UPCOMING EVENT: T-H Marine BFL - 2019 - Lake Okeechobee

FISHING LEAGUE WORLDWIDE

Collings Chasing Childhood Dream at Ouachita

Rookie FLW Tour angler Sheldon Collings isn’t going to make the same mistakes at Lake Ouachita that doomed him at Lake St. Clair and lost him Rookie of the Year honors. This time, at the Forrest Wood Cup and in pursuit of the biggest prize in professional fishing, it’s going to be different.

Collings knows he only needed a steady performance on day two at St. Clair to continue fishing through the weekend and lock up the ROY race. Finesse fishing is his bailiwick, and few lakes set up better for finesse tactics to catch a ton of big fish.

The pressure got to the 20-year-old Oklahoma pro, and instead of staying the course, Collings strayed from his game plan and came up well short of his goal of 15-plus pounds on day two, ending his tournament and any shot at ROY.

“I’m not going to lie, I was so tore up,” Collings says. “It was finesse fishing in clear water. The second day, it hit me really, really hard. I fished the way I didn’t need to fish.”

That kind of pressure isn’t going to sink Collings at Ouachita. He’s been there before, and he’s experienced what it feels like to succumb to those emotions. And for a 20-year-old angler — the youngest in the Cup field — it might just be that experience that teaches Collings what it will take to win an even bigger prize.

Collings let us ride along with him on day three of practice to get a closer look at his preparation and talk a little fishing.

 

Collings launches for practice a little later than usual on day three thanks to a damaged lower unit on his outboard that necessitated some repairs and put him behind schedule. By 8:10 a.m., he’s on the water and making a short run to his first spot of the day. His game plan is simple.

“I’m just going to keep a Plopper or a buzzbait in my hand and turn the trolling motor on 10,” he says.

That’s been the strategy from day one, surprisingly enough, given the amount of deep brush that Ouachita holds. It sets up well for finesse or semi-power tactics, but the same deep brush can also hold mounds of stripers, small spotted bass, walleyes and every other species that calls Ouachita home.

“There’s no point in me going out deep,” Collings says. “This is what I need to be doing. It only takes five bites per day.”

Collings’ shallow-water approach has worked well so far. He caught a limit of 14 pounds on day one of practice, and every day he’s learning more and more about the lake.

 

“I get chills thinking about being here at the age of 20,” Collings says. “Being able to win it would be a dream come true.

“I told my grandma when I was 8 that I was going to be the youngest to ever win the Bassmaster Classic, and this is even bigger.”

At 9 a.m., Collings finally hooks into his first fish, a little largemouth that probably won’t be much help during the tournament but is an encouraging sign to continue fishing shallow with topwaters. 

Ten minutes later, though, it’s time to deviate from the plan as Collings picks up a spinning rod he’s rigged with a weightless wacky-rigged 4-inch Yamamoto Senko.

“I can’t take it,” he says. “I’ve got to get a spinning rod out. That tree looks too good.”

With no luck working the branches of a couple laydowns, the rookie goes back to working a variety of topwaters along the banks of a large pocket with some standing timber, which he suspects might hold some winning fish. He’s getting into a groove until a fray in his line sends his buzzbait sailing and it’s time to tie on a new one.

“I went full-send mode on that one,” he jokes. “There’s probably a 4-pounder down there chewing on my buzzbait.”

 

Family means everything to Collings, and he’s quick to point out how many sacrifices his parents have made to help him chase his dream of making a living fishing professionally. Practicing on Ouachita, for the biggest tournament in professional fishing, makes it easy to keep that in perspective.

“When I was 15 or 16, my parents started home-schooling me so I could fish the BFLs,” he says. “They’ve done everything to help me out, and I’m just so thankful for it.”

Humility isn’t often something one associates with being 20 years old, but Collings has it in spades. He also understands that no matter how important the Cup is, there are some things in life that are far more important, even if it means not pre-fishing Ouachita after the tournament at St. Clair.

