By Todd Ceisner
For several years, Casey Scanlon watched anglers migrate from the FLW Tour to the Bassmaster Elite Series, which beefed up the competition level around him on B.A.S.S.’ top circuit.
As hard as he tried, he couldn’t get the traction required to stick. He cashed checks in roughly a third of the events, but by the end of the 2016 season, he found himself on the outside looking in when it came to meeting the requalification criteria.
Instead of sulking and fading from the fishing scene, he made the transition over to the FLW Tour and has flourished as a newcomer.
The high point of Scanlon’s five Elite Series campaigns was a 3rd-place finish at Bull Shoals Lake in 2013, his lone top-12 finish on the circuit. This year, he has three top-20s, including an 8th-place showing at Lake Cumberland in April.
He’s tied for 14th in points with Tour mainstay Wesley Strader and is a virtual lock to qualify for the Forrest Wood Cup in his first try.
“The season has gone really well,” Scanlon said. “I came into the year with a new attitude. I’m feeling refreshed with a new start.”
Being an Elite Series regular for five years gave him the opportunity to travel the country and expand his fishing skillset, but he sensed it was time for a change.
“In my opinion, I had a couple or three years on the Elites that were decent, where I finished in the top 50 in points,” he said. “Overall, I didn’t execute on the Elite Series and didn’t perform to my standards at all. I had good practices, but in tournaments I made bad decisions and felt the pressure. I never put it together, so it’s refreshing to get a new start in a new atmosphere.”
Scanlon admitted to not knowing what to expect after being used to the Elite Series routine of the last five seasons. He recognized a lot of names and faces of other FLW Tour anglers and has generally felt welcomed.
“They’ve treated me well and it’s a more laid-back feel,” he said. “I don’t know a ton of the guys over there, but it’s surprising to look around and still see some guys I grew up watching on TV like Jay Yelas and Clark Wendlandt.”
Scanlon said he’s also preparing for events differently this season. He’s being more thorough, so when he launches his boat for practice, he already has a plan in place and an idea of what he wants to do. That wasn’t always the case when he fished the Elite Series.
“I felt like the last couple years I didn’t prepare quite like I should,” he said. “I never pre-fished other than one or two places, especially early in my career.
“I am preparing a lot more as far as sitting down in front of my Garmins and studying on the Internet. Now, I feel well-prepared when I get to a lake.”
He’s also approaching practice and how much of the lake he covers in a different manner. He’s taking a simpler approach now and it’s made a difference in his results.
“I’ve always been a run, run, run kind of guy,” he said. “I’d hit spots and move along and cover a ton of water in practice. I’d find fish all over the lake and spread myself thin. I’ve matured as an angler and now I’m taking time and being more thorough and focusing in on bigger areas rather than the entire lake.”
Over the years, he’s watched how certain successful Elite Series pros go about their business and now he’s trying to incorporate some of that into his game.
“A guy like Bobby Lane,” Scanlon says, “makes it simple and easy on himself. He doesn’t complicate things. That’s a common trait among the great anglers. I’m not stressing about everything anymore. I’m just taking life a little slower on the water and take what shakes out.”
Welcomed Change of Pace
The one aspect of moving to the FLW Tour that has helped Scanlon’s progression the most has been the difference in how a tournament week is structured.
Both circuits give anglers three days to practice, but it’s the off day that FLW offers its Tour competitors that’s stood out to Scanlon.
“That off day is awesome,” he said. “In the Elites, you’re pressing to find spots and to practice as hard as possible before going to the meeting and rigging tackle all night.
“A big part about it is I’ve been able to process what I’ve found in practice during that off day. I can refine my game plan as I’m getting tackle together. I feel a little more prepared when day 1 comes around. I can’t say enough about that. It’s helped me fish more relaxed.”
Scanlon is coming off a miserable 136th-place finish at the Mississippi River last month and hopes to bounce back in a big way at the season finale at the Potomac River this week.
He finished 86th in the Potomac River Elite Series last August, but he’s expecting the fishing to be better this time around.
“Last year was my first time there,” he said. “I found a couple really good places, but I did the typical deal I’d done – I found good groups of fish and ran away from them in the tournament.”
Not being a tidal expert, he opted to camp in one area and wait for the tides to cycle through.
“Now I’m more knowledgeable about the fishery,” he noted. “After a tough tournament, I’m excited about the chance to turn it around and having a good event. I’m not going to fish conservatively. I haven’t done it much other than La Crosse and that didn’t go well.”