UPCOMING EVENT: T-H Marine BFL - 2020 - Sam Rayburn Reservoir

FISHING LEAGUE WORLDWIDE

Nixon, Cifuentes Bridge Bass Fishing’s Generation Gap

Nixon, Cifuentes Bridge Bass Fishing’s Generation Gap
Larry Nixon, Forrest Wood and Joey Cifuentes

At the Walmart FLW Tour event on Lake Hartwell back in mid-March, there was a little more gray in the top 10 than usual. Five of the top 10 anglers who competed on the final day were more “distinguished” in age.

Larry Nixon, Clark Wendlandt, Peter Thliveros, Jamie Horton and Darrel Robertson stood shoulder-to-shoulder in the weigh-in line with young sticks such as Bryan Thrift, Cory Johnston and John Cox. As they waited to weigh in, historic fishing news pulsed through the crowd: Legendary pro Rick Clunn had just won the Bassmaster Elite Series event on the St. Johns River at age 69.

In line, the generation gap became more palpable as the graybeards grinned with their spirits renewed.

“That’s awesome,” Nixon said. “Us old guys can still win. That gives us all hope. We’re not going to let those youngsters win them all just yet.”

At Hartwell, Cox would eventually edge past FLW icon Clark Wendlandt, dashing the hopes for an old-school clean sweep weekend in pro fishing.

Nixon finished seventh as another opportunity to win went to the young guns.

“That’s all right,” Nixon conceded as Cox held the winner’s check over his head. “Those young guys inspire me to win, too.”

 

Larry Nixon and Joey Cifuentes

Old school vs. new school

Logic would suggest that those with the most experience and wisdom would prevail in fishing tournaments, but that’s generally not the case, as many anglers in the 20- to 40-year-old age group win a lot of the hardware these days. They do it by buzzing down the bank with dozens of rods on the deck, throwing everything at anything. On the FLW Tour, Bryan Thrift is the epitome of this new style of fishing that could best be defined as junk-fishing perfection.

“I really don’t see how they do it,” Nixon remarks about tournament fishing’s new school. “It’s mind-boggling to me how they manage so many rods at one time. It’s truly amazing, but obviously it works.

“I just can’t do that 20-rods-on-the-deck deal,” Nixon laughs. “I’m not coordinated enough, I guess. When I try to pick up one rod, the others cling to it, and something is going overboard. I just never mastered having that many choices and options in front of me all day. If I have eight rods on the deck it’s far too many for me.”

Nixon recalls bass fishing’s “master’s era” in the ’80s and ’90’s when the pro level of bass fishing was all about mastering one lure or tactic that was an angler’s “signature technique.”

During that era, Denny Brauer and Tommy Biffle were flippers, Shaw Grigsby was a sight-fisherman extraordinaire, Zell Rowland was the king of the Pop-R, David Fritts ruled offshore cranking, Nixon was the worm man, and so on.

Clunn’s win at Palatka was reminiscent of those times. He threw a bladed jig nearly exclusively and was really dialed in on his pattern.

“Back then every superstar in the sport had his ‘power,’” Nixon says, “and we tried to find fish that suited our power or our strengths at every lake. The goal was to narrow a lake down to your strong suit or to find one or two areas and fish the tournament with just two or three rods on the deck. That was the indication that you were ‘dialed in.’ I don’t understand how you get dialed in with 20 rods at your feet.”

Despite the adept skill of the younger generation to zip down a lake throwing a myriad of lures at every piece of cover and structure they see, Nixon feels like he still has a few wins left in the tank.

“Us older guys can still win doing it our way. It’s just much harder to do these days because the young guys are so good,” Nixon details. “Instead of just fishing a core pattern or strength, they are good at tapping into a variety of mini-patterns throughout a day with all those rods on the deck.”

 

Larry Nixon and Joey Cifuentes

Bridging the gap

Though Nixon might not be able to adapt to the junk-fishing style, he still keeps close tabs on the youngsters such as Thrift and Cox in terms of what works for them in tournament fishing.

In an effort to keep up with what the millennials are doing, Nixon has recruited one of their own into the back of his boat – Joey Cifuentes of Clinton, Ark. Nearly 40 years separate the ages of Nixon and Cifuentes. At 27, Cifuentes was not yet born when Nixon won the Bassmaster Classic on the Ohio River in 1983. Yet, these two have formed a fishing bond on the FLW Tour that bridges the gap of old school and new school.

“I met Joey through a mutual friend of ours,” Nixon says. “He was in College Fishing at the time and wanted to fish some Costas and maybe the Tour as a co-angler. He only lives about 10 minutes down the road from me, so I carried him to a few Costas and found out he is a pretty doggone good fisherman.”

