By John Johnson
BassFan Senior Editor
You hear a lot of pro anglers talk about how you have to let the fish tell you how they want to be caught. Brian Latimer gives the bass a few options, but nonetheless tries to coax them into biting what he wants to throw.
"I have a slogan that helps me in practice: I want to find my fish, fish my style and catch my fish," he said. "That's all I want to do.
"If you can do that over several days, it tends to snowball into a good finish. If you can do it for several tournaments, it leads to wins and AOY (contention). Those are things that I indirectly shoot for, but the biggest deal for me is finding my fish and catching them the way I like to fish."
That approach definitely worked this year for the fourth-year FLW pro from South Carolina as he captured his first Tour victory and qualified for his initial FLW Cup with an 8th-place finish in the Angler of the Year race. The $149,500 he pocketed over seven events was just about triple what he'd earned in his first three Tour seasons combined.
"It was a really good year," said the 37-year-old former landscaper. "I'm very happy about it."
No Conscious Changes
Latimer credits tour-level experience as the primary reason for his breakout campaign. In addition to his triumph at Lake Seminole, he also had an 8th-place finish at Grand Lake and a 20th at Lake Toho – two venues that are about as diverse as bass fisheries get.
"I didn't really change anything this year and there wasn't really any moments where any decisions really stuck out," he said. "A lot of times I was just a lot more confident in what I was doing than I had been in the past. A couple of times I didn't catch them good in practice and then on tournament day I'd get a weird hunch and go back and it was like, lo and behold, the winning fish were there.
"There's been times in the past when I thought what I found in practice wasn't good enough, or just maybe good enough to get by. There were times this year when I felt like I found the best stuff on the lake and it makes a big difference when you believe in what you're fishing."
He feels like he's been pigeon-holed as a finesse artist, perhaps due to the many YouTube videos he creates on the deep, clear waters near his home. In reality, he's most comfortable when employing power-fishing tactics and falls back on the spinning gear only when necessary.
"Really, my wheelhouse is flipping, throwing shallow- and medium-diving crankbaits and fishing a spinnerbait. All the wacky stuff is really prominent in pro fishing these days, but I was doing that for a long time before it became 'cool.' I'm not saying I was the first or anything like that, but I was doing it back in the BFL days way before it became popular.
"The baits that I throw will work all year long – there might be different way to rig one or you might have to go to a different style of crankbait, but there's something based around those techniques that will work. I used them this year all the way up the Eastern Seaboard, from Toho to Champlain."
A Win is a Win
Latimer, of course, was thrilled that he was able to top the field at Seminole, but he said the feeling in the aftermath was nothing that he hadn't experienced before.
"It really wasn't any different that when I won my first club tournament," he said. "After you've won, you feel like the potential to win again is always there – you can see how things can start to snowball really fast."
He hopes to experience that sensation again in a couple of weeks when the 2019 edition of the FLW Cup is staged at Lake Hamilton in Arkansas. It's a venue that he's never visited before, but he believes he has the skill set to fare well.
"I didn't pre-practice and I haven't really looked into it that much, but from the study I have done, it seems like it's similar to some of the lakes we have around here like Greenwood and Secession. It's 7,500 acres and we get four days of practice, so I should have time to figure out something that works.
"It should be a typical tough August tournament. I'm so thankful that back in the BFLs we always had the Super Tournaments in August and September. I'm pretty sure I won't see anything that I haven't seen before."