On July 14, Collings’ girlfriend, KC, was involved in a serious car accident that left her with a broken back and a long road to a full recovery. Collings spent the next two weeks by her side, forgoing any chance to get out on Ouachita before official practice this week.

“The ones you love are a whole lot more important than money,” he says.

 

Fishing starts to heat up for Collings around 9:45 a.m. He finds a portion of a shallow cut with murkier water, and the topwater bite turns on. He misses a couple blow-ups before finally hooking into a 1 1/2-pounder and sees it has some followers — the first roaming wolfpack he’s seen so far in practice.

At 9:55, Collings hooks into a spotted bass on a 4-inch Chug’n Spook Jr. As he swings the fish into the boat, it spits up a partially digested shad of about the same size as his walking bait. Another clue that could give Collings an advantage in the tournament.

 

At 10:15, Collings finishes running the banks of the shallow cut before idling back to the main lake and preparing for a short run to one of Ouachita’s small marinas. He’s hoping to find some keepers flipping dock slips.

After tossing a Senko and a Whopper Plopper 130 around some slips with no luck, it’s time to head deeper into the cove where there’s some shallow water and a submerged roadbed that Collings is certain will hold some fish.

He ties on a crankbait. There's about 6 feet of water around the roadbed and the remnants of an old submerged bridg. Only minutes go by before he lands a walleye and a couple small spots. He hasn’t come across any big bass yet, but he’s encouraged by the structure and murky water in that section of the lake.

 

Collings estimates it will take 45 or 46 pounds to win the Cup this year. So far, it’s been a struggle finding the kind of fish it will take to hit that mark.

“A 4-pound-class fish is going to go a long way in this tournament,” he says.

At 11:10, Collings decides to fish one more spot before lunch. He heads to the very back of the cove and throws a crankbait next to the bridge pilings and surrounding riprap. He lands a chunky largemouth, though it’s a little too short to be more than a pound.

Still, it’s another encouraging sign, especially since changing weather this week could force more big fish into those shallow, murky areas.

 

At 11:20, Collings decides it's time for lunch. He plans to run up to the river in the afternoon, but the heat of the day calls for a brief stint in the air-conditioned Mountain Harbor Marina’s floating Subway.

Inside, Collings sits down near a number of other Cup participants — all of whom are older and more experienced than Collings.

The rookie doesn’t turn 21 until February, and while age isn’t everything, Collings admits he still gets a little nervous seeing the likes of Scott Martin, Andy Morgan and Bryan Thrift at the boat ramp during tournaments.

“I’ll probably be really nervous for this one,” he says. “But once I get out on the water, I don’t think about it.”

Experience can teach many lessons, and Collings has certainly learned more than his share this year. The letdown at St. Clair taught him to fish the way he knows how to fish, pressure be damned. Ouachita is teaching him some lessons, too, and if he continues taking them to heart this week, he might just experience what it feels like to be a Forrest Wood Cup champion.

Tags: justin-onslow  pre-tournament  2018-08-10-forrest-wood-cup- 

/news/2019-01-15-top-10-patterns-from-sam-rayburn

Top 10 Patterns from Sam Rayburn

Fishing crankbaits, Carolina rigs and drop-shots around flooded hydrilla for Sam Rayburn Reservoir largemouths dominated the top 10 at the FLW Tour opener. Check out the top 10 patterns feature to learn more about effective patterns for working grass. READ MORE »

/news/2019-01-15-top-10-baits-from-sam-rayburn

Top 10 Baits from Sam Rayburn

Fishing deep-diving crankbait, dragging Carolina rigs and working finesse baits such as drop-shots were the keys to success at the FLW Tour opener at Sam Rayburn. Here are the bass-fishing baits that the top pros used. READ MORE »

/news/2019-01-14-bolton-hangs-on

Bolton Hangs On

With a 17-pound, 6-ounce bag on day four of the FLW Tour opener on Sam Rayburn, which was presented by Polaris, the 24-year Tour veteran did something he’s been within ounces of doing so many times before: He won. He won his first Tour event, and he did it despite a handful of tremendous anglers — including standout rookie Nick LeBrun and the best angler on the planet, Bryan Thrift — breathing down his neck in a furious effort to outpace the Benton, Ky., pro. READ MORE »

