By Todd Ceisner
Attention: Elite Series anglers.
Koby Kreiger is done playing nice. He’s through with worrying about getting in someone else’s way on the water, so be prepared to deal with a more aggressive Kreiger in 2017.
Not that he’ll be adopting a “no more Mr. Nice Guy” tack or anything of that nature, he just wants to start asserting himself more as he enters his third season on the Elite Series. Basically, enough with the tiptoeing.
The Floridian is coming off a season that saw him pull down two top-12 finishes (two more than he had during the ’15 campaign) and he’d like to see that number increase during the coming season, which opens at Cherokee Lake in eastern Tennessee is just about a month.
“I have to be more aggressive,” Kreiger said. “You have to change your mental approach. Before, you’d say to yourself, ‘I’m not going to fish that bluff because I know Chris Lane caught them there yesterday and I don’t want to be in his way.’ I have to be conscious of others, but not so much worry about them.”
The former FLW Tour angler recalled an instance during his first year on the Elite Series in 2015 when he and Gerald Swindle were fishing the same spot at Chesapeake Bay and he opted to cede the area to Swindle without being asked to.
“I don’t need to do that,” Kreiger said. “I need to worry more about me than other people.”
He said it’s a juggling act – being respectful of his competitors or perceived as being respectful while also being able to focus on how he wants to fish that day and be productive.
“I worry a lot on day 2, especially if you have a bad day 1,” he said. “I worry about changing up and interfering with somebody that may have done better than me on day 1. I need to get that out of my brain. I just need to go fish and fish like Koby fishes and not worry about whomever gets angry with me for somewhere I wasn’t in on day 1. I’ll stay out of their way, but go fishing and do things the right way.
“It’s a hard balance to strike. Let’s say they’re catching them in Floyd’s Bay or wherever. Obviously, if I haven’t been in there or practiced in there and I hear they’re biting good there, I won’t go in there. But if I practiced in there and had it in the back of my mind and didn’t get a chance to fish it on day 1, then I’ll go there. It can be a little scary because I don’t want to have a bad reputation in this sport. I would rather end my career knowing I did the right things rather than be known as a hole jumper.”
‘Something to Build On’
Kreiger finished 65th in Angler of the Year points in 2016, which put him well short of his goal of making the AOY Championship and challenging for a Bassmaster Classic berth.
His season was derailed almost out of the gate with a 103rd-place finish at Winyah Bay. It was one of three missed checks in the first four events and one he’d like to have another shot at.
“I was doing the right thing and I was in the right areas, but I got messed up on the tides,” he said. “That was probably the worst one of the year for me. I was in good shape on day 1, but then zeroed on day 2. That probably bothers me more than anything. Both of the guys who were in the same area as me made the top 12. I sort of thought I ran the tides properly, but for some reason it was backwards.”
From there it was a series of ups and downs. He rebounded with a 12th at the Bull Shoals/Norfork dual-lake event, but then missed checks in the next three before placing 5th at Cayuga Lake, which earned him a spot in the now-infamous Classic Bracket at the Upper Niagara River.
“When I look back on it, I had a couple better finishes than the year before, which was a good thing,” he said. “That’s something to build on. I still had a couple bad ones and that’s what I need to get rid of. If I can get rid of those I’ll be fine, I’ll be in the top 50 where I need to be and have a chance to make Classic.
“My goal is to get rid of those 90s and 100s because those will kill you.”
On Tuesday, Kreiger was finally able to make his first cast since undergoing significant surgery on his right shoulder on Oct. 12. He had a torn bicep, a torn bicep tendon and a torn rotator cuff repaired along with having two bone spurs removed from his collar bone.
“I knew I needed it back in June, but I wanted to grind it out,” he said.
He’d originally set the surgery up for October with the idea that the Elite Series season wouldn’t begin until after the Classic or sometime in March, which would’ve given him plenty of time to recover and rehab. When the schedule was announced and the opener was set for mid February, he couldn’t move up the surgery and he’ll do the best he can to be ready.
He’ll surely want to be in top condition for the second event on the schedule, set for his old stomping grounds of Lake Okeechobee two weeks after Cherokee. For years, Kreiger lived a few minutes from the Big O, but now resides on the western side of Florida. He knows the lake well and how things should set up. He said the media reports about the lake’s condition in light of the algae blooms and water releases toward each coast have been overblown.
“The lake is in great shape,” he said “All of the stuff on the news is one sided. It’s all about big business and big money. If you go look at the lake and travel around it, the lake is a small part of the bigger problem. Others aren’t willing to say they’re part of the problem.”
He’s also looking forward to getting another shot at Lake St. Clair to close out the season. He took 15th there in 2015 and numerous other solid finishes there from his FLW days.
“It’s always better to have a little experience everywhere you go,” he said. “Maybe not too much because too many memories can derail you. It’s always positive to be familiar with the town and to know where stuff like boat ramps are and places to be instead of not knowing anything about the place.”
> Kreiger picked up Bass Mafia and V&M Baits as new sponsors for 2017.