By Todd Ceisner
For Alex Davis, the lasting image of the 2017 FLW Tour season was seeing his name shuffled down the leaderboard after day 2 of the season finale at the Potomac River.
He finished in a three-way tie, weight-wise, for 54th, but both Matt Arey and Todd Hollowell had caught bigger stringers on day 1, so Davis had to settle for 56th. Losing the tiebreaker cost him two points toward the Angler of the Year standings and ultimately a spot in the Forrest Wood Cup.
When the dust settled, Davis finished 41st in points, one point shy of forging a three-way tie for 40th, which would’ve triggered another tiebreaker process to determine the final Cup berths. With total weight caught over the course of the seven regular-season events serving as the first tiebreaker, Davis would’ve secured his first Cup berth.
He admits it was a tough reality to wrestle with initially – he wanted to qualify for the Cup for his own reasons, but also to share the experience with close friend Marshall Deakins, who made it by winning the BFL All-American – but he quickly moved past it and shifted his focus to the 2018 season.
Despite finishing a season-low 157th at Lake St. Clair, no tiebreakers were needed to determine Davis’ Cup fate this year. He locked himself in with a 29th-place finish in points, his best showing in six Tour seasons. His year was highlighted by three top-20 finishes, including a 6th at Kentucky Lake, where he bounced back after weighing just three fish on day 1.
“Last year was a good season,” Davis said. “There was one fish at Lake Cumberland that jumped out of the net and jumped off, which caused me to be short of a limit that day. That cost me 30 points. That stuff has not happened this year.”
His Cup miss a year ago might’ve derailed another angler, but Davis was quick to put it in the proper perspective. He’s been on the positive side of close finishes before, so he knew he’d have to absorb the gut punch when the outcome fell in someone else’s favor. Aside from the lost fish at Cumberland, he had another fish inexplicably come off while fishing with a worm at the Potomac.
“There’s no sense in dwelling on it,” he said. “That only will make it worse. I knew it wouldn’t change anything.”
He stayed with family while at the Potomac event and was hoping for a celebratory gathering had he qualified for the Cup. Instead, he made the best of a bummer situation.
“I was literally over it by the time I got home,” he added. “That drive home was the worst. My whole year came down to a tiebreaker, but I had my family there and we just hung out. I actually stayed two days and went fishing. I got over it pretty quick. I don’t mind getting beat, but losing on a tiebreaker is harsh.”
This year, he can remember just one fish that came off that he thinks cost him points, but no money.
“Sometimes it goes your way and other times it doesn’t,” he said.
No More Playbook
In the past, Davis said he’d try to plan out his days on the water ahead of time. Sometimes, it would work out. Other times, it wouldn’t. This season, he has tried to free-wheel more and fish off feel and current conditions. He’s seen it work for others and so far, he’d say his new approach has been a success.
“I tried not to be as stubborn and I guess it took me 5 or 6 years to learn the importance of that,” he said.
He pointed to a sequence at Smith Lake, where he had to check in at 4 p.m. and he was still short of a limit. Rather than stick with what he’d been doing, he transitioned to a shaky-head and caught two more keepers.
“That got me a check and points instead of trying to keep making them bite what I was throwing,” he said. “I’m finally trusting my instincts. If a day isn’t going the way you want or a place isn’t producing, now I’ll just go practicing. It sounds stupid because (Bryan) Thrift says it all the time and I used to think he was lying, but now I think he really just goes fishing. Before, I would get so locked in and have a plan for everything and I’ve realized that doesn’t work.”
Prior to the Kentucky Lake Tour event, Davis was 20th in points. The top-10 showing on the Tennessee River virtually locked him into the Cup, but had he not been able to rally with two 20-pound bags over the final three days, he might’ve gone to St. Clair needing a good finish to punch his ticket to Ouachita.
“That was a super proud moment for me,” he said.
He made a decision to leave a spot on day 1 and was never able to get back on it later, on so he had to settle for three fish, which weighed 8-11. Buried in 113th place heading into day 2, he went back to where he’d caught his fish the day before and found more fish had started to migrate that way. A 22-00 stringer catapulted him up to 17th place.
“They were finally coming to me,” he said. “Ledge fishing is something I feel like I’m kind of good at and it’s something I enjoy doing and the same thing happened to Mark Rose. I think people burned those shallow fish up and the deep fish only got better.”
Will Seek Grass
Davis is excited for his Cup debut and isn’t concerned about heading to the Ozarks for a mid-August tournament on a deep, rocky reservoir.
“It’s one of those deals where people say the Cup is one of the hardest tournaments to win,” he said. “I say we’re still fishing against the same people, just not 187 of them. It won’t be as crowded, plus we get one more day of practice and one less day of competition. I hope everything goes as planned.”
Part of that plan will be trying to find any part of the lake that has vegetation in it.
“I heard there’s grass in the lower end so if it’s there, trust me I’ll find it,” he added.