As the duo traveled and fished together in the Costa FLW Series, Cifuentes ended up winning as a co-angler at Sam Rayburn in 2014. Pretty soon, Nixon was asking him to be his travel partner and co-angler for the FLW Tour.

“When Larry first asked me if I wanted to travel and fish with him, I thought he was kidding, so I really didn’t give him an answer,” Cifuentes recalls. “A couple of weeks later he asked me again, and I was like, ‘You were serious about that?’

“I mean, it’s Larry Nixon,” he adds with a pause. “Who wouldn’t jump at the chance to travel the country and fish with him?”

Cifuentes helps with the driving, hooking up and unhooking of the boat, running errands, and dashing in and out of convenience store for snacks and drinks.

In addition, Cifuentes spends many hours in the back of Nixon’s boat trying new lures and different techniques. This is where the interesting exchange in the new school and old school methodologies takes place between Nixon and Cifuentes.

Cifuentes is more inclined to embrace new lures and technologies.

“We’ll buy a whole bag of new tackle, and Joey goes right to work tying the new stuff on and trying it all,” Nixon says. “That’s what’s so valuable to me. He is so open-minded about what could work. Us older guys like the tried-and-true stuff, and we feel like we have to really understand a lure before we throw it. That’s a throwback to the specialists’ era. But these young guys have no problem ripping some new lure out of the pack, tying it on and using it without any prior knowledge about it. They have open minds, and that’s critical in this game. Tried-and-true is fine-and-good, but the fish are smarter these days, and I know I have to evolve with the new stuff coming out.”

“I think the reason we are so eager to try new stuff is because we don’t have 20 or 30 years of fishing experience,” Cifuentes adds about the anglers of his generation. “And if I can be the first to get on some new lure or technique before everyone else, that’s one of the ways I can close that experience gap and get an advantage.”

 

Larry Nixon, Forrest Wood, and Joey Cifuentes

Seeing it in action

Recently at the Beaver Lake FLW Tour event, Cifuentes and Nixon got their hands on some new lures for spybaiting. As soon as the boat hit the water, Cifuentes had one tied on and was experimenting with it to see how it worked.

“At the end of the day mine was still in the box under the lid,” Nixon laughs. “I wasn’t ready to mess with that thing. But watching him fish it and catch fish on it opened my eyes to its uses and applications.”

Now that he’s fishing the Costa FLW Series as a pro, Cifuentes says he has learned a boatload from Nixon that’s helping him in the front of the boat.

“I used to have a bunch of rods and run around all over the place too,” Cifuentes says. “But Larry has taught me a lot about staying put in one spot and really grinding out what’s there instead of always running to look for greener pastures. He has taught me there are usually a lot more fish in front of me than what I might think.”

Cifuentes is also amazed at how keenly aware Nixon is of various changes in the conditions.

“He knows how to relocate fish that have moved from water dropping, or a cold front moving through or the water warming up fast,” Cifuentes says. “He reads conditions so well, and he just knows how to adjust with the fish. There is no substitute for that.”

“That’s just from years of being on the water,” Nixon adds. “And that’s where us older guys still have an advantage: capitalizing on sudden shifts in conditions.”

Clunn’s St. Johns win was a perfect example of that.

“A lot of those guys were sight-fishing on the St. Johns,” Nixon says. “Then a storm blew in there on day three with wind and rain and turned the lights out on those sight guys. But Rick knew what to do. The conditions changed suddenly, and he absolutely capitalized on that change and caught a huge stringer of fish.”

Nixon contends that his generation certainly has the knowledge and experience, but it’s that youthful enthusiasm and open-mindedness that’s hard to maintain.

“That’s where Joey has been such an asset,” Nixon says. “He is so fired up to get out there and get after it every day. It reminds me of how I was when I was that age.”

Though the millennial and the baby boomer have learned quite a bit from each other, there are still little things they disagree on and razz each other about.

“He doesn’t like some of the knots I use,” Nixon laughs. “And he likes a twin tail on the back of his jig, and I’m still a chunk guy. But all in all it has worked out great. We learn a lot from each other, and his youthful enthusiasm helps me keep up with these young guys out here.”

Recently, at the Beaver Lake Tour event, Cifuentes won the co-angler division in a dominant fashion. As he accepted his check, Nixon joined him on stage to celebrate in his young apprentice’s win.

Cifuentes credited at least part of his victory to the lessons he’s learned while fishing with the legendary Arkansas pro.

But since the lessons go both ways, chances are Cifuentes’ exuberance and youth will help Nixon win again too.

