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

Woolcott Ready for Year-Two Rebound

Woolcott Ready for Year-Two Rebound
Tyler Woolcott

When Tyler Woolcott headed out on Sam Rayburn in January 2019 for his first day of competition as an FLW Tour pro, he took off sandwiched between Brad Knight and Bryan Thrift, two pros starting their 11th and 13th seasons at the front of the boat. In stark contrast, Woolcott was beginning his pro career without having fished as a boater at any level of FLW competition. His prior experience was fishing in college and as a Tour co-angler, where a stellar 2018 season in the back of the boat qualified him for his shot in the front.

Hailing from Port Orange, Fla., Woolcott enjoyed had a solid season on the FLW Tour, finishing 67th in the standings, but earning three checks and making the cut twice along the way. Headed into his second season as a pro, now on the FLW Pro Circuit, Woolcott, like many other young pros, has a chance to make a serious ruckus in 2020.

 

Tyler Woolcott

Getting going

At just 22 years old, Woolcott didn’t start fishing that long ago almost by definition. Growing up in Florida, he fished in a pond in the backyard and saltwater fished with his dad a bunch when he was young. Then, when he was 12 years old, he joined the Florida Trails Junior Bassmasters club.

“I liked the concept of tournament fishing at that age,” says Woolcott. “So, I went and fished my first tournament on the Conway Chain of Lakes, and I won it. That was the spark. Seeing the competitive side and winning the first little tournament I fished showed me that was something I enjoyed and wanted to do.”

From there, Woolcott dove into the scene of youth fishing pretty hard. He and a buddy started their high school club, and he also fished Teen Sportfishing Association events.

“When I started in high school fishing it wasn’t very big,” says Woolcott. “They used to do the high school tournaments with the junior tournaments on the same day, and I would fish both. There weren’t enough teams to have a specific day for the high school tournaments; not until the end of when I was in high school.”

 

Tyler Woolcott

Committing to fishing  

Unlike some current stars of the fishing world, Woolcott’s college career was somewhat abbreviated. He started at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University because his mother works there and got into the college fishing game in 2016 while studying for a business degree. But it didn’t take long for him to begin to prioritize fishing.

“Embry-Riddle was a really hard school,” says Woolcott. “I spent a lot of time studying, and it was still really hard for me to pass my classes. That was the point in my life when I was deciding what I wanted to do, and when I would leave to fish a college tournament it would put me back a lot. It was impossible to keep doing it. I had to decide if I wanted to go to school and stop fishing, or keep fishing.”

Woolcott decided to fish more, prompting a transfer to Daytona State College, where he leaned hard on online classes. He began entering more college events, and in 2018 he fished the entire FLW Tour as a co-angler, finishing 13th in the standings and qualifying to move to the pro side.

 

TYLER WOOLCOTT

Learn as you go

In college and on Tour, Woolcott quickly made strides on the water, qualifying for two national championships in college and cashing checks in eight of the nine FLW Tour events he fished from the back of the boat.

“When I was fishing college, I would travel and fish on my own, kinda like now,” says Woolcott. “I would have to go to a place – usually a new place – and figure it out. When you’re a co-angler, you go with the flow wherever the boater takes you. You kinda learn two different things. When you’re fishing college you learn on your own, which is how I like to do things usually anyway. But, fishing as a co-angler, I got paired with a lot of cool people, and I could see how they fished a tournament day or break down water. You see different ways to do things.”

Fishing as a co-angler was formative for Woolcott, and he truly did get some special draws, including fishing behind Larry Nixon for one memorable day on St. Clair. A few co-angler experiences really stand out.

“David Dudley was a really cool one,” says Woolcott. “I got paired with him on the James River, which was his home water. I got to ride along for a day of fishing on his home water, and he definitely taught me a lot that day. It started a little relationship, too. I talked to him a fair amount last year on Tour, and if I’d never fished as a co-angler I would probably have never talked to him.”

Perhaps best of all was the day he drew Justin Atkins in 2017 on the Harris Chain, where Woolcott weighed 18 pounds on day one and finished second in the event.

“I got paired with him the first year he fished as a professional,” Woolcott says. “That was a pretty special day of fishing for me, and I started a pretty cool friendship with him at that point. That was probably the most memorable pairing I’ve had. I followed around and practiced with him the next year when I fished the whole schedule.” 

Tyler Woolcott

Interestingly, Woolcott has risen through the ranks quickly despite a physical situation that you might think would hinder him on the water in a sport that demands so much from your hands. Woolcott has played through a birth defect that left him with a fully functioning thumb on his left hand, but basically only two half fingers on it.

