By Sean Ostruszka
Special to BassFan
Brian Latimer called it, though he certainly waited to the very end to make good on his prediction.
When Latimer got off the water after the second day of the FLW Tour event on Lake Seminole, he told his family and friends he’d found the winning fish. He hadn’t fully dialed into the pattern for catching them, but he knew the quality in his stretch of the Flint River was what he needed to make a run at his first victory.
It was a risky prediction. The pros fishing offshore grass had schools of bass that allowed them put 20 pounds in the boat within five casts if they got them to fire. Meanwhile, Latimer had barely any bites to back up his claim, be it in practice or the first two days on his grass flat. On top of that, committing to a hunch meant basically scrapping his initial plan for the tournament – a plan that produced 17 pounds the first morning.
Still, it turns out, he was right. While he never got a lot of bites on any given day – and he missed a number of the ones he did get – his undying commitment to quality over quantity paid off in the moment he’d dreamed of for many years.
“You would not believe the amount of time I spent this week not catching fish,” Latimer said. “I really had to stay focused, but it paid off. [I won]. It really happened.”
Here is a look at how Latimer was able to hunker down in the Flint River and get just enough big bites to pull out the victory.
Latimer is no stranger to Seminole, having fished a handful of FLW Series events there over the last decade. In that time he’s made a key determination.
“There’s no need for me to ever leave the Flint [River],” Latimer said. “If I ever go any farther than Wingate’s [Lunker Lodge], I’m just guessing.”
Latimer feels the Flint has some of the best grass flats in Seminole, and just as important, the water is unstable. According to him, the constant water fluctuations and visibility changes make the fish less susceptible to weather changes, like what the field saw with the cold front in practice.
With his area of the lake pinned down, Latimer went about looking mainly on his history. He knew of a current seam that made for a good cranking spot, and a quick check showed the fish were there. However, he admits to getting lucky on finding his winning spot.
“I was going to fish an island nearby and I sat down short of it, looked down and saw some good looking grass,” he said. “I flipped around it and caught a 4 1/2-pounder. That was the only fish I caught from there in practice, but it looked good. I thought it could be something to do if I needed.”
> Day 1: 5, 19-01
> Day 2: 5, 17-11
> Day 3: 5, 23-00
> Day 4: 5, 21-03
> Total = 20, 80-15
In a tournament slated to be a grind, it doesn’t get much better than making a short run to your first spot and almost immediately loading the boat with 17 pounds.
“Life was good,” Latimer says of that first morning, when he caught a quick limit cranking his shallow current seam with a Bill Lewis MR-6 crankbait.
Yet, he now had a problem. He didn’t feel he could upgrade much past what he had in his livewell on that current seam. In practice, his few bigger bites came flipping shallow grass, so he decided to head over to that shallow flat he’d found in practice. Sure enough, he got a couple quality bites to upgrade enough to put him in 10th place.
If it worked once, Latimer figured he’d try it again on day 2. Only this time his current-seam fish were gone. After boxing one small keeper, Latimer left for his flat. That’s when the lightbulb went on.
“So the river was like two different rivers every day,” Latimer said. “I don’t know why, but it would clear up on that spot in the morning and then get muddy around noon.
“I’d only fished that spot in the afternoon, so I couldn’t really see the grass. I just knew it was there. So that second day, I suddenly saw what was there.”
It was milfoil heads randomly sprouting up amongst the vast field of hydrilla that the big females were keying on as they moved through the flat toward a nearby spawning area. Unfortunately, it took him a bit to get dialed in on the bite – pitching his Texas rig in and around each of the milfoil heads. He only got six bites all day, and he lost a couple of them. Still, he brought in enough to bump up to 5th while also getting a huge boost in his confidence.
“I told my friends and family that if I could get five bites on that flat (on day 3) and land them, I’d bring in 20 pounds,” Latimer said.
Turns out, he got nine bites, but he lost his first three. Still, the six jumped him into the lead, and by then he felt he was dialed in, as he had been able to see and mark plenty of milfoil heads to rotate through, as he got multiple bites off the same pieces of milfoil.
That set up the final-day showdown between him, Braxton Setzer and Sheldon Collings. Just like the previous days, his bite on the final day was slow, and worse, he was missing the bites he got.
“I missed my first bite, and the heartbreaker was I hooked up with my next two bites and lost them both,” Latimer said. “I was really down and out, and then I caught that big one that was probably 7 pounds. Then a few minutes later, I caught another one that was pushing 4. I tended to get bites in flurries all week.”
Still, by the time the live coverage had shut off, he only had three fish. Looking for a mental reset, he did a little sight-fishing. He found a pair of fish that both bit on the first pitch … and he lost those, too. Frustrated, he went back to his flat.
“Looking back, losing those two fish won the tournament for me,” Latimer said. “Because If I had caught those two, I would have continued sight-fishing, and that wouldn’t have given me enough to win.”
Instead, he flipped up a pair of 3-pounders with about 30 minutes left in the tournament to seal the victory.
“I should’ve had 23-24 pounds [on Sunday],” Latimer said. “I had the bites. Fortunately, it didn’t matter. I stayed committed and it paid off.”
Winning Gear Notes
> Flipping gear: 7’3” Favorite Phantom casting rod, Abu Garcia Revo STX casting reel (6.3:1 ratio), 20-pound Seaguar Red Label fluorocarbon line, 1/2-ounce tungsten bullet weight, 6th Sense Bobber Stopper, 4/0 Owner 4X Jungle Flippin’ hook, Z-Man Palmetto BugZ (California Craw).
> Wacky-rig gear: 7’1” Favorite Sick Stick spinning rod, Abu Garcia Revo STX spinning reel, 20-pound Seaguar Smackdown braided line (main line) 12-pound Seaguar Red Label fluorocarbon leader, 2/0 Owner Sniper Finesse Neko hook, unnamed worm (red bug).