Scott Suggs wouldn't trade the last 10 months for anything. But he admits that what he accomplished last August has had at least somewhat of a detrimental effect on his performance on the FLW Tour this year.
"I always wondered why some guys' results would go down after they won something big like a championship or a (Bassmaster) Classic or an Angler of the Year (AOY)," said the Arkansan who claimed the sport's first million-dollar prize by winning the 2007 Forrest Wood Cup at Lake Ouachita. "Now I understand it.
"I've been so busy making appearances and doing so many other things that going to a tournament almost feels like my time to relax. It's like getting away from it all."
He doesn't have a finish higher than 41st in any of the season's first four events and he's 78th in the AOY race. The Cup, unlike the Classic, doesn't grant an automatic berth to the defending champion, so he's got some work to do to secure a spot in this year's edition at Lake Murray.
The Top 40 in the points are assured spots, but the cutoff will go a bit deeper than that due to double-qualifiers from the FLW Series and Strens.
"I'm not out of it. I love to structure-fish, and that's what these next two tournaments (Fort Loudoun-Tellico and the Detroit River) will be about.
"But I can't stumble too badly. If I finish 75th or 80th in one, then I might have to make the (Top 10) cut in the other one. Or, two Top 50s would probably do it."
Points Down the Drain
Suggs would be higher up the points list if not for a couple of costly mishaps. They may or may not have been due to fatigue from his hectic Cup-winner's schedule, but they were incidents that hadn't befallen him in the past.
The first occurred in the season opener at Toho, where he ended up 92nd. He weighed only four fish on day 1 despite catching more than a dozen keepers that day and returning to the launch with five.
One escaped en route from his boat to the stage.
"I had a 3-pounder jump out of the weigh-in bag," he said. "It hit the dock head-first one time, and then it was back in the lake."
At Beaver (his best finish of the season), he would have made the Top 10 if not for a 7-pound penalty for being 7 minutes late to the launch. He'd misread his time sheet and actually thought he was 8 minutes early.
Then there was a dead fish at Norman that set him back 8 ounces. In that event, that was worth about 25 places.
"There've been a lot of little things that have happened because I haven't had my head screwed on right. I just haven't been able to get into 'the zone.'''
Free Pass in the Future?
Suggs would like to see FLW Outdoors follow BASS's lead and give the defending champion a free pass into the premier event. He said it wasn't a major issue in past years, but has taken on added significance now that practice for Tour events is limited to 4 days.
"I don't want them doing it on my account this year, but it'd be nice if it could happen in the future," he said. "You'd think they'd want the champion to have a chance to defend the title, especially after doing all of the promotional things throughout the year.
Suggs has had some mishaps this year that have cost him some points in the Angler of the Year race.
"I've been spending part of what's supposed to be my first day of practice at Wal-Marts and places like that. It wasn't that big of a deal when we had the unlimited practice, but it's a lot tougher on that guy now."
If he can make it to Murray in early August, he thinks he stands a decent chance of winning his second straight cup. He predicts that the South Carolina lake will fish a lot like Ouachita did the previous year.
Even though he hasn't fished as well as he'd have liked to this season, he'd gladly do the past year all over again.
"It's been the most awesome thing I could've ever dreamed of. I've had people come up to me and say they saw me on this or saw me on that, and to have your named be mentioned along with guys like Larry Nixon and George Cochran, that's pretty dadgum awesome.
"I wouldn't want to change anything. I'd like to win it again start all over making the same appearances."
> Suggs said his busy off-season schedule, which included a trip to Hollywood for an appearance on the Best Damn Sports Show, Period, might have been more stressful for his wife Kim than it was for him. "She's not a big fan of airplanes, and when I was jet-setting here and there and all that, she was on the computer waiting for the plane to set down. Then she'd give me about a minute, and she'd be calling."
> Since the fish jumped out of his weigh-in bag at Toho, he's begun rolling his bag up tightly and carrying it pressed against his body. "I usually wear some nice pants on tournament days and sometimes it looks like I've peed myself, but I don't care."