“I was born with it, and when I think about it, I’ve never found something that it’s held me back from,” says Woolcott. “I may hold a rod a little bit different than some people, but I’ve never found something I can’t do. It’s been there, so my body adapts to using it a different way.

“And,” says Woolcott, with a humblebrag only possible in Florida and a few other states, “I can hold up four 8-pounders at one time with both my hands.”

 

Tyler Woolcott

Making the jump

After his 2018 season as a co-angler – the last year with co-anglers on the FLW Tour – Woolcott elected to take a run at pro fishing in 2019. Things started off pretty well, with a 75th-place showing at Sam Rayburn to start before a top 10 and a top 20 in back-to-back events on Toho and Seminole. After a pair of middling finishes, Woolcott bombed to end the season, posting back-to-back triple-digit showings at Chickamauga and Champlain.

“Chickamauga was a weird one. I had them figured out. It was such an easy tournament, but I got spun out that second day,” says Woolcott. “I usually love that place, especially that time of year when you can do whatever you want. In practice I killed my trolling motor three days in a row looking for spawners. I had found a lot, and I had one little pocket that I went to the first day with three 5-pound fish in it.

“I pulled in there the first day, flipped to the first one and the bait didn’t even hit the bottom and she had it in her mouth,” says Woolcott. “So, I caught that one, and pulled up to the next one, and she was being a little weird about it. She finally started getting aggravated at the bait, and when she ate it I set the hook and snagged her in the side. So I had to let that one go. When I let her go, she went right back to her bed, and I figured I could catch her the next day.”

That afternoon, Woolcott ran some docks and a shell bar, catching fish easily and putting more than 16 pounds in the boat. On day two, the bedding fish disappeared. After running his beds, some docks and shell, Woolcott found himself with no fish in the boat at about 11 o’clock.

“I knew what was on the line,” says Woolcott with regret in his voice. “So, I went and fished one area that was a point of grass, and I lost a 4-pounder, and then caught just one keeper. It was a weird run of events, going from having so much stuff working to everything literally not working.”

His second lump came at Champlain, and it was worse in a way. It’s easy to explain a bad day of fishing, which can even happen to Thrift, but it’s tougher to explain getting beat.

“I didn’t miss the boat, but I’m just not good at sight-fishing smallmouth like a lot of those guys are,” relays Woolcott. “I just went out there and tried to fish for them and got my butt kicked. That’s all there is to it. It kinda hurt a little bit, knowing that I didn’t know how to do it.

“I put my eggs in the smallmouth basket,” he adds. “When I was just fishing in practice I could catch 15 or 16 pounds, but I guess a lot of the good ones I was catching were on beds. I kinda knew that, but I couldn’t see them with my eyes. I can look for a largemouth all day long, but I don’t know exactly what to look for when those smallmouths are spawning. So, those guys that had found them in practice could just pull up and drop a bait on them. Then, when I got there and was fishing for them, the good ones were already gone.”

 

Tyler Woolcott

The season ahead

With the 2020 Pro Circuit looming, Woolcott is back and ready for round two despite a disappointing end to 2019. With a thinned-out field, he knows there’s a lot of opportunity ahead of him.

“That top 10 cut was a really cool feeling,” says Woolcott of his success in 2019 at Toho. “I was fishing against Scott Martin, Buddy Gross and John Cox that last day. Those are fishermen I’ve always looked up to. I was sitting there in the meeting after the third day, getting read the rules right next to them by Bill Taylor. That was a really cool feeling. I hope to make a couple of those next year. That’s always a goal.

“But, I missed the FLW Cup. That was a big goal of mine, and it burned missing it, especially after I started so well. My goal next year is to be sitting decent for that Bass Pro Tour invite average, and also to make the championship.”

Outside of his actual performance, Woolcott also wants to become a more complete pro angler. Though he’s pretty young, he knows he wants to be fishing for a living.

"I’m starting some new relationships with some companies, and I want to step up my social media a lot,” says Woolcott. “This past year I just wanted to go fishing and not worry about a lot of things, but I’ve come to realize I need to do a lot more. It’s not like it used to be. There are a lot of people that don’t even fish tournaments that make a lot of money in the fishing industry because of their social media output. I need to step my game up.”

Woolcott’s not wrong about the non-fishing aspects of the job being important, but the beginning of the schedule might really set him up for big things on the water.

“I’m really excited for the Harris Chain,” says Woolcott. “I’ve always liked that place, and with the grass starting to grow back, I think that could really be exciting. I’m also really looking forward to Rayburn. I was really looking forward to it last year, because I love offshore grass, but last year it wasn’t normal. I’m pretty excited to go there and fish a normal Sam Rayburn. The plan is to go out there and have fun.”

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