“It never gets old.” ~ Larry Nixon
“It never gets old,” says Larry Nixon of qualifying for the 2019 FLW Cup.
Among the most iconic pioneers of tournament bass fishing, Nixon has a Bassmaster Classic trophy and two B.A.S.S. angler of the Year titles. He was the first angler to amass over a million dollars in career winnings. He even had a video game named after him – Larry Nixon’s Super Bass Fishing released in Japan in 1994. So how does The General feel as he prepares to practice for this year’s Cup?
“Believe me, I do not take it for granted because it’s so hard for me to get up and compete with them kids every year nowadays,” shares Nixon. “I’m out there busting my tail trying to make that thing every year. Some years you’ve got a bad hand or a bad shoulder or a bad elbow, so you never know when it’s gonna be your last one. I’m tickled to death.”
Nixon will be less than a month shy of 69 when the Cup commences. He credits his longevity to good luck and good eating. And an early start. “I’m fortune enough that I’ve stayed pretty healthy and my wife feeds me good, so I get the right food around the house here. I get up early every day no matter what, either fishing or hunting or something. Early bird gets the worm in my world so I’m out there working to stay ready.”
Lake Hamilton is in his home state of Arkansas. He’d like to put on a good showing for the home crowd. “It’s a big deal to me to have a chance to fish in the Forrest Wood Cup again, especially here on Lake Hamilton, only two hours from my house so all the family can come to the weigh in. Hopefully I won’t get down there and stump my toe,” laughs the easy-going Nixon.
Even if he doesn’t stump his own toe, Nixon expects some toes to be stepped on as Hamilton offers a small dance floor for the field of competitors. “It’s very small. It could get crowded. You could get your heart broke the first two or three places you go the first day and be totally out of it by nine o’clock in the morning because that’s when it gets bad tough. Boat traffic gets bad.”
Size notwithstanding, Nixon says Hamilton has got the goods when it comes to bass. “It’s 50 times better than when we were here in 2005. There have been two 11’s caught down there, that I know of, in the last six months. I think Hamilton’s actually a better fishery right now than Ouachita.
“It just depends on how bad we beat it up in practice. If guys can resist the urge to catch everything they can in practice, if they’ll bend their hooks down and all that, then it will be a decent tournament. If 52 boats practice hard for four days, it could be extremely tough.”
The playing field sets up like this: “There’s not a lot of cover in it. It’s got some grass. It’s got lots of docks. It’s got lots of different things, but there’s also lots of fish that just roam. You’ve just got to be there when it’s time for them to eat something, but boy when they quit, oh my gosh do they quit.”
Nixon’s competition is more talented, and younger, than ever. “It’s incredible how fast they can learn now. We’ve got kids coming right out of college – and high school – that are competing at the highest level. They know it all. They study every video they can get; buy every new lure they see and then they go on the internet and learn about fishing and where to look for fish.”
Electronics have exposed a lot of the formerly secret spots on any lake and opened the offshore bite to most everybody. Will this Cup be won out there? “There’s the potential for a guy to catch 17-to-20 pounds offshore – if,” continues Nixon, “he can get them to bite. Big ‘if’.”
Nixon is going in with an open mind. “I’m gonna let my practice tell me how I’m gonna fish. If I can’t catch fish out there deep then I’m going to have to beat the bank just like the kids and if I have to do that, I’m at their mercy more than likely. I’m just going to have to go down there and practice and see if I can figure out how to get a bite here and there and that’s how I’m gonna form my game plan.
“Weather is everything too. If we get a lot of sunshine it’s going to be tough as nails but if we get good cloudy weather days, it could be pretty good. Mother Nature really controls the bass’ feeding habits this time of year.”
In 2005 George Cochran brought in 10 pounds, 3 ounces on the final day after weights were zeroed, as was the format then, to walk away with the $500,000 payday on Hamilton. Nixon says a final round weight of 10 pounds could be enough again, though weights accumulate over all three rounds this time and he figures about 36 pounds will give an angler a good shot to win. “That’s a guy having one good day and then an eight or nine-pound day.
“Back when George caught that big stringer,” remembers Nixon, “I figured them fish out and caught ‘em good the first two days and then all of a sudden, they just kept missing my bait. I don’t know. They were just eating it plum to where I couldn’t hardly dig it out of them and then I couldn’t hook one on that last day.”
That was a topwater affair. Long noted as perhaps the best there has ever been with a worm, Nixon is hoping to take the title his way this time. “I’m gonna be there dragging my worm around.”