UPCOMING EVENT: PHOENIX BASS FISHING LEAGUE - 2020 - James River

So Close, Yet So Far Away

So Close, Yet So Far Away

(The writer's opinions and observations expressed here are his own, and do not necessarily reflect or represent the views, policies or positions of FLW.)


You know the saying: Close only counts in horseshoes and hand grenades.

Well, being close without it counting might apply to professional bass fishing more than any other sport. Think about it. In what other sport can you literally drive by $125,000 only to miss it by 100 yards or less? It happens all the time on the Walmart FLW Tour.

Everyone has stories of lost fish and missed opportunities, but the true pain comes from being close, yet so far away from the trophy at the same time. Let me tell you how close it can be.

The first Tour event of my pro career on Lake Okeechobee a few weeks ago was an eventful one. Practice was tough on everyone, but I managed to get confidence in three areas.

As practice concluded, Wesley Strader and I talked about how we both felt we had been in the winning area at some point during the three days we spent digging around on the Big O. Did we think we had found the winning fish? No. Not by a long shot. Yet, we felt we had found areas that definitely had the potential to kick out a W.

In practice, the lake was changing every single day, with the weather warming and the water temperature rising. We felt it could explode at any moment.

When day one of the derby came around I had a decision to make. I had found fish on the far north end of the big lake, as well as the south end. Deciding where to go seems simple enough, but there is only so much time in a tournament day. After launching my boat without the plug in and running into the FLW boat-check pontoon (Did I mention I am rookie?), I chose to go north. Wesley decided to go south to an area he and I had both found in practice.

Luke Dunkin

After spending most of the day up North without much success, I pulled the plug on that plan (not literally this time) and ran back south with a little time to spare and put together a limit. The limit included a 7-pound Big O behemoth that bit a Zoom Speed Craw with 20 minutes to go. Not a bad way to end your first day on Tour, right? I felt really good about it and felt like I could build on what I learned during the day to potentially make a charge at the top-20 cut.

The area that I wound up in gave up several bags in the top 20 on day one, including Brandon McMillan’s second-place limit of 22 pounds, 8 ounces.

Wesley finished the day a couple ounces behind me in my other area but had some interesting news. It seemed a waypoint I had shared with Wes was not far at all from where Bradley Hallman was boat-flipping giants.

While I was casting my Dirty Jigs Swim Jig in practice and getting consistent bites, ol’ Bradley was apparently doing work flipping the reed heads. I was close, but not close enough.

Why didn’t I flip, you ask? I did. For miles. I came to Clewiston with the mindset that I was going to catch them flipping or bust. After almost two days of flipping in practice with nothing to lean on, I picked up my Horny Toad and swim jig. Bites started coming in, and I put down my Level flipping stick for good.

I found the area where Bradley did his damage on the last day of practice. I never once flipped the reeds. I foolishly threw my swim jig in between the reeds. Oh, and where did most of my bites come? Whenever I got close to a reed head. Genius move, rookie. I even told my co-angler practice partner that once the tournament began I would slow down and flip. I never did. Heck, I didn’t even go to the area in the tournament.

On day two I hunkered down in the area where I’d caught them late on day one. I caught 20 or more keepers in the horrible north wind but never got a good bite. I made a plan and stuck with it. The end result just wasn’t what I wanted. Close doesn’t pay very well. I finished 78th and didn’t cash a check.

To add insult to injury – and to my bank account – four guys in the top 10 were in the same area as Bradley, where I didn’t end up fishing, and three others were in the area where I caught most of my fish. They all got to hang out on stage at Walmart with Chris Jones, the FLW weighmaster, while I drove my tired tail back to Tennessee.  

I just missed “the juice,” and so did several others in the same area. That’s just the way it goes in this sport at times.

Congrats to all of those guys that figured it out, especially Bradley Hallman, Josh Weaver and Chris Johnston. Those fellow Tour newcomers got it done!

Could my rookie event have been better? Most definitely. It could have also gone a lot worse. I’m very pleased to have survived my first event and escaped Florida without a total bomb. It’s a long season, and I have a ton of work cut out for me to make the Cup. Thankfully, the schedule is heading in the right direction. I can’t wait for Hartwell.

Tags: luke-dunkin  blog 

My Mississippi River Game Plan  

My Mississippi River Game Plan  

My plan going into the Mississippi River event is pretty simple. I’m going to have four rods on the deck of my boat: Two flipping sticks and two frog rods. In my experience in western Wisconsin, that’s what will work the best for me to get big bites. READ MORE »

Guiding and Mentoring

Guiding and Mentoring

Now that we are back on track with fishing, and hopefully developing some normalcy to our lives again, I am excited to keep going with what I started talking about at the beginning of the year – mentorship of young anglers. READ MORE »

Super Tournaments: Super Fun and Super Competitive

Super Tournaments: Super Fun and Super Competitive

There’s a big change coming to the Tackle Warehouse Pro Circuit, and I’m really excited to be a part of it. READ MORE »

Fishing with Confidence

Fishing with Confidence

This year, I’ve chosen to home in on trusting my gut, even with tough practices. I’m happy to share that I rarely have a practice that’s worth writing home about. It’s just the way it goes, and I’ve learned to not let the discouragement affect the tournament. READ MORE »

Renewed Excitement for Super Tournaments

Renewed Excitement for Super Tournaments

Like everyone else, I had concerns about when we would be able to resume our 2020 season on the Tackle Warehouse Pro Circuit. Probably a bigger concern was what the rest of the season would look like. READ MORE »

