By John Johnson
BassFan Senior Editor
Jim Tutt's 15th-place finish in the FLW Tour Angler of the Year (AOY) race was his best showing in 14 years on the circuit. It earned the 52-year-old Texan his fifth berth in the Forrest Wood Cup, which will be contested next month at Georgia's Lake Lanier.
He said he didn't fish any differently this year than he had in past seasons. One of the keys to his success was an extremely simple one: He caught one fish that was much larger than the average specimen at just about every stop.
"I don't want to say it was luck, but I will say that I was fortunate in that regard," he said.
Here's a sampling of some of the difference-makers he put in the boat:
> A 5-11 that was the biggest fish on day 2 at Champlain;
> A 6-01 at the Potomac River that missed taking big-fish honors by a single ounce;
> A 6-10 bruiser at Table Rock;
> A 4-04 on the second day at Beaver.
"Anytime you throw one of those in there, you go from 14 or 15 pounds to 17 or 18 real quick. The one exception was Kentucky Lake (where he ended up 82nd) – I never got a big one there, they were all 2 or 2 1/2-pounders. That was one of the lakes I thought I'd do the best on, but it didn't work out.
"I can think back to last year (when he finished 53rd in the points) and there were three or four of those kind of fish that I lost. The Tour is so competitive and there's so many good fishermen that one fish can be a deal-breaker for the whole year. You can't have a big mistake and expect to stay in the hunt because there are guys who are so consistent and they catch them every time."
Schedule was Comfort Zone
From the outset, Tutt viewed the 2012 Tour schedule as extremely favorable for him.
"They were all places that I'd been to before, and because I was familiar with them, I was pretty comfortable with what I thought I'd be able to do," he said. "I'd go to an area and just fish that area instead of doing a lot of running around. When you stay with a place for awhile and you do a lot more fishing than moving, you've got a chance to catch a good one every now and then.
"It was just a continuum from the first tournament until the last. I was real relaxed because the schedule suited my style and it seemed like we hit every lake at the right time of year for me."
If he'd fared better at Kentucky Lake, he'd have been right in the AOY mix heading into the finale at Champlain.
"I was in 6th place going into that one, so I'd have had a legitimate shot. But the way it turned out, (two-time AOY and Champlain winner David) Dudley was fishing off the planet. He's a great angler and he made it impossible for anybody to catch him."
High Hopes for Lanier
Tutt went to Lanier last week before the lake went off-limits to Cup competitors on Sunday night. He's competed there a couple of times in the past and turned in decent showings, but those were springtime events.
Lanier is usually at its stingiest during the "dog days" of August, and with the region beset by drought conditions, that'll more than likely be the case next month.
"I normally don't pre-fish, but I made an exception for this tournament for two reasons," he said. "One, there's a lot of money to be won (as much as $600,000 for a Ranger owner such as himself). And two, I think it's going to be a deep-brush deal, and I need time to find some of those kinds of places.
"Since we're already in the summertime, I don't think the patterns will change much between now and the tournament. It's not like a tournament at the end of spring or in the early summer, when things could be a lot different just a few weeks beforehand."
He hasn't fared too well in the Cups he's competed in thus far, with a 32nd in 2002 his best finish.
"The one at Fort Gibson that Darrel Robertson won (1999), I thought I could win that one. But then the weather changed and I didn't have a backup plan.
"I feel like I've gotten a lot better over the last few years, both mentally and (in formulating) a gameplan, and that should give me a better chance. I'll just try to find some of those schools of spotted bass and see what I can do."