By John Johnson
BassFan Senior Editor
Kenneth "Boo" Woods had two primary goals he wanted to reach during the 2013 season. He missed badly on one, but he accomplished the other, and the one he achieved will put him in a different realm next year.
The five-year FLW Tour pro had hoped to compete in his first Forrest Wood Cup this year, but his 107th-place showing in the Angler of the Year (AOY) race left him far short of that objective. He also wanted to qualify for the Bassmaster Elite Series via the Northern Opens, and he did that by finishing 6th in that circuit's points standings.
Only the Top 5 from each of the three Opens divisions are guaranteed Elite berths for the following year, but Woods got the invite from B.A.S.S. because two of the five anglers in front of him (Mike Iaconelli and Randy Howell) are established Elite pros. He's already paid his initial entry-fee deposit for next year's Elite campaign.
"It's always been my dream to fish against the best, and to me, if you're not fishing against (Kevin) VanDam and them, you're not fishing against the best," he said. "That's nothing against FLW – there's a lot of great fisherman there and overall, I don't think there's much difference in the level of competition between them.
"It's just that the Elite Series, to me, seems a little more prestigious."
Woods harbors no illusion that he'll simply snap his fingers and put his recent FLW Tour struggles behind him, and then go out and tear up the Elite Series next year. He's fully aware that he has some holes in his game – chiefly, he struggles to adapt when the pattern he's working fizzles out – but he looks at this move as an opportunity of a lifetime.
He thinks the timing is right for him to give it a shot for a couple of years. If it doesn't work out, he has some options to fall back on.
He and his wife will welcome their second son in about a month (their older boy is 3). For now, they should be able to make traveling with the Elite circuit a family affair.
"With two children, I may not have the luxury of doing this a little later on," he said. "Family will always come first for me."
He spends parts of each fall and winter guiding at Lake Okeechobee and also works at a gun shop that his father operates in his hometown of Hazard, Ky. He said his father plans to retire before long, so taking over the store is one of his fallback possibilities. Another is getting back into his former profession of teaching and coaching basketball at the junior high or high school level.
"My dream was always to fish or coach for a living, but coaching wasn't what I thought it would be," he said. "There's so much political stuff that goes on and you get into situations where you either have to play this person or get fired. The job I was in before just wasn't for me.
"I've always been so competitive and fishing is a perfect fit – I've done it all my life. If I get to the point where I think it's taking something away from my family, though, I'll give it up. But if I'm going to make a career out of this, I feel like the Elites is where I have to do it."
Greater Adaptability a Must
Woods does his best fishing during the post-spawn/summer portion of the year, and the fact that the Elite Series season extends further into the warmer months than the FLW campaign excites him. Nonetheless, he knows he must do a better job of figuring things out on the fly than he's done in past tour-level events
"I'm still kind of inexperienced in that part of the sport," he said. "As a guide, I know that just about anybody who's put on fish can catch fish. I've guided people in Florida from all over the world and if they're around them, they can catch them.
"My biggest problem has been finding the patterns within the patterns. I've got to be more adaptable."
The two Elite events he's most looking forward to are BASSfest at Lake Chickamauga and the Cayuga Lake derby in New York.
"I think BASSfest is going to be a lot different than a regular tournament, but in a good way. You'll really be able to get up close and personal with the fans and so forth. Finding shallow fish, which I like to try to do, might be hard because I'm sure they're going to be on the ledges, but sometimes if you find something shallow that no one else is doing, you have a chance to win.
"At Cayuga, I fished a tournament there a couple years ago and broke down the first day, and the second day I threw my fish back because I didn't have shot at any points. I'm looking forward to getting back and getting some revenge on that lake. I felt like it set up well for me – there was a ton of grass and you could do a lot of flipping."
> Woods acquired the nickname he goes by as a small child. "My grandpa called me 'Booger Bear,' but I got to a point where I didn't like that and it got shortened to Boo. It just kind of stuck and I felt like if I ever accomplished anything in life, it'd be something that'd be easy for people to remember."
> His Northern Open finishes consisted of a 22nd at the James River, a 24th at Oneida Lake and a 36th at Lake Erie.