/news/2019-01-12-bolton-bearing-down-on-first-tour-w

Bolton Bearing Down on First Tour W

Day three of the FLW Tour presented by Polaris on Sam Rayburn was tougher overall, but Terry Bolton still put 19 pounds, 10 ounces in the boat to boost his leading total to 73-13. Behind him, Nick LeBrun gained some ground, edging to within 5 pounds of the lead, weighing 20-13 for a 69-1 total. Going into the final day, Bolton, LeBrun and Bryan Thrift have all tallied more than 68 pounds, and they’ll be shooting it out in Texas for the win. READ MORE »

/news/2019-01-11-bolton-busts-33-9-on-big-sam

Bolton Busts 33-9 on Big Sam

Terry “Blade” Bolton can catch ‘em, of that there’s no doubt, and recently he’s threatened for his first FLW Tour win, but he may have his best shot yet in the FLW Tour opener presented by Polaris on Sam Rayburn. After weighing a whopping 33 pounds, 9 ounces on day two, Bolton took the lead with a 54-3 total. In second, Nick LeBrun followed up his 29-pound day one with 19-2 for a 48-4 total – just shy of 6 pounds behind Bolton. READ MORE »

/news/2019-01-10-lebrun-drops-29-on-rayburn

LeBrun Drops 29 on Rayburn

Winner of the T-H Marine Bass Fishing League (BFL) All-American in 2018, Nick LeBrun started his FLW Tour career in style, smashing a personal-best bag of 29 pounds, 2 ounces for the lead. Overall, the fishing on day one of the FLW Tour presented by Polaris on Sam Rayburn was excellent, with plenty of limits and 10 bags over 20 pounds. Close behind LeBrun is Sam George, another rookie, who put a whopping 28-5 in the boat to start things off. Behind them, Chad Warren and Jordan Osborne both topped 25 pounds. READ MORE »

/news/2019-01-09-cecil-s-final-morning-of-practice

Cecil’s Final Morning of Practice

Russell Cecil is one of a number of standout Texas anglers fishing the FLW Tour opener this week on Sam Rayburn. After a lackluster rookie campaign in 2018, fishing near home is a great opportunity for the Willis, Texas, pro to get the year started off strong. Though the conditions are far from normal, a few hours on the final day of practice reveal that Cecil certainly has a read on the bass. READ MORE »

/news/2019-01-08-flw-live-schedule-for-sam-rayburn

FLW Live Schedule for Sam Rayburn

The 2019 FLW Live seasons kicks off on the big bass factory of Sam Rayburn Reservoir in Brookeland, Texas. Watch your favorite stars such as Scott Martin and Bryan Thrift weigh-in at the FLW Tour season opener, and then follow the weekend action live with the top pros. READ MORE »

/news/2019-01-07-figuring-out-rayburn-with-powell

Figuring Out Rayburn with Powell

Hensley Powell has quickly and quietly amassed quite a record with FLW. In just three years fishing the Costa FLW Series, he’s earned over $90,000, and he got a win at Table Rock in the Central Division in 2018. READ MORE »

/news/2019-01-07-sam-rayburn-lake-tour

Sam Rayburn Lake Tour

This year, the FLW Tour kicks off in Texas with a showdown presented by Polaris on Sam Rayburn. Big Sam hasn’t hosted too many FLW Tour events in the past, but it’s loaded with bass and bass fishing history. The lake is much higher than normal right now, which will no doubt produce different fishing than is typical for winter on Rayburn. READ MORE »

/news/2019-01-06-practice-starts-at-rayburn

Practice Starts at Rayburn

Day one of practice for the FLW Tour presented by Polaris on Sam Rayburn started this morning. We hung around takeoff to see friends we haven't seen in months and to get the season underway.  READ MORE »

