This week, we’re welcomed by one of bass fishing’s biggest events, the annual FLW championship, appropriately coined the Forrest Wood Cup. After all, it was Wood’s creation, Ranger Boats, that was pivotal in developing the concept of the FLW Tour. Through it, and some savvy marketing principals, professional bass fishing was pushed light years further through the late 1990’s and early 2000s.
In any case, at the end of the week we will have a new tournament angler carrying the title of "world champion", as well as a check for more money than 99 percent of America makes in a year. Not too shabby.
Who will win? I was asked that very question by FLW website personnel on their way to developing a story on the subject. My answer was easy: Larry Nixon.
The field for this year’s Cup is stacked, and I’d considered them all. Guys like Andy Morgan, Bryan Thrift and Cody Meyer are due, while David Dudley, Scott Martin and Anthony Gagliardi may very well win a second.
But none are Larry Nixon.
In my prediction interview, I stated that, based on high-performing career longevity, Nixon is the best of all time. By that, I mean that no other angler has been a threat to win more events over more decades.
Let’s take a walk back in time and look at the General’s career. Who could forget:
> Nixon busting onto the scene in the late 1970s as part of the “Hemphill Gang." We’ve all heard stories about how local guides on Toledo Bend Reservoir (most notably Tommy Martin) urged Nixon to get in on the ever-expanding national tournament scene. Not long after, many likely wished they’d kept their mouths shut.
> Nixon taking down the 1983 Bassmaster Classic on the ever-stingy Ohio River. Such began Nixon’s prowess as a tournament grinder, capable of performing magic tricks with a simple plastic worm. If my memory serves me right, it was a now long-discontinued Gator Tail that struck gold for Nixon, and had me rushing to the tackle store at the age of 10 to buy a bag. I might still have them.
> The string of Megabucks wins from 1988 to 1991 (four in total) that defined Nixon’s legendary career. Immediately coined “Mr. Megabucks”, it was said that Nixon somehow took his fishing to a higher level when big money was on the line. Perhaps, in fact, it was his ability to adapt to the ever-changing hole-style course better than the competition, proving Nixon as the ultimate tournament hustler, able to throw down with anyone at any time.
> The 1999 Michigan B.A.S.S. Top 150 on Lake St. Clair, where Nixon would begin the second stage of his legendary career, mastering Great Lakes smallmouth with a Southern-style approach. Nixon would go on to win two additional national events on St. Clair, including his most recent FLW Tour title, where he beat me and other smallmouth gurus. Through it all, Nixon did so with football jigs and Zara Spooks more so than sissy-wands and dropshots.
> Nixon’s come-from-behind victory on Lake Wheeler in the 2002 FLW Tour event, jumping from 10th to 1st, nearly doubling the weight of any other competitor in the final-day shootout format. With nothing to lose, Nixon abandoned his strategy based on weather and went old-school with a jig and pig to seal the win and 110 grand.
Yes, for some time, Larry Nixon has been the face of professional tournament bass fishing, regardless of format. If you’re like me, you can still remember the opening credits of the old Bassmaster Television show, where Nixon struggles to keep a 10-pounder from jumping off, just as surprised as we were of his incredible feat.
The Forrest Wood Cup title is one championship Nixon’s storied career lacks, fueling a fire that can’t be ignored. Nothing in pro bass fishing is better than watching one of the old guard race to the winner’s circle as the clock winds down. It’s Clunn at the St. John’s Elite, Cochran taking the Cup before he hangs it up, and Brauer hammering out a Costa win in his new home. It proves they’re the best, truly capable of a win anywhere, at anytime, solidifying bass fishing as a true sport with star athletes.
And while I’d love to see a number of top Tour pros win the big one, nothing would be better than watching Nixon hoist the trophy one more time.
(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.)