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Q&A with Costa TD Mark McWha

Q&A with Costa TD Mark McWha

The Costa FLW Series is clipping along through its 2019 schedule, with the first Western Division event set to begin in about a week at Lake Mead. New FLW Series Tournament Director Mark McWha is preparing to trek across the country to run that event, but before he’s scheduled to go we caught up with McWha for a Q&A session that gives readers and anglers a more formal introduction to the new leadership for one of FLW’s top tournament circuits.

 

1. You know yourself better than anyone, so give us a quick bio.

I was born and raised in Hot Springs, Ark. I graduated from Lake Hamilton High School in 1991 then went to Arkansas Tech University.

I’ve hunted and fished my whole life. I fished for bass, crappie; just all of it, really.

 

2. Were you a tournament fisherman before you started with FLW?

Yes. I fished local stuff; some team trails like the Trader Bill’s Team Trail and the Arkansas Bass Team Trail.

 

3. Your tournament season is already really busy, but did your hunting season go well this fall and winter?

It was good. I actually tagged out in Arkansas and Kentucky, and actually went down a few days early to Lake Amistad and did a little hunting there before the event.

 

4. So how’d you get started with FLW?

I started part time in 2004. I had a friend that was also part time, and they had a position become available. He asked me about it. I told him that I was interested. Back then, Dan Grimes was over the BFL, and he basically hired me over the phone. I really didn’t know what I was getting into, but it sounded good. The boat that came with the job was a big kicker for me. So I jumped on it in 2004 part time, and in 2006 went full time as a BFL director.

 

5. If you’re not on the road for work, what are you doing?

Basically just fishing some and hunting some. It’s all outdoors.

 

6. The Costa FLW Series has a track record of great tournament leadership. How excited are you to be taking over, and what’s your long-term outlook on the gig?

I feel like I’ll be in this position for several years, and I’m pretty content with where I’m at. It’s a lot of fun. I really enjoy what I do. A lot of people, when they heard I was leaving the BFL, they said they were going to miss me, which really meant a lot. If I enjoy running the Costa FLW Series as much as I did the BFL, it’s going to be a fun ride. Hopefully I’ll be here for a long time.

 

7. How is being the Costa FLW Series director different from being a BFL director?

The obvious part is that it’s a multiple-day event. The rules are really similar, so there wasn’t a whole lot more to learn in that respect. Just getting used to the multi-day events is the biggest difference.

 

8. What will you miss most about being a BFL director?

The friendships that I’ve made throughout the different divisions that I’ve worked. Probably the only one I didn’t ever go to was the Northeast Division, so I’ve pretty well been around all of them. For sure, that’s thousands of anglers I’ve been around.

 

9. Is there a particular Costa FLW Series stop you’re most looking forward to?

I’m looking forward to going out west. I’ve been to most of the places on the rest of the schedule, but I’ve never seen any of the waters out west. So I’m looking forward to that and to meeting a whole new group of people out west I’ve never worked with before.

 

10. Probably a lot of people don’t realize how much of a commitment tournament directors make to being on the road. What was your travel schedule like in the past, and what will it be like now?

As a BFL director I ran 20 qualifiers a year – four divisions with five tournaments each – and I typically would go to two Regional events, the All-American and, of course, the FLW Cup. So, 24 events. We’ll be a little shy of that this year, with the difference being everything now is a multiple-day tournament. So the number of days probably evens out on the road.

 

11. So you’re used to living out of a suitcase?

For sure, but I love doing it.

 

12. The 2019 season started off with a cancellation day at Lake Amistad, and making those types of decisions is a big responsibility. What was your mind-set as you evaluated the conditions?

We knew the forecast called for high winds, and we’re always going to keep safety as the No. 1 priority, so we knew it was the right call.

 

13. Are you eyeing any new fisheries for the future?

I’m a student of the sport, and we’re constantly looking at tournament results throughout the country. So if I see anything pop up that all of a sudden is a hotbed of tournament bass fishing, we’ll certainly give it a look. Right now, I think we have a really good schedule for our divisions as it is.

 

14. What’s something some anglers might not realize about being a tournament director?

Probably the biggest thing is some people just think we show up at weigh-in time, get up there on stage, weigh fish and push the button, but there’s just so much stuff that goes into it beforehand. We have to get permits. We have to get housing. We’re lining up boat drivers for camera guys. There are so many little things that nobody ever thinks of. Probably the biggest thing is just scheduling in general. We’re always looking at other tournament series in the area. That’s part of being a student of it. You have to know that for every state there are 10 team tournaments you have to try to avoid scheduling over. Scheduling is the biggest challenge.

 

15. You’re a tournament angler, so when you’re up there on stage, do you ever feel a little bit of a tug to put the mic down, pick up a rod and go out and compete against these guys?

Not really. They’re really good, and I learned a long time ago that I wasn’t near good enough to make money with a rod and reel in my hand. I’ll stick to the mic.

 

16. Given the recent changes to the tournament-fishing industry, what’s your view of the Costa FLW Series’ place within the tournament world?

It’s a stepping-stone for sure, especially now with our qualification system. Anglers are coming through the BFL and Costa and ultimately fishing the FLW Tour. But at the same time it’s the top tier for a lot of people that are as high up as they’re going to go, or care to go or even want to go. If you’ve got the right contingencies in place it pays similar to a Tour event with a whole lot less of an entry fee. There are a whole lot of pro-tour-level anglers that fish with us and a few of the weekend warriors. It’s really a unique mix of amateurs and pros out here.

 

17. The International Division continues to grow. What do you think the future holds for that program?

I think it’s growing tremendously. Really, last year at the championship was the first time I had my hands on it, and talk about people that are excited to fish. You think the U.S. anglers get excited about it, but these guys have a unique opportunity like nobody else, and they carry the ultimate in excitement. It’s pretty neat to see them being able to compete at this level.

 

18. To anyone reading who’s not already competing in the Costa FLW Series as a pro or co-angler, why should they consider signing up?

The ultimate goal would be to make the FLW Cup, and now with our qualifications the top two pros at the championship from each U.S. division and the top pro from the International Division at the championship qualify for the Cup. New this year, the co-angler champion at the Costa FLW Series Championship qualifies for the FLW Cup as a pro, and we’re going to offer that person a boat to use from the championship through the Cup. Really, no time has ever been better for the Costa FLW Series as far as we’re concerned.

Tags: mark-mcwha  costa  hunting  fishing  curtis-niedermier  article 

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