I used to think that guys like Andy Morgan were a dying breed.
While the latest class of pro bass superstars became more technologically advanced, and ventured further from the bank to unlock winning stringers, fans like myself secretly rooted for the shallow-water mudders, armed with stout line and a handful of proven lures.
Occasionally, a guy like Kevin Short will pick up where George Cochran left off, cranking inches of water and sneaking a win. For the most part, though, it seems like the only way to compete lately is to fall in line with those seeking mega-schools of ledge bass, discovering them with catalogs full of waypoints and $12,000 electronic packages.
Not so for back-to-back FLW Angler of the Year Morgan. While he admits to spending more time learning new technology, he readily admits that he doesn’t like trends, and that he hates “fishing in a damn crowd.”
Call it hardcore, old school, or whatever you want. I just call it frickin’ cool.
As we all know by now, Morgan narrowly defeated Cody Meyer for a second consecutive points title. Both fishermen had incredible seasons: combining for 5 top-10 finishes, and never finishing below 30th place in any event. With such miraculous performances given by each, I decided to interview them both.
This week, we’ll focus on Andy Morgan’s program. What he offers will certainly enlighten us all. And, while Meyer’s focus and direction is strikingly similar to Morgan’s in some regard, in others it’s drastically different. We’ll explore more there in the near future.
Chatting on the phone with Morgan is always entertaining. Gerald Swindle may get all the press for being the sport’s premier one-liner champ, but Morgan throws out some real gems.
“I couldn’t care less about catching a bass,” he surprisingly stated. “I’ve caught plenty of all of them: black ones, brown ones and ones with spots”.
I had just asked Morgan if he fishes often when not fishing tournaments. I was surprised to hear that, not only does he not “fun fish” much, or spend any considerable time working on techniques in the off-season, he really has no desire to.
What really trips his trigger, however, is tournament fishing, and its format.
In Morgan’s words, “It's all you can catch between 6:30 and 3:30…Go! I like that."
Morgan feels that the primary reason not fishing seems to work for him is that such planned absences create a feeling of anticipation and enjoyment when he finally bass fishes again. Those days, then, coincide with the first day of practice at each major event.
As we’ll learn later, this is strikingly different than Meyer’s approach.
I dove deeper into Morgan’s routine, questioning him about his overall secrets to consistency.
Immediately, he rated “open mindedness” as his best tournament fishing trait. I couldn’t believe what came next.
“I don’t even keep waypoints from the past," he said. "I mean, yeah, maybe a specific rock pile or something, but not the spots I catch ‘em. I like to start fresh.”
Morgan mentioned that, even on massive offshore meccas like Kentucky Lake or Pickwick, where most anglers believe the best spots ensure the best finishes (and Morgan finished 14th and 21st, respectively), past history plays nearly no role.
“Ninety percent of the water I fished at (those tour stops), I had never fished before,” he added.
On a side note, as I continue to investigate incredible performances by the sport’s best on all Tours, I continue to be amazed by how this seems to be an ever-increasing factor.
Morgan went on to explain that his fishing really hasn’t changed much, and that he continues to keep things simple. However, when I mentioned his previous technological illiteracy, he mentioned that he now is getting behind such advancements a little more, albeit tentatively.
“I fight change harder than most," he says, “but I can’t fight technology”.
Two examples of such Morgan mentioned were the multi-directional capabilities of depth finders, enabling him to idle more and fish less to find bass, and sound technology in his sponsor’s Livingston Lures' baits. Both, he feels, are necessary to have all the tools available to perform at the highest level.
I pushed further into Andy’s mindset, questioning him about goals and plans, comparing them to past champions who, literally, kept a checklist of all the sport’s major titles in order to strive to be the best.
“I hear guys say, 'My goal is to go out and win Angler of the Year.' Yeah, well whose isn’t?”
Morgan quickly pointed out that he strives to be near the top at every event, but takes a relatively moderate approach. In practice, he doesn’t normally look for “winning fish," and instead he’s “normally looking for bites.”
“I’m a check-getter,” he added. “I want to come out of there with a pay check.”
Morgan emphasized that, quite often, he begins an event catching just decent fish – nothing to threaten to win with. Then, throughout the tournament, he’ll adapt a bit, make a good move or two, “fish around a bit, and end up in 14th, or 17th, or whatever.”
He won’t make the cut, but he’ll earn a bunch of AOY points and put 10 or 12 grand in his pocket.
To me, this is strikingly different than the approach we’ve heard from many of the sport’s top performers, who seem to put nearly all emphasis on winning events. Morgan’s emphasis seems a bit more mature, in a way.
Throughout out chat, I came away feeling that his goal was to go out and earn a good living, in cash, at bass tournaments, and not get caught up in much of the sport’s other variables often used to measure success.
Morgan said that he has no major plans or goals going into a new season.
“I just hope I have enough strength to go fish a bass tournament,” he said.
He further stated that he felt his AOY race with Meyer pushed him to be a better competitor but, in the end, he wouldn’t wish that type of stress on anyone.
“It’s pitiful,” he said of the race. “I feel sorry for us both.”
Meyer certainly will bounce back, as his persona is one of striking confidence and optimism.
In the end, Andy Morgan unlocked the very simple secrets that I knew he would. There were no Eureka moments when questioned about his approach. No mental manipulation, no goal-driven plans, and no visualizations of future championships. Nope, just a simple, confidence-driven attitude based on proven success.
Morgan concluded by giving me the same advise he was given some 20-plus years ago: “Mickey Bruce once told me, 'Son, this isn’t rocket science. They eat worms.' I’ll never forget that,” he said before adding, "slow and steady wins the race."
Of course it does ... you’re Andy Morgan.
(Joe Balog is the often outspoken owner of Millennium Promotions, Inc., an agency operating in the fishing and hunting industries. A former Bassmaster Open and EverStart Championship winner, he's best known for his big-water innovations and hardcore fishing style. He's a popular seminar speaker, product designer and author, and is considered one of the most influential smallmouth fishermen of modern times.)