Successful co-anglers become next year’s pros
Fishing as a co-angler is a great way to learn new techniques and to find out how the pros make decisions during a tournament day. Co-anglers come with different skill sets, goals and reasons for fishing from the back deck. While B.A.S.S. has removed them from their top level tournaments, FLW Outdoors embraces co-anglers and provides a unique way for up and coming anglers to rise to the top of the ranks on their circuits. While some may say that fishing as a co-angler comes down to luck and a good draw, there are several co-anglers who have consistently risen to the occasion. Their successes challenge that argument as they have found ways to be versatile and finish near the top no matter what lake they are on or who they are fishing with.
Alabama’s Casey Martin is part of the next group of co-anglers looking to graduate to the pro ranks. He took his time and fished as many events as he could as a co-angler, while also fishing lower level circuits from his own boat. He believes that the time spent learning will make him more successful. He wasn’t just there to learn however, with three wins and over $75,000 dollars since 2011 won from the back of the boat, it has also provided him a smart way to help fund his upcoming rookie season as a pro in 2013.
Casey believes there are three things that will help a co-angler become successful: practice, confidence and mental toughness. He likens fishing as a co-angler to going to college. “It is a great way to learn and make sure you are ready to advance,” says Martin. “You put your time in, and when you are ready, you graduate to the next level.” With his success, he has passed with flying colors and is ready to cross the graduation stage.
One thing that separates him from other co-anglers is his approach to practice and bait selection. While many co-anglers try to match their pro cast for cast with the same technique, Casey likes to fish for his own fish. “I don’t try to compete with the pro, because they are some of the best in the world. I have always done better by doing my own thing and using baits that I have confidence in,” states Martin. He added that he is a firm believer in practicing for each event so he can get a better idea of what the fish are doing on the lake. Many co-anglers will just show up and fish, but Casey believes that “Time on the water is just as important for co-anglers as it is for the pros.” He takes it seriously and after two successful years from the back of the boat, he is preparing to compete on the FLW Tour as a pro in 2013. Martin feels that his time from the back has made him better prepared for the jump.
As mentioned, B.A.S.S. removed the co-angler program from the Elite Series, but the highly competitive Bassmaster Opens still feature co-anglers casting for cash from the back of the boat. One co-angler who has dominated his division over the past several years is Oklahoma’s Clayton Coppin. With a win, two second place finishes and a third in the past six events he has proven himself. His other two finishes were also in the money and he has heard many pros and co-anglers alike asking him when he is going to move to the front of the boat. For Clayton it comes down to timing. “When I started fishing as a co-angler, I wanted to make sure I was ready before I invested so much time and money. These guys are good and if you are not 100% ready you will just donate your money,” states Coppin.
What co-anglers can learn from their pro counterparts is something more than any amount of money can buy. Clayton Coppin believes this and says, “You get to see how the pros make decisions when they are in a tournament situation, how they position the boat and how they select baits. You could never get that any other way than fishing with them during a tournament.” While his success has made it seem easy for him, Clayton is grateful for his time as a co-angler and will be moving to the front of the boat next season. He has one last piece of advice for co-anglers, “You are there to learn first of all, the chance to win some extra money is just a bonus,” states Coppin.
A Training Ground for the Next Generation of Pros
FLW Outdoors provides a great training program in the form of their co-angler program. Several recent FLW Tour Pros have graduated from the back to the front deck with great success. Stetson Blaylock, Justin Lucas and Clent Davis have turned pro after spending time fishing as co-anglers. All three have made the Forrest Wood Cup after turning pro and are part of the new generation of pros who have graduated through the ranks. A further look back reveals that Scott Martin, one of the highest earning FLW pros, spent time fishing as a co-angler with the organization. The training they received from the back deck with the world’s best proved valuable for them. Justin Lucas is a big advocate of the co-angler program and feels that it helped him get to where he is today. “There is no doubt in my mind that fishing as a co-angler for a few years helped me in advancing to the front of the boat. You can literally cut down the things you need to learn in half the time,” adds Lucas. All their success proves that the co-angler program works and serves as a great program to cultivate new talent.
Fishing as a co-angler is a valuable experience for any angler – experts as those new to the sport. While co-angler success is often seen as hinging on the luck of the draw, the co-anglers who consistently do well are those who follow some key steps; they pay attention, fish for their own fish and go into each day with an open mind. Versatility is vital as a co-angler and those who succeed are the ones who are there to learn as much as they can while on the water. Some successful co-anglers step up to become next year’s pros. You never know, it could be you.