By John Johnson
BassFan Senior Editor
Chris McCall notched his first FLW Tour top-10 finish way back in 2004, when he was the runner-up in that season's opener at Lake Okeechobee. It took him 13 years to make his second one, but then he endured only a two-month wait for No. 3.
Buoyed by a 10th-place showing at Lake Guntersville and a 6th at Lake Cumberland, the 46-year-old Texan put together his best-ever Tour campaign in 2017. It was his second season back following a seven-year break, during which time he got divorced, remarried, battled the effects of a prescribed drug before ditching it altogether and got himself a new "day job."
"It's been a good year – sometimes the older we get, the smarter we get," he said. "I'm probably not as good of an angler as I was several years ago, but I'm definitely more relaxed and I think that leads to some better decisions.
"After my divorce, I got put on an anxiety medication (Effexor) that was really ruining my life – I was a miserable person to be around. Now I've got a lot better outlook on life in general."
McCall has long enjoyed success at the triple-A FLW Series level, with multiple wins and an Angler of the Year (AOY) title to his credit. However, he'd never finished higher than 37th in seven seasons on the Tour until he landed at 39th this year.
The seven Tour events were all he focused on this year – he didn't enter any Series, BFL or local events.
"Since I left the Tour the first time (after the 2008 campaign), I'd been fishing 25 to 35 tournaments a year," he said. "I finally decided that was senseless – if I won one, I'd make ($2,000), and none of the team stuff made sense to me anymore.
"I qualified for the 2015 Forrest Wood Cup through the (Series), and I'd decided before that I was going to quit altogether if I couldn't get back on the Tour. It feels so good to be back out there and fishing again. I just can't say enough about it."
He struggled a bit in his 2016 return, finishing 89th in the points and skipping one event in order to fish the BFL All-American, where logged a lack-luster 43rd-place showing. He was a bit hesitant giving it another go this year until FLW added a seventh event to the schedule, which was Guntersville.
"The way it was going into the season, I had a certain amount of money in sponsorship dollars, but I was going to have to pick up some of it on my own," said McCall, who works for a company in Dallas operated by former Tour pro Tommy Dickerson that produces large-scale industrial barbecue pits and smokers. "Then when they put Guntersville on there, I wasn't missing it.
"You don't get many grass-related events on the Tour. Maybe it sounds a little cocky, but I was pretty sure that was one I could take advantage of."
Murray hasn't Been Kind
McCall will compete in his third career Cup next month at Lake Murray in South Carolina. It's a venue he's visited before, but not one that he has many fond recollections of.
"I've been there twice for spring tournaments and I did absolutely terrible both times," he said. "I think I'm 0-for-4 (in making paychecks) in the Carolinas, but I do like the way this one sets up. Unfortunately, there's way too much info out there about that lake – when you go there you know every scenario that's ever happened.
"At least this time, with it being in the summer you have a chance to win junk-fishing and fishing shallow, and I do like that. I plan to be throwing a bait that's moving pretty much the whole time."
As for next year, he'd heard rumors that there'd be a regular-season stop at Michigan's Lake St. Clair, and those were confirmed Thursday when FLW released its 2018 Tour schedule.
"I going up north to fish for smallmouths and I go to St. Clair almost every year just to fun-fish," he said. "I've been there three times on the Tour and one year my dad went and fell in love with the lake. Last year I took my wife there between the Kentucky Lake and Champlain events.
"Sometimes I think I could move to Detroit and fish that lake for the rest of my life. If not that, then I'd at least like to take an extended vacation every year for a month or so."
> McCall's only real bomb this year was at Florida's Harris Chain, where he finished 161st. "I didn't got to Lake Griffin and get on that Rat-L-Trap bite, and I was just kicking myself afterward," he said.