By Todd Ceisner
Like many pro anglers, Andy Morgan is his own harshest critic. So it came as no surprise that when he was asked to give a brief self-evaluation of his fishing in 2012, he was quick to label it a failure.
Let's be honest, though. There are plenty of pros fishing the FLW Tour who would’ve traded their results for Morgan’s in a heartbeat (four Top-20s, 7th at the Forrest Wood Cup, 10th in Tour Major points), but his swift dismissal of his exploits speaks to the lofty standards the Dayton, Tenn., pro holds himself to each year. Rather than celebrate his accomplishments, Morgan says he finds himself dwelling more on the disappointments.
“Those things stick around with me for a quite a while,” he said. “I didn’t know what kind of season it was going to be. In my past, I usually don’t miss that many checks and I missed three this season. I wasn’t very happy with that at all. On the other hand, I had a couple opportunities to win events and darn near capitalized on one of them.
“In my mind, it was a failure. I came out and made some good money, thank God. I only fished eight events, including the championship, and made it to the next hunting season, which always seems to be on my mind. It was disappointing, but it had a happy ending, which I was proud to say. I didn’t know how it was going to turn out after having a poor start.”
Few will argue that Morgan is one of the most consistent anglers on either tour circuit when it comes to money finishes. The last time he finished outside the Top 10 in the FLW Tour Angler of the Year points was 2006, and while it’s been more than 5 years since his last victory at the Beaver Lake FLW Tour in May 2007, he’s missed just seven checks in the 35 Tour-level events since.
Couldn’t Overcome Two Bombs
After starting the year with a lackluster 72nd-place effort at Lake Okeechobee, where he’d finished 6th in 2011, Morgan righted the ship with a 9th at Lake Hartwell to open the Tour Major portion of the schedule.
From there, he sandwiched stinkers at Table Rock Lake (80th) and the Potomac River (106th) around a runner-up placement at Beaver Lake before closing the season with a 15th at Kentucky Lake and a 4th at Lake Champlain.
At Table Rock, he said he fell into the trap of fishing memories instead of the moment and it cost him.
“I was in the wrong areas,” he said. “Here again, it always seems to start with preconceived ideas and old knowledge and that took me back up the James (River) arm. For a couple of days, they really bit in the James arm. I found them in practice in the bushes and thought I could catch a big stringer.
“On the first day of practice, I knew it was a little early to go into that muddier stuff up Long Creek, but I’d never been up that way so I figured I’d go look at that. I caught a few fish, but nothing great and it was one of those deals where I went up the James the next day and got some bites and felt like I found home. I spent day 3 in the lower portion of the James and had some bites. I figured I’d just hang around in the river and go to Long Creek if I had to. I screwed around and stayed in the wrong area of the lake for 2 days. One thing I’ve learned about Table Rock – and I’ve talked to Brent Ehrler about it – is you can be in the right area and do really well or you can be in the wrong area and do really bad. That lake fishes very sectional. I learned a pretty valuable lesson there not to put all of my eggs in one basket. That was a bad, bad, fatal mistake for me.”
Six weeks later in the nation’s capital, he wasn’t able to tap into anything that produced bites in excess of 3 pounds and wound up 106th.
“That was mind-boggling,” he added. “I put together a pretty good pattern there and thought I could do really well. I had a practice where I never did catch anything over 3 pounds and that’s what I was concerned with. That’s exactly what I should’ve been concerned with in that one.”
Cup Cos Need To Go
Morgan has competed in 15 Forest Wood Cups, which ties him with Clark Wendlandt for the most career Cups fished, but he’d trade them all for just one win in FLW’s centerpiece tournament. Last year at Lake Ouachita, he took 5th. This past August at Lake Lanier, he finished 7th, but contends he could’ve challenged Jacob Wheeler for the victory had he been the lone angler in his boat.
“It’s the easiest tournament of the year to win,” he said. “Yeah, there’s some pressure there, but someone’s still going to win. You still have to catch fish, but you don’t have the competition with only 50 or so boats there. You actually get some water opened up by not having the crowd there so you can actually have Plan A and Plan B because there’s not a crowd fishing over it.”
“I thought I had a good opportunity this year, but it was one of those deals that if I didn’t have co-anglers with me, I’d have been pretty deadly. They catch some fish behind you and I was dropping that dropshot, catching them suspended on top of timber and a few off brush piles. A lot of times you’d pull up on the right spot and if there were a couple of active fish, it’s the first dropshot to the bottom that goes by that they hit. If the water’s clear, the further they swim so it makes the strike zone bigger and they’re going to key in on your co-angler’s bait just as well as yours.”
He’d like to see FLW eliminate the co-angler field for the Cup, which would allow the pros to slug it out against each other for the $500,000 winner's share.
“If you have a media member or observer in the boat at the Lanier Cup, you’re going to catch more fish because you’re actually going to get a second drop on a pile where an active fish might not have seen your bait on the first drop,” he said. “That’s a big deal. It takes some weight out of the pro’s bag, no doubt about it.
“When you’re dealing with that much money and that big of a show, I do not agree with having a co-angler in the back of my boat,” he continued. “I want a press angler in the back of my boat so I might have a day where I catch 6 pounds, but I might catch 18 on day 2. It always happens in the Classic or Cup. If you have a press angler in the boat with a camera or just a notepad, that’s stuff that people want to see. They want to see Luke Clausen or whomever come back and catch 20 pounds on day 2 after a 5-pound catch on day 1. If you capture that, it’s just a big part of the show and you don’t get that having co-anglers in the back of the boat fishing for the same fish in a championship that you fought blood, sweat and tears to get to.
“I think it’d help the whole sport and the event and makes everything clean-cut and fair and square where the best man wins. With a co-angler in the back of the boat at Lanier, I don’t think that happens.”
> Expressing his desire to qualify for the 2014 Bassmaster Classic at Lake Guntersville, Morgan was hoping to fish the Southern Division of the Bassmaster Opens next year, but a schedule conflict between the Lake Eufaula FLW Tour and Logan Martin Open nixed that plan. “I wish they had those things spread out a little bit better,” he said.