By John Johnson
BassFan Senior Editor
Andy Morgan will leave his east Tennessee home on Saturday and start driving to Florida, where he'll begin his 21st FLW Tour season next week at Lake Okeechobee. He hasn't thought much about the tournament to this point and he won't ponder it a lot on his 11-hour trip.
"Preconceived ideas – they'll bite you in the butt every time," said the two-time Angler of the Year (AOY) and 18-time Forrest Wood Cup qualifier who's arguably the best seat-of-his-pants fisherman in the game today. "I don't care if I'm fishing outside my back door or all the way up at Lake Champlain, I try to keep that same mentality.
"When I get there, I'll rig up what I fish in Florida and go fish and see what happens. I've had people say to me, 'You really don't do that, do you?' But honest to God, that's what I do. Until I get there, I don't have a clue about where I'm going to catch a fish."
There's a strong possibility that come late June, when the six-event regular-season schedule has run its course, Morgan will rank among the Top 10 in the final AOY standings. After all, he's achieved that feat in each of the last 9 seasons in a row (he was 9th in 2015).
This year's schedule is extremely similar to 2014, when he won the second of his back-to-back points titles.
"I'm looking forward to it," he said. "There's been a lot of rain in various parts of the country and when that happens, the fishing's usually good.
"I think it's going to be good everywhere we go and it should be a lot of fun. I'm confident that we're going to catch a lot of fish."
The 44-year-old Morgan, who did two stints atop the BassFan World Rankings in 2014-15, has become one of the top competitive bass anglers in the world in spite of his tendency to ignore fishing for almost half of each calendar year. He fishes only from February through August, and then devotes the other 5 months to hunting.
He's been a co-host of The Hit List, the deer-hunting show broadcast on the Outdoor Channel, since its inception in 2011. Now he's heavily involved with a project called FLX, which he said is poised to become "the Netflix of hunting," with a bit of fishing programming mixed in.
"FLX will be the platform for the conversion of outdoors shows from TV to digital," he said. "Outdoor TV (ratings) have been sinking and really all of cable TV is on the downslide. Digital is the way a lot of younger people are watching everything. A college kid can't afford cable, so he watches everything on his computer, his iPhone or his iPad."
Morgan said his primary role in the project was uniting the people who could make it happen.
"This whole thing is way over my intelligence level," he said. "What I did was basically put the right people together and helped create a partnership between two or three guys I'm tight with, and it developed from there.
"We're hoping to roll it out by March 1, but that date might not be realistic. It might be April 1 or whenever, but it'll happen this year."
No Notion to Move
BassFans shouldn't expect Morgan to eventually join the list of FLW standouts who've departed the circuit in favor of the Bassmaster Elite Series. He's content with his current existence, and besides, fishing a full Bassmaster Opens division would be extremely difficult (if not impossible) to squeeze into his tightly packed schedule.
Morgan would love to compete in a Bassmaster Classic, but has yet to take the necessary steps that would get him there.
"Unless I get a big sponsor that really motivates me to jump ship, it probably won't happen," he said. "I'm playing a little bit different ball game than most of these guys because I'm so busy in the fall and winter with hunting. (The FLW Tour) feeds my family and it fits me."
His outlook regarding the departure of other FLW stalwarts (this year's list consists of Luke Clausen, Dave Lefebre, Adrian Avena and Clent Davis) is mixed.
"Don't get me wrong, I don't want to see those guys leave," he said. "On the other hand, they're moving a lot of good fishermen over who I don't have to deal with anymore. I was around those guys quite a bit (on tournament days) and I've got some haunts that I won't have to worry about them being in.
"But no matter who moves on, there are always guys who come out of nowhere to take their place, and this year will be no different. You look at guys like Zack Birge or Jacob Wheeler, they're educated at a young age. We've educated them through interviews, through television and through seminars. They're well-schooled with way less experience and they catch on a lot quicker than I did at that age."
Classic Carrot Still Hangs
Morgan may not have a burning desire to compete on the Elite Series, but he'd love to participate in a Bassmaster Classic. He loves the pre-spawn period and has fared well on many of the venues that have hosted that event in recent years.
"I was eating my heart out when it was at Hartwell last year," he said. "I've always done well there and it was just killing me. Now this year it's going back to Grand, and I'm like, 'Oh, my God! I know I could do well.
"That's the one thing that bothers me – I would like to fish a Classic. But in hindsight, I'm not doing a damn thing to make that happen so it must not bother me too bad."