By Todd Ceisner
Mark Rose has never allowed his trophy case to define him as a pro angler. He doesn't anticipate that changing any time soon. His priorities are firmly set in this order: Faith, family, fishing.
That doesn't mean he wouldn't mind making room for a piece of hardware that has eluded him his whole career – an Angler of the Year (AOY) trophy. Who wouldn't?
Four events into the FLW Tour season, Rose finds himself squarely in the mix for the coveted award with two tournaments left. Currently, he's tied for 4th in points with Brent Erhler, each with 693, which has him 72 behind leader and reigning AOY Andy Morgan, who's in a virtual stare down with Cody Meyer for the top spot.
That's a pretty healthy deficit to overcome, but with the last two events slated for Pickwick Lake and Kentucky Lake, two of his bread-and-butter venues, during what figure to be prime post-spawn conditions, Rose could be just the man to mount such a massive rally. In 2010, he was 9th with two tournaments left and finished 3rd. A year later, he was 8th with two to go and again finished 3rd.
Rose opened the year with modest money finishes at Lake Okeechobee (58th) and Lake Hartwell (41st) before charging up the standings with a runner-up at Sam Rayburn and a 10th-place finish at Beaver Lake.
"I feel good but I'd like to be about 60 points better," he said Tuesday during a break from practice for the upcoming Lake Guntersville Southeast Rayovac Series.
Minding His Business
Nearly 2 months will go by between the end of the Beaver Lake FLW Tour and the first day of competition at Pickwick, but Rose won't be sitting around home during the lull.
This week, he's fishing at the Rayovac Series at Guntersville. In two weeks, he'll be at Lake Fork for the Toyota Texas Bass Classic.
"I'm trying to stay focused on fishing," he said. "I have a lot of tournaments between now and then. That's what I like, though. When it comes time to shoot deer later in the year, that's when we can look back because it'll all be behind us. Right now, I'm focused on fishing.
"Anytime you're behind a couple of the best fishermen in the world, you don't even think about the points race."
He's mindful of his place in the AOY race and would welcome the opportunity to claim the honor if things fell in his favor.
"A Forrest Wood Cup and Angler of the Year – I would love to have those," he said. "You can't compete at this sport and not want either, but it doesn't drive me or define me – the fact I've never one of those. It will never define my career.
"Anyone that knows me knows that faith is the most important thing in my life. What they know is that God has given me a path to spread His love with sportsmen."
'King Kong' In The Way
All of Rose's six FLW victories have come at lakes along the Tennessee River, including three at Pickwick, where he won a Tour event in 2011. He's also won at Kentucky Lake to go with a handful of Top-10s. He'll easily be among the favorites at both stops this year.
"I couldn't pick two better tournaments to close the year," he said. "I may not catch anything at either place and things may change, but I have a lot of confidence on both lakes and I like where we'll be and the type of fishing we'll be doing.
"There's no better place to finish the year than on the Tennessee River. The only thing will be we've got King Kong living on the banks of the Tennessee River."
Rose was referring to Morgan, who hails from Dayton, Tenn., situated on Lake Chickamauga, another TVA impoundment.
"He's on top of his game more than anyone else in the sport fishing right now," Rose said. "He's a heck of a fisherman and a good guy, too, so you can't help but to pull for him. He's the salt of our sport and he's a good representative of what our sport is all about.
"One of the funny things about our sport is we're all friends," he said. "There are some of the nicest guys in this sport and you don't see a lot of the crazy attitudes you do in other sports. I'm really close to a lot of these guys, but when they call your boat number, you try to beat them all and then shake hands when it's all over."
Complements aside, Rose plans to do everything he can to stay in contention for AOY.
"You want to put yourself in position in case Cody and Andy stumble to take advantage of it," he said. "They're the ones in control of that. I'll just fish as hard as I do every tournament. I've never gotten myself all wrapped up in the points and all of that. I just fish hard, honor God and leave the results up to Him."
Same Old, Same Old
Rose said not much has changed in terms of how he has approached tournaments this season. And with the remaining Tour events set for venues he's intimately familiar with, he's going to stick with what he knows.
"I just hope some of this gray hair is helping," he said with a chuckle. "I don't have the youth I used to have, but I hope all the time on the water getting my brains kicked in helps a little bit. I've been blessed and I realize it. I don't take it for granted. I work hard at my trade."
Despite the lengthy and cold winter down south, he's getting a sense the seasonal patterns of the fish should be back to normal by the time May and June get here.
"They'll be doing what they should be doing that time of year," he said. "This winter, I think the fish just got so cold and while I don't know the science behind it all, everything got so cold that it put the fish in a slow mood.
"That said, the water's 68 degrees at Guntersville this week and it's just the matter of having a week of good, warm weather and these fish will get out and do what they're supposed to be doing."
In general, he doesn't anticipate fishing Pickwick or Kentucky any differently. Size-wise, Pickwick is smaller and strategy will play a bigger role there, he says.
"They fish pretty much the same," he said. "Kentucky is like Okeechobee. You can win the tournament all up and down and anywhere on the lake. Pickwick is just going to fish a lot smaller. It's a great lake and an awesome fishery, but strategy will come into play a lot more there with boat draw and those things.
The guy who wins at Pickwick will have a lot of things fall into place for him and he'll probably have to catch a couple big ones."