WalleyeFirst Tournament Series; Winning Attitudes
Jan 23rd, 2012 by OutdoorsFIRST
Modified Jan 23rd, 2012 at 12:00 AM
Walleye anglers who have achieved stardom because of their winning ways expect to regularly climb into the winner’s circle and take home the big money and trophies. For them, the adrenaline never stops coursing through their veins. They want to win again and again.
This is not arrogance as one explained. It is much more than that. Four top pro anglers spoke their minds about the topic, revealing significant truths. If the dynamic variables of water and weather were the only obstacles, winning might not be so daunting, but all pros ticked off mood swings of the fish, the forage, the current and dozens of other challenges. They all pointed to the caliber of the fields they competed against, and said to be Number One at the end of any tournament was much more than luck.
The stories of Chris Gilman, Mike Gofron, Tom Keenan and Jason Przekurat are very revealing. In alphabetical order, their insights.
Chris Gilman: Chris won the Merc National, three PWT tournaments and the Leech Lake FLW Championship, “Plus billions of top tens,” he added. “That first $25,000 win allowed me to jump into the circuit and tide me over financially.”
He said the top pros interviewed for this story are not afraid to find their own spots. “Personally,” he said, “I hate fishing in a crowd. I’m an independent thinker and try to go on my own hunches. When you win, it’s what you discover on your own, whether a little technique or a little spot that makes the difference.”
Chris said, “You’d think by now it would be the same, but every lake changes every year. I count my blessings when I find a little pocket of fish in practice, but keep moving even during tournaments until I find them. Yes, confidence is a big key, and I’ve learned not to be afraid about my decisions. I also don’t pay attention to what others are doing.”
When competing, he said confidence gained over 25 years on the tours has allowed him to swing for the fences. “It’s much easier to do when you’re winning. Last year, I had a horrible start, and fished the rest of the season just to qualify for the Championship. But, I was confident I could do that.” The early MWC tournaments prepared him for the pro-am tours. “After fishing against the best teams in the business, I learned and felt I could win and make money wherever I entered.” That has proved to be the case. In 2012, Chris will fish the FLW tour and some charity events.
Mike Gofron: His accomplishments include a MWC tournament win, three PWT wins including a Championship, two PWT Angler of the Year titles, two AIM wins including a Championship and an AIM Angler of the Year title. “Winning gives you confidence for the next adventure, but when you think you know it all, you don’t,” Mike emphasized. “But, winning (and confidence) keeps driving me when wind and snow might force others ashore.” He said that mentally and physically, he learns something new at every tournament.
For Mike, his tournament practice time is spent eliminating water rather than finding new water. By looking for patterns that translate from one area to another, he investigates every aspect from presentations to the depth of the main channel. “Just because something works in one part of the reservoir doesn’t mean it will work 40 miles downstream,” he said. Mike also checks reasons for fish holding. If it’s a weed edge adjacent to deep water, that’s his point of reference, not a weed edge on a flat with no nearby sharp breaks.
“I think everybody fishes to try to win and so do I, because that’s where the money is, but to do that, I stretch the playing field,” he said. “I will make longer runs so I don’t have to share my fish. I head into back channels and up creeks. I’d rather catch 7 to 10 good fish rather than go through a bunch of walleyes.”
Mike continued, “Every place I’ve fished competitively has changed since I started, even Lake Erie. The colors form 1992 and 1993 won’t catch a fish today.” That’s why he brings his entire bag of tricks to every tournament. His best advice for anglers, “Don’t get stuck on old patterns. Don’t be afraid to do something different.” This season, Mike will fish all the AIM events and some FLW tournaments.
Tom Keenan: Winning came early for Tom. He won an MWC event, a PWT tournament, and two FLW tournaments including the 2003 Championship in Red Wing. He also nailed three FLW Angler of the Year titles and two MWC Team of the Year titles. In his up-front assessment, Tom said, “Walleye fishing’s been good to me.” Yes, and with paydays that totaled more than $900,000, he has been able to pay his way at college, pay for his kids’ college, pay for his home, and do many things he wouldn’t have been able to do in life.
He said, “I always keep an open mind, and know that somewhere walleyes are being caught. That has turned me into a walleye hunter. I keep looking for aggressive fish, knowing I can catch them once I find them. It’s amazing how a bad day at 1 can become a great day by 1:30.”
Tom continued, “Lots of anglers fish memories and feel the history of a lake will lead them to victory. I know the same data, but also have 25 years of my detailed personal notes that I make after every tournament. I know how I was beat. I know the exact colors, depths and distances back with what weights, which lures perform best, and know what worked under the various conditions. I have a good idea where most of the field will fish. I don’t like rat-packs, and try to find less obvious spots.
“At Spring Valley last year, nine of the top 10 fished the same spot. I was way downstream and won. I think ahead and even pre-fish on day one for where I might fish on the next several days. Every moment, I keep thinking ahead.” Tom changed his way of fishing a few years ago, and said in 2007 and 2008, he fished to place well. “I was fishing not to lose, and decided starting in the 2009 season to fish to win,” he said.
He knows some feel he’s arrogant and cocky. “I’m not arrogant; cocky maybe, because I think I can catch fish and am not afraid to fish to win. I have the confidence. I also work hard trying to gain one bit of information on the water that will put me over the top. One tiny spot could produce magic and I keep looking for it.”
Tom runs the Gander Mountain store in Wausau, Wisconsin. A typical tournament scenario has him working eight straight days at the store, spending a week at the tournament, and working for seven consecutive days at the store upon returning. “I work the same way I fish and demand of my employees what I demand of myself. I’m still my biggest critic,” he said. In 2012, he will fish the FLW tour and is motivated to win Bay de Noc.
Jason Przekurat: His first win was the 2000 MWC Championship. He also won an FLW tournament, the Ranger Cup and two FLW Angler of the Year titles.
“After winning the MWC Championship my attitude changed and I thought I could win anywhere,” Jason said. “I knew I had the ability and could be a competitor. I was already fishing against the best and 200 other teams at some events.”
He said, “Going into any tournament, I base everything on practice. I know when I have a top 20 in my pocket. I went into the FLW Red Wing tournament with the attitude I could win, and even thought before the first cast that I would win. I did. I’ve been in a few events since then where I thought I’d win, only to come close. My feeling is I try to win every one, but I fish for points to win Angler of the Year and score well. I’ve been a full-timer at this, and need to cash checks; my decisions are based on this.”
Jason is currently examining his career and his family’s future. He will decide on his 2012 tournament plans soon.
Winning can be contagious, and for these four pros, it is. Closely allied with attitude is a serious work ethic which they all display. Add to that their confidence, knowledge, mastery of every tactic known to fish and man, plus their time on the water, and expectations run high that they will all return to winner’s circles many times.