By Todd Ceisner
At 68 years old, Charlie Ingram says his appetite for competition is as voracious as ever.
It showed during the FLW Tour season as he cashed four checks, notched his first Top-10 finish since 2004 and used an 18th-place finish at the Kentucky Lake season finale to clinch his fifth career Forrest Wood Cup berth and first since 2008.
His resurgence this season came on the heels of a rough stretch that saw him take 3 years (2009-11) off from Tour competition to care for his ailing mom, who has since passed. He returned in 2012, but didn't crack the Top 100 in any of the six tournaments. Last year, he managed two checks and finished in the 60s in points.
He came back this season with a renewed focus and vigor and put together as good a season as he can recall having.
"I've been doing this a long time," he said. "I've made eight (Bassmaster) Classics and won four tournaments. I'm excited to be in it because I felt like I had a good year and had a real good chance to win the last tournament.
"I fished as good as I have in my career, in my opinion. Even though I'm 68 years old, I don't feel but about 40. Something a lot of people don't realize or appreciate is being in what I call fishing shape. When you're out there 9 or 10 hours, some people are just ready to lie down in the boat. When you've been doing it as long as I have, it's all about being mentally and physically conditioned. That plays a big role.
"The biggest thing about me having a good year this year was I haven't had to focus on anything but fishing," he continued. "A lot of people out here are capable of doing well, but when you've got other stuff on your mind, it betrays even the best intentions."
Same Ol' Charlie
Ingram said he didn't adopt any new habits or revamp his preparation routine for the tournament trail this year. Plain and simply, it's the same old Charlie Ingram people have grown accustomed to seeing on his television show.
He put himself on solid footing points wise with two Top-40s to open the season, including a 10th-place showing at Lake Hartwell. He bombed at Sam Rayburn (147th), but bounced back 2 weeks later with a 22nd at Beaver Lake. A 94th at Pickwick Lake put him on the Cup bubble, but an 18th-place effort at Kentucky Lake pushed him inside the cut line.
"I didn't take a different approach," he said. "I fished with a clearer mind and it was one of those things that fell into place for me. If go back and look at my career, I've always been hot and cold, even when I was making Classics.
"Hopefully, I can stay on this pattern I'm on now."
He huffed when asked if he has plans to taper off his tournament fishing in coming years.
"You can't ask me that after as good a year as I just had," he said. "I asked Jimmy (Houston) that one time and I've always liked what he said. He said, 'I've been retired for 30 years. Why should I quit now?' I've got the fire. I've always had it. It might be more intense now than it's been the last 5 or 6 years.
"A lot of guys I've talked to that have retired, they said they got out of it because they lost that desire to compete. I have as much desire to win now as I did back when I won three B.A.S.S. tournaments in one year. Back then, though, I was so focused on fishing that I'd walk by people even if I knew them. After doing this for so long, I've learned how to differentiate when I need to focus and when I don't. I think that's part of the reason behind the year I had."
Murray A Concern
Despite his success at Hartwell earlier this year, the venue for the Cup (Lake Murray) can be vexing for those unfamiliar with the deep, clear lakes where blueback herring are the primary forage.
"It's a herring lake and those lakes fish differently to me than shad lakes because those fish are so oriented to those herring," he said. "You can find them one day and they'll be another hump over the next or on the bank.
"I remember the last time the Cup was there it rained an inch the night before day 1 and the herring had gone to the bank. There I was out in 15 to 20 feet of water wondering where the fish went."
From what he's seen and heard, there's not as much grass along the bank at Murray as there has been.
"I just hope it doesn't rain much before the tournament and send those herring to the bank," he said. "Kentucky Lake is my home lake and I fish the other TVA lakes a bunch so I've never had a lot of experience on those herring lakes, but people do tell me that they move around constantly."