By Todd Ceisner
Just a few months ago, Micah Frazier was toying with the idea of skipping the second half of the FLW Tour season after three miserable, triple-digit finishes to open the year.
It would've been the easy way out for the young Georgian pro who'd fished only a pair of Tour events in 2013 as he opted to focus more on getting married and settled into his new lifestyle.
Instead of pulling the chute on this season, he forged ahead and has rebounded in fine fashion. He cashed checks in the final three FLW Tour events, including a 6th-place finish at Beaver Lake. Mixed in was a 22nd-place effort at the Douglas Lake Bassmaster Northern Open.
He continued his surge last week with a 5th-place showing at the Lake Champlain Northern Open, which pushed him up to 3rd in the division points standings behind Ott DeFoe and Champlain winner Shinichi Fukae with one event left (Detroit River in early September).
"Last year started out and I didn't have a good start," he said. "It wasn't related to any one issue, but my mind was on getting married in April and everything that went into that so I took the rest of the year off.
"This season, I came back and got off on the wrong foot and I remember thinking before Beaver that I didn't know if I wanted to finish the year out."
Beaver Bounce Back
Frazier's plan for this year was to the fish the FLW Tour in addition to the northern divisions of the Rayovac Series and Bassmaster Opens. When the James River Rayovac was rescheduled due to flooding, he decided to skip that division as the new date created a conflict for him.
That left him with the Tour and the Northern Opens, which is stacked with Tour pros since it was the lone Opens division that didn't conflict with any Tour events.
"It is stacked this year," he said of the Northern Opens field. "In the past it seemed like the Northerns were the easy route, but not this year. I'm fishing it just to keep my options open. It's not like I'm unhappy fishing the Tour, but six events is not enough and I wanted to supplement that. Plus, with me getting back into the swing of things after last year, I wanted to fish a lot of tournaments this year."
His season started with three straight bombs – 102nd at Lake Okeechobee, 134th at Lake Hartwell and 130th at Sam Rayburn Reservoir. The Hartwell result was somewhat of a surprise since he was the runner-up there in the 2012 FLW Tour event.
"I screwed up there this time," he said. "I had a lot of preconceived notions in my head and I tried to catch them how I caught them before and it didn't work. I probably should've just picked up a spinning rod and fished more in the clear water instead of trying to make the stained water deal work."
After Rayburn, he gave some serious thought to packing it in for the year, but with Beaver Lake on the horizon he opted to stay in the game. He
"My familiarity with Beaver helped," he said. "In the past, I'd always cashed a check there. I've always fished the river a little and I'd get on them in practice, but it would never materialize in the tournament. This year, I wanted to focus on the lower end and develop a smallmouths and spotted bass deal."
His plan worked out as he threw a swimbait most of the tournament and wound up weighing 13 smallies of the 20 fish he brought to stage.
"I wouldn't say I knew I could do that good, but I had a bait that could catch small ones as easy as it could catch big ones," he added. "That event was more of a bait deal. I got dialed in more and more as the tournament went on as far as the structure I was fishing along the bank. Confidence is such a big deal, whether it's in a bait or technique. It's a game changer. That was a big deal for me especially coming from Rayburn and having never been there. It was just a battle getting around with all the timber. I just never knew if I was in the right areas or was doing the right thing."
Champlain a Special Place
Frazier has held Lake Champlain in high regard since his teens and his latest showing there only deepened his love for it.
"By far, it's my favorite lake and area in the country," he said. "Back when I was 17 or 18 I went up there and fished some stuff and I've always done well. My dad would take me up there or I'd go up with some buddies and it was always more of a vacation than us going to fish tournaments. I've had a lot of good times up there."
He's fished some of the well-known parts of the lake when they've been at their best and he had every intention of heading south to Ticonderoga for the Open when he left his house in Georgia a few weeks ago.
"Back in 2012 when the Tour was there, I went south and caught 19 (pounds) on day 1," he said. "Back then it was easy to go catch 18 to 20. This year, I caught them okay, but never found anywhere that I felt like I could catch five good ones. I have enough experience down there to know it wasn't good like it can be."
In practice, he had better success up north catching 3 1/2- to 4-pound class smallmouth and that's what he opted to target during the tournament using a dropshot and a Carolina rig.
"They were as deep as I've ever caught them up there," he said. "I had three really good places and one of them turned out better than the others. One spot had some shallow grass on top, but then it fell off to 40 feet on the back side and the better ones were down in 40 feet.
"When the Rayovac (Series) was there, Ti was a lot better and the north end was worse," he added, "but most of the guys in the Open who made the cut were up north. When you go south, you feel like you have to go to one spot and catch them and with the bite being the way it was I didn't have the local knowledge that some of those guys did to figure them out."