By John Johnson
BassFan Senior Editor
At a time when some of his friends and contemporaries are calling an end to long, distinguished careers in professional bass fishing, Larry Nixon is experiencing a resurgence. Don't look for his name to disappear from FLW Tour pairings lists any time soon.
"You just go through spells in bass fishing and when you get up close to retirement time, you start to think about how much you've got left," he said. "But every time I do well, I get all fired up again. I'm probably good for another 5 years now."
The 62-year-old heads into this week's Rayburn FLW Tour Open coming off back-to-back single-digit finishes (his 18th career victory at the Detroit River, followed by an 8th at Wheeler). When was the last time he'd done that? Try 2003, when he was 6th in an FLW derby at Murray and then 3rd in a Bassmaster Tour event at Santee Cooper in consecutive weeks.
"When you've had a couple of good ones, you don't feel so bad when you go out and have a bad event. Physically, I can't compete with all these young guys day in and day out at all these tournaments, but there are times when I can still catch them as good as anybody."
Some Painful Times
Nixon admits that thoughts of retirement have crossed his mind on multiple occasions. More than 3 1/2 decades as a pro have brought on some physical aches, but the psychological pain of finishing low on the standings sheet might be even more intense.
He'd had only one Top-25 finish in more than 2 calendar years prior to his Detroit River triumph, and that came after he'd already suffered the indignity of sitting out this year's Forrest Wood Cup following a 68th-place finish in the Angler of the Year (AOY) race.
"There are times when I think I can't compete with these kids anymore, and it hurts my feelings more than anything," he said. "When I didn't make the Cup this year, I started thinking, How long can I stand this?"
Those bad vibes are gone now, though, and last week he was itching to get to Rayburn to try to keep his momentum going, and he's already looking forward to 2013.
With only six Tour events to compete in next year, he'll likely jackpot a few lower-level tournaments here and there.
"I probably will, but I haven't made my mind up yet. The way the schedules look, I don't think I'll be able to do a full EverStart or B.A.S.S. Open circuit, but if I can get into them, I wouldn't mind fishing another three or four tournaments."
Will Miss his Old Pal
Nixon is just a year younger than Denny Brauer and the same age as George Cochran, who both announced their retirements last month. He and Cochran, who live within a 2-hour drive of each other in Arkansas, have been long-time running buddies both in season and out, and the latter part won't change.
There will be a period of adjustment once the campaign gets under way, though.
"It'll be different," he said. "I don't know if George suffered a burnout spell or if he was just ready for a change and wanted to hang around his kids and grandkids. I didn't really pry too much."
He's buoyed by the idea that another old pardner might jump back into the saddle next year.
"Tommy Martin's thinking about fishing the Tour if there's a spot available. He's 72 and still going strong, and it'd be great to have him around again. Me and Tommy have been friends for a hundred years."
As for the makeup of next year's abbreviated Tour schedule, he hasn't given it much thought.
"At this point, it doesn't really matter to me where we go. I really don't like the 2- or 3-day drives, but I learned back in 1983 (when he won the Bassmaster Classic at the Ohio River with a paltry 3-day total of 18-03) that there are ways to win even the sorriest tournaments. You just have to do the best job of figuring out what's going on at that particular lake.
"I don't really care for the slugfests, except for Lake St. Clair (Detroit) – I'm kind of partial to that place. I'll go there anytime anybody wants to. I'd even jump in that Elite event up there next year if they'd let me, just to go back."