Tags: larry-nixon  joey-cifuentes  rob-newell  angler-features 

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 »

Top 10 Patterns from Fort Gibson

Top 10 Patterns from Fort Gibson

The Costa FLW Series Southwestern Division event presented by Mercury on Fort Gibson was one of the more challenging tournaments in recent memory. Consider that with 115 pros fishing over three days, there were only 13 limits caught, and it took just 18 pounds, 2 ounces for two days to make the top-10 cut. READ MORE »

Top 10 Baits from Fort Gibson

Top 10 Baits from Fort Gibson

The final Costa FLW Series Southwestern Division event of the year was a true grinder. In fact, both first and second place only landed 13 keepers all week on Fort Gibson. When it’s that tough, little differences between baits can sometimes make a difference. Below is what the top 10 threw to get it done. READ MORE »

First Top 10 is a Win for Burke

First Top 10 is a Win for Burke

For three years, Johnny Burke, a 63-year-old retired county commissioner from Creek County, Oklahoma, has been fishing the Costa FLW Series as a co-angler just hoping he might score a top 10. Today, Burke not only scored his first top-10 finish, but he took it all the way to the top spot for the win. READ MORE »

Dickerson Wins by Tiebreaker

Dickerson Wins by Tiebreaker

For the second time this season in the Costa FLW Series Southwestern Division, a tournament was settled by tiebreaker after the top two pros finished the tournament with identical three-day weights. Tommy Dickerson of Orange, Texas, came into the final day at Fort Gibson in first place. Kyle Cortiana of Coweta, Okla., started the day in fourth. The two anglers finished the tournament with 32 pounds, 6 ounces. Because Dickerson was higher in the standings after day two, he was declared the champion. Dickerson, who is Ranger Cup qualified, earned a prize package worth more than $80,000, including a new Ranger bass boat. READ MORE »

Fort Gibson Midday Update – Day 3

Fort Gibson Midday Update – Day 3

Things got a little crazy in the final-day action of the Costa FLW Series Southwestern Division event presented by Mercury on Fort Gibson. First, falling water levels overnight threw a major curveball to tournament leader Tommy Dickerson and third-place angler Cody Bird. For the last two days both pros have been shimmying their way through a rocky shoal far up a feeder creek. Yesterday, both said if the water dropped just 3 or 4 inches, the small crevice they’ve been following through the shoal would dry up and they would be denied access. When they awoke and checked water levels this morning, indeed the water had dropped. READ MORE »

Fort Gibson Top 5 Patterns – Day 2

Fort Gibson Top 5 Patterns – Day 2

Getting off the beaten path. Finding something off the wall. Thinking outside the box. Trying something unconventional. These have all been the common themes of the top pros facing a very obstinate Fort Gibson Lake this week for the Costa FLW Series Southwestern Division event presented by Mercury. To give some idea of just how stubborn Fort Gibson has been, only three pros have caught a limit both days of the tournament. Even more stunning is that the top-10 cut weight after two days among pros stands at just 18 pounds, 2 ounces. READ MORE »

Fort Gibson Midday Update – Day 2

Fort Gibson Midday Update – Day 2

Day two of the Costa FLW Series Southwestern Division event presented by Mercury on Fort Gibson dawned much sunnier and breezier this morning. Anglers had high hopes that the wind might help improve the bite a smidge, but it’s remained tough. Tournament leader Kyle Cortiana got off to a fast start in his primary spot with two immediate keepers, but then his action died. READ MORE »

Top 5 Patterns from Fort Gibson – Day 1

Top 5 Patterns from Fort Gibson – Day 1

When looking out across Fort Gibson Lake on day one of the Costa FLW Series Southwestern Division event presented by Mercury, one word came to mind: stagnant. For the last couple of weeks, the late-summer doldrums have set in across northeastern Oklahoma with warm, humid conditions. Current is virtually nonexistent in the lake. Aside from a couple of showers this morning and a little afternoon breeze, the lake was calm for much of the day. In all, things were pretty stale. During the day, anglers struggled to crack the stagnant code. Local pros leaned heavily on their home field knowledge, pulling out all the stops by fishing brush piles, obscure rock formations and anywhere there might be a breath of current. Local pro Kyle Cortiana compounded his home court edge into the tournament lead with 15 pounds, 8 ounces. Behind him, 11- and 12-pound limits were enough to earn a top-five spot on day one. READ MORE »

The Search is on at Fort Gibson

The Search is on at Fort Gibson

The last event of the 2018 Costa FLW Series Southwestern Division kicked off under rain clouds this morning out of Taylor’s Ferry Landing on Fort Gibson Lake. The event, which is presented by Mercury and hosted by the Wagoner County Chamber of Commerce, includes a field of 116 pros and co-anglers who will be scouring Fort Gibson’s highly pressured waters during the doldrums of late summer, trying to find an overlooked pattern or technique. READ MORE »