/news/2019-01-05-childs-holds-on-for-co-angler-win

Childs Holds on for Co-angler Win

Jay Childs caught two giant largemouths on day one, along with a smaller keeper, to take the early lead at Lake Amistad. Then he survived today for the win with a pair of keepers that included one smallmouth. READ MORE »

/news/2019-01-04-high-water-will-factor-at-rayburn

High Water will Factor at Rayburn

Typical winter fishing on Sam Rayburn would call for a lot of lipless crankbaits, Carolina rigs and a focus on offshore structure and submerged grass. However, for the FLW Tour opener January 10-13 a lot of that may be out the window – or at least a lot different than many of the Rayburn sticks in the field are used to. Sam Rayburn has risen steadily since December 10th, and as of January 3, the lake is at 171.43 feet, which is 7 feet over full pool of 164.4 feet. READ MORE »

/news/2019-01-03-by-the-numbers-sam-rayburn

By the Numbers: Sam Rayburn

The 2019 FLW Tour takes to the waters of Sam Rayburn Reservoir Jan. 10-13 for the opening event of the new season. Rayburn can produce some absolute giants in January, and if the weather cooperates, there’s potential for an abundance of massive bags. READ MORE »

/news/2018-12-28-big-bass-expected-at-opener-on-amistad

Big Bass Expected at Opener on Amistad

Lake Amistad might not kick out quite as many massive stringers of largemouth bass as it used to, but the legendary south Texas border reservoir is still a factory for big fish. According to local guide and always tournament favorite Ray “Hanselmania” Hanselman, there are some real giants to be caught at Amistad, but they’ll be at a premium when the Costa FLW Series Southwestern Division rolls into Del Rio to kick off the 2019 season on Jan. 3 READ MORE »

/tips/2018-12-06-luke-dunkin-is-pulling-back-the-curtain

Luke Dunkin is Pulling Back the Curtain

With Luke Dunkin, what you see is what you get. And you get to see a lot. The three-year FLW pro is all about authenticity – the kind of authenticity that only comes from pulling back the curtain to reveal everything that happens in the life of a Tour angler. As Dunkin puts it, “it’s not all roses.” But make no mistake: None of that is breaking Dunkin. In fact, those sometimes-hard-to-stomach drawbacks to fishing professionally are exactly what motivate Dunkin to do what he loves nearly as much as fishing – letting other people into that life. READ MORE »

/tips/2018-11-21-thanksgiving-with-the-pros

Thanksgiving with the Pros

With tournament season on hiatus for the holidays, FLW pros have a couple months before the start of the 2019 FLW Tour season to tackle to-do lists, spend time with family and prepare for another long stretch both on the water and traveling between events. This time of year, at least, most of those responsibilities are pushed to the back burner in favor of quality time with loved ones, big meals and maybe a couple post-Thanksgiving meal naps. READ MORE »

/tips/2018-11-20-erik-luzak-wants-to-go-fast

Erik Luzak Wants to Go Fast

Erik Luzak is a man who likes speed. He’s an adrenaline junkie who spends his winters ripping through snow on a sled (or, as we in the States call it, a “snowmobile”) or a snowboard. He rides wakeboards and mountain bikes. His girlfriend, Emily Roberts, is a well-known motorcycle rider in Canada and one of Luzak’s biggest supporters. READ MORE »

/tips/2018-11-16-how-to-fish-lipless-crankbaits

How to Fish Lipless Crankbaits

As the name suggests, lipless crankbaits are just that – lipless. Unlike their billed counterparts, lipless crankbaits don’t have a diving lip to counteract the natural buoyancy of the bait. As a result, lipless crankbaits are made to sink and can be fished at varying depths with a wobbling side-to-side action. READ MORE »

/tips/2018-11-08-how-to-fish-square-bill-crankbaits

How to Fish Square-Bill Crankbaits

The unique shape of a square-bill’s lip (spoiler: it’s square) makes it ideal for banging off cover such as rocks and branches without getting hung up. That disturbance caused by a crankbait hitting and deflecting away from cover is often what triggers nearby fish to bite. READ MORE »