’t harbor any illusions about his prospects on Lake Murray. He’s going to fish as well as he can. He’s going to fish to win, but Murray really isn’t his kind of water, and mid-August isn’t his favorite time to wet a line. However, when you’re 69 years old, as Ingram became on July 14, being able to say you qualified to go after bass fishing’s richest prize is a victory in itself.
Ingram last competed for the Cup in 2008, when he finished 72nd in a field of 77 anglers. That tournament was also on Lake Murray. Ingram has changed a lot in six years, but in ways for the better. He’s more confident about his ability now. He’s healthier, and he’s regained something that he thought was gone for good: his power of concentration.
“Earlier in my career, when I was really doing well, I was better able to concentrate more on fishing – there weren’t as many distractions,” says Ingram. “What separates the Rick Clunns and Andy Morgans from other fishermen is that they’re able to concentrate on what they’re doing. They’re concentrating on fishing 24/7 when they’re supposed to. I know that if all I had to do was fish, and not have to worry about sponsors and other things, I’d be a lot better fisherman.”
Ingram hasn’t done too badly as it is. For instance, you can count on the fingers of one hand the number of anglers who have ever won three or more major tournaments in the same year, and Ingram is one of them. He did it in 1984, when he hit the pro ranks like a tsunami. On lakes as divergent as Missouri’s Truman Lake, the Mississippi River in Wisconsin and Lake Okeechobee, the Tennessee pro got the best of some of the legends of the sport that year. During the ensuing 30 years, he qualified for the Bassmaster Classic eight times and the Forrest Wood Cup five times.
Those who attend the 2014 Forrest Wood Cup in Columbia, S.C., Aug. 14-17 might notice that Ingram has dropped a lot of weight since they last saw him. As a birthday present to himself, he went on a diet in July after topping out at 328 pounds. He’s down to about 270 pounds now, and is aiming for 240 pounds before he’s through.
“In my head I don’t feel any differently now than I did when I was 45, but I want to get back to the way I was in 1984 and 1985, physically,” says Ingram. “There have been times when I’ve fished with pain in my knees or I’ve just felt really tired in a tournament. Fatigue and pain disrupt your concentration, so I’m losing weight, and I’m going to make it a permanent change. I don’t have any choice. If you’re going to play this game when you’re my age, you’ve got to take care of yourself.”
Aside from the usual complaints that accompany anglers on the tournament trail, life is good for Charlie Ingram and family. His wife, Susan, and he live in a refurbished log house built in 1844 on a 490-acre farm near Centerville, Tenn. Charlie begins the 28th season of his television program Fishing University (fishingu.com) this fall on The Outdoor Channel. And, after a solid season that ended with him being in contention to win at Kentucky Lake in June (he wound up in 18th place), he qualified for the Cup.
“It’s all about concentration,” he reiterates. “I think I’ve finally learned how to turn it on and off. I block out everything but fishing. First thing in the morning, I tell my partners that I’m not going to talk much, except to say ‘Get the net.’ And if they want me to get the net for them, sing out. I’ve got my mind on catching bass – that’s all. I make better decisions because of it.”
Ingram’s pre-practice at Murray was tough – as was the case for other contestants, based on reports – but he discovered a pattern that might serve him well when the Forrest Wood Cup begins. Typically, Ingram is a spinnerbait-and-jigs kind of guy, but he’s going for broke on Lake Murray, and that will entail a different approach for him.
“With the electronics I’m running, I can go over the deeper places I’ve found and within two hours make a decision about where I need to be in the Cup,” says Ingram. “To be honest, I’m not much of a dog-day fisherman. I went over there [Lake Murray] the last weekend in July and made a game plan. If it works I’ll do OK; if it doesn’t, I won’t.”
Wherever he winds up in the standings, Charlie Ingram already has proved something to himself and his fans: He still has the right stuff to qualify for championships. His stock is still on the rise.