Cortiana Leads the Pack at Fort Gibson

Cortiana Leads the Pack at Fort Gibson

Kyle Cortiana has the early lead at the Costa FLW Series event presented by Mercury at Fort Gibson. The Oklahoma pro weighed in 15 pounds, 8 ounces on what was a very challenging first day of competition. He leads Tommy Dickerson of Orange, Texas, by 1 pound, 1 ounce. Tulsa’s Robin Babb leads co-anglers with 8-7. READ MORE »

Fort Gibson Midday Update – Day 1

Fort Gibson Midday Update – Day 1

Fort Gibson is testing the pros and co-anglers alike on day one of the Costa FLW Series Southwestern event presented by Mercury. Morning reports indicate very, very few fish being caught. Lots of pros were sitting on zero or with just one fish by the noon hour. The biggest catch discovered belonged to local angler Ryan Wilbanks who had boated four keepers with at least one of them being sizable. READ MORE »

Dealing with Wear and Tear

Dealing with Wear and Tear

For a while earlier this spring it looked like shoulder surgery would be the next in a long line of repair jobs. It’s no secret that I’ve had a lot of problems with my hands, arms and shoulders over the years. I had surgery on my left hand last August, and it was supposed to fix a chronic problem that was affecting my grip. READ MORE »

Studio Notes: Cup edition

Studio Notes: Cup edition

After two days of rather anemic action from the water at Ouachita, I was beginning to wonder if we were ever going to get any fireworks. Finally, Clent Davis delivered on the final morning, mounting a dream charge from 10th place to win and providing fishing fans with the most stunning comeback in Cup history. READ MORE »

My Favorite Fishing Classrooms

My Favorite Fishing Classrooms

To fish the Ozarks you have to learn to use your eyes and your imagination. It’s all about reading water and shoreline and visualizing what’s happening under the water, and how to fish clear water with finesse baits and lighter line when you need to. READ MORE »

Studio Notes: Lake St. Clair

Studio Notes: Lake St. Clair

While the first six tournaments of the season were quite a ride, FLW saved the best for last with the season finale at St. Clair and I must say, it was the most impressive event of the year. READ MORE »

Top 10 Patterns from Cross Lake

Top 10 Patterns from Cross Lake

The 2018 T-H Marine BFL All-American is in the books and it’s safe to say that Cross Lake was quite a pleasant surprise. What was expected to be a sweltering, summertime struggle-a-thon turned into a rather impressive display of big bass, with multiple 4- to 8-pound brutes being shown off at weigh-in each day. READ MORE »

All-American Top 5 Patterns – Day 2

All-American Top 5 Patterns – Day 2

As many projected, the weights on day two of the 2018 T-H Marine FLW Bass Fishing League All-American on Cross Lake fell off substantially. Given Cross Lake’s small size and the intensive fishing pressure it receives as a suburban fishery, it simply couldn’t keep producing the weights seen on day one (eight limits of more than 20 pounds) for multiple days. As a result, those who rose to the top of the leaderboard today had to find something different to do to survive the day-two slump. Leader Randy Deaver found success by moving out of the cypress tree jungle, down into the main lake to a mixture of cypress trees and docks along the bank. READ MORE »

Deaver Takes Over at Cross Lake

Deaver Takes Over at Cross Lake

Randy Deaver lives just seven minutes from the ramp where the 2018 T-H Marine FLW Bass Fishing League All-American takeoffs are being held this week, which means he’ll sleep comfortably in his own bed tonight with a 3-pound, 10-ounce lead over his good friend and day-one leader Nick LeBrun. Deaver, a fishing guide and firefighter from Blanchard, La., cracked a 25-3 limit today to go with 21-0 on day one. He’s the only angler in the field to catch two 20-pound-plus stringers, and most importantly, he figured something out today that he thinks he can repeat on championship Saturday when the All-American title will be settled. READ MORE »

LeBrun Leads Cross Lake Slugfest

LeBrun Leads Cross Lake Slugfest

An 8-pounder and a stack of 4s and 5s comprised the tournament-leading 26-pound, 9-ounce stringer caught by hometown pro Nick LeBrun on day one of the T-H Marine FLW Bass Fishing League All-American on Cross Lake. LeBrun, who hails from Bossier City, La., leads a pack of BFL hammers that flat out stomped on the Cross Lake bass today. There were eight limits of more than 20 pounds, and 22 limits of at least 15 pounds in the pro ranks. READ MORE »