“I couldn’t have won Angler of the Year, and I wouldn’t have done anything different."
Cody Meyer was trying to convince me, or perhaps himself, that his fate was simply out of his hands.
“I never lost a fish all year that hurt me."
Either Meyer was one of the most positive people I had ever interviewed, or he was really good at “putting me on." Something about him, though, just gleamed with humility and positive reinforcement. I’ve come across this before when speaking with the West Coast crew – it’s almost as if the California blue skies put a perennial grin on their faces, regardless of what life throws at them.
Meyer had just completed his season on the FLW Tour, finishing 2nd in the points race to Andy Morgan, yet Meyer told me it was Morgan who pushed him to excel to a higher plateau, and for that he was thankful.
The winning margin was slight at just 9 points, but the real story was the number of points Meyer amassed without winning. Since the inception of the current FLW points system, Meyer’s accumulation of 1,123 points would have easily won the title in any season except 2014.
With three Top-10 performances and no finish out of the Top 25, Meyer’s season was one of phenomenal success, 2nd only to Andy Morgan’s super-human performance. Last week we took a look into Morgan’s methods and found them to be an example of mastering the basics. This week we’ll do the same with Meyer – and find strikingly similar methods as well as some drastic differences.
The first notable difference between Morgan and Meyer lies in their off-season habits. While Morgan purposely avoids bass fishing, Meyer constantly works on his game. With continual practice, he pushes himself to become a better fisherman.
Looking ahead at next season, Meyer mentions a need to continue to work on his swimbaiting tactics, as well as gain more confidence in deep-cranking. He'll give those special attention throughout the off-season.
Meyer credits his Western roots, which allowed him to develop versatility, with the foundation for his success. He feels equally adept with techniques from frog fishing to dropshotting, given California’s naturally diverse tournament fisheries. In addition, Meyer mentioned that he felt his evolution as a touring pro has come a long way. Given his experience on Tour, he has visited most of the popular fisheries a few times now and quickly knows which specific patterns to seek out quicker than a Tour rookie would.
His method for finding fish at each stop was notably similar to Morgan’s. For the most part, he deletes any previous waypoints (except possibly key structural elements) and starts fresh each time. As in our interview last week, I feel this approach by pros is really the “en-vogue” thing to say, but saying and doing are often two drastically different things. Such actions take serious guts when a bunch of money is on the line and the clock is ticking.
Through it all, though, Meyer claims his best finishes are always those where he finds his weigh-in fish during the event. This year, for example, he claims in three of the six regular-season tournaments he found the majority of his fish during the actual competition. He also noted that, in his best finishes, the pattern changed every day, and that he fished in places he had never made a cast before. Meyer credited friend Michael Bennett, former million-dollar winner in the Forrest Wood Cup, for helping teach him this approach.
While Morgan was quoted last week as saying he utilizes modern technology a little more each year, Meyer takes such an approach to the extreme.
“I feel like I’ve been ahead of the curve in (modern sonar) fishing,” he said.
Feeling that such security comes from his West Coast deep-water roots, Meyer revealed his propensity to look for fish just about everywhere. “I just have so much more confidence when I can see fish on the graph, rather than just fish to find them,” he explained. In fact, Meyer further mentioned that he fished less than 3 hours in practice at Kentucky Lake or Pickwick and instead spent the majority of his time graphing. Boring? Yes, but evidently effective.
Another comparison between FLW’s Top 2 anglers is their overall approach to each event. Like Morgan, Meyer’s goal at each stop is to “find fish to be able to get a check." When asked about attempting to find winning fish, Meyer pointed out that such an approach does not lend itself to his goal of career longevity. “Some guys win (one event), but do really bad in others. That method makes it hard to have a long career. Cashing a check to me is very important.”
In the end, it appears that although their methodology may be different, FLW’s two top performers in 2014 are strikingly similar in their goals. For Meyer, practice and preparation ensure he’s at the top of his game. Morgan stays loose and attacks each day with the enthusiasm of an 18-year old with his first bass boat.
Regardless, they both seem to put themselves in places where they can make decisions based on immediate conditions, not past history, and they’ve taken steps to go all-in with that approach.
We’re seeing this more often than ever within a group of touring pros, many of whom claim to be sick of “help” winning over “skill." It’s a return to the mentality that the best in the world are the best – no matter what part of the world you stick them in. It’s Denny Brauer winning on Champlain, Kevin VanDam on the Mississippi Delta or David Fritts at Minnetonka.
And it appears that bucking the trend and just “going fishing” may be what it takes to dominate in the modern era.
(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.)