Why I’m Excited to be Back with FLW

Why I’m Excited to be Back with FLW

This year has been an interesting one, to say the least. For the first time in my pro career, I’ve been home for much of the spring, and while it was great to fish local waters and get some projects done around the house, I’m ready to get back to fishing tournaments. READ MORE »

Big Changes for the Pro Circuit

Big Changes for the Pro Circuit

Recently announced changes to the Tackle Warehouse Pro Circuit have me extremely excited to get the season back under way. Specifically, a good number of the Major League Fishing anglers will be fishing the remaining three Pro Circuit Super Tournament events with increased payouts. This makes these truly the most lucrative five-fish-limit events in the country, with potentially half of the tournament field being paid $10,000 or more. READ MORE »

My Line-Thru Addiction

My Line-Thru Addiction

Pollen is in the air, on the water and covers my boat on a daily basis. When this happens, it means one thing to me – the bass are on the bed. Now, most people are all giddy about sight-fishing, but that’s not my deal. I can count on two hands how many fish I’ve caught truly sight-fishing. What comes to my mind during this time is swimbait fishing, but more specifically, one kind of swimbait in particular – a line-thru swimbait. READ MORE »

Making the Most of Quarantine

Making the Most of Quarantine

At the beginning of this year I was excited about the opportunity to fish the Tackle Warehouse Pro Circuit and the Bassmaster Elite Series. I was most excited about fishing the spawn in March and April on some of my favorite lakes. When the schedules for both circuits were first released I was feeling very confident about doing some sight-fishing on Santee Cooper, Eufaula and Lake Hartwell. READ MORE »

The Real Reason I love Spring

The Real Reason I love Spring

Fishing for a living is awesome, but when spring comes it can be tough. April is always a busy month for tournaments – and the fishing is usually fantastic – but I really love to turkey hunt and tournaments can put a damper on that. READ MORE »

A Silver Lining

A Silver Lining

From spending some quality time with my wife, Katie, and my dog, Doppler, to organizing my life and fun fishing, there are numerous ways that I have been able to take advantage of our current social responsibility to participate in “social distancing.” READ MORE »

Encouraging the Next Generation

Encouraging the Next Generation

Growing up in the city of Chicago, I didn’t have the outlet to the outdoors that a lot of our youth enjoy while growing up. It often takes hours to travel out of the city due to traffic, and there were no lakes within walking distance from my house. So it’s not like I could swing by the pond after school. READ MORE »

Picking out a New Favorite Rod

Picking out a New Favorite Rod

When selecting a new rod, I consider several elements: action, power, length and components.  Different rods will fit the role, depending on the type of lure, cover and fish species you are targeting. READ MORE »

Always Go Down Swinging

Always Go Down Swinging

Greg Bohannan's late father, Kenny, taught his sons to never take a third strike looking. "If you take the pitch and don't swing, you never give yourself a chance," he'd say. With that lesson in mind, Greg took his cuts at Lake Martin and gave himself a shot to win. Even though it didn't work out, he knows that at least he went down swinging. READ MORE »

How to Catch Your New PB

How to Catch Your New PB

Out of the five biggest fish I have caught in my life, four have come on a ChatterBait, including my personal best – a 9-pounder I caught this year on Sam Rayburn during the first Tackle Warehouse Pro Circuit event. READ MORE »

Why You Should Reel with Both Hands

Why You Should Reel with Both Hands

Without a doubt, during a tournament day I always get a question from my Tackle Warehouse Pro Circuit Marshal about why I have both left- and right-handed Abu Garcia baitcast reels. I get comments about the same thing from multiple social media followers if I post a picture that shows my reels. The remarks originally surprised me, but not any longer because of how frequently I see them. READ MORE »

Carrying Momentum into Florida

Carrying Momentum into Florida

Despite the solid start to the year, and the confidence that comes with overcoming adversity, Miles Burghoff knows very well how a good start to a season can either create positive momentum, or open the door to complacency, which often can result in a loss of motivation and focus. With the Harris Chain event kicking off this week, he's determined to keep that focus and motivation. READ MORE »

New Year, Same Feel

New Year, Same Feel

Ending 2019 on a bad note wasn’t how I pictured last season going. I was in contention to qualify for the FLW Cup going into the last FLW Tour event on Lake Champlain, but after coming in 97th at the finale I finished the season 51st in the Angler of the Year points and missed my chance for the Cup. Not going to lie, it stung a little bit and made for a LONG drive home, but it also made me hungry for 2020. READ MORE »

Vlog: Rayburn Recap, Practice to Pattern

Vlog: Rayburn Recap, Practice to Pattern

Tackle Warehouse Pro Circuit pro Josh Douglas and his wife, Bri, created this baller recap video from Sam Rayburn and the first Pro Circuit event of 2020. In the video, which includes footage from practice and the tournament, Josh dishes on how he used his practice time to eventually uncover a productive trap pattern that helped him earn a 42nd-place finish, which is a big improvement on the 114th he posted at Rayburn in the 2019 FLW Tour event. READ MORE »

Why You Shouldn’t Second-Guess Your Gut

Why You Shouldn’t Second-Guess Your Gut

In tournament fishing, you can beat yourself up for days with the “what if” scenarios that cause you to second-guess your gut. Well, in this case, I guessed wrong. I finished the Lake Champlain event in 145th place. It knocked me all the way down to 60th in points and out of Cup contention. READ MORE »