Larry Nixon, Team Evinrude Member, fished his way from the middle of the pack, to the top of the leader board during the Detroit River FLW Tour Open, August 2012. Because of his numerous wins, and his exceptional ability to catch bass, many may not realize that it was 2007 since his last win at a tour level; on Lake Norman. Larry had this to say about his time since the last win, “To be honest, I was getting a little down about it and wondering if I could pull off a win again. Especially after I didn’t qualify for the Forrest Wood Cup this year, but I’m on cloud nine now!”
After the first day’s weigh-in, Larry found himself in 37th place, several pounds away from the leader. I asked Larry if he felt like he still had a shot at winning this tournament at that point, or was it a matter of making the cuts at this point. “After seeing where I was sitting when the day one weigh-in was complete, I really didn’t know. I jumped off a 5-6 pounder that day, and I thought I may have blown it. That’s fishing though, and it can happen to anyone, to include the anglers ahead of you. Four days are a lot of fishing, and anything can happen. So, you go fishing.” Fishing is what he did, well, more like catching. He followed up his day one results with three consecutive twenty plus pound limits to close out the tournament with a six pound lead.
Going into the final day, Larry was in the lead by only a few ounces. “I was nervous. A lot of things were happening that last day. The wind was picking up, which can turn the bigger smallmouth on to a feeding binge, making it easier for all anglers to catch them. I didn’t have much of a lead, and the angler in second place had caught a monster bag on the first day. I had it in my head that I needed twenty one or twenty two pounds to win.” Heading back to the scales on the last day of the four day tournament with an estimated nineteen pounds in his livewell, Larry was very cautious. Because the wind had increased, traveling in a bass boat was dangerous, and he had to leave early to make sure he could make weigh-in.
Larry said he didn’t have a bite the last two hours of the tournament, and this changed his focus to making sure his estimated nineteen pounds made it to the scales healthy. Larry went on to say, “Fish care is always important to me, but when you think you’re a little short of what’s needed to win, a fish care penalty weighs heavy on you. So I spent those last two hours, and my drive back to weigh-in, making sure my limit was healthy.”
Larry explained how he left early for two reasons. First, so that he could stop every 15 miles and refill his livewells to the lids, ensuring that he kept as much water as possible on his catch. “In rough water and larger waves, keeping your livewell as full as possible will help them [bass] survive the ride.” Second, he had to travel through what he calls the Miracle Mile. “We call this stretch of the river that because if you can survive a bass boat ride through it, you’ve done something. It’s a stretch of the river that has concrete seawalls on both sides and wave action is treacherous. It was windy and everyone that owned a 40 foot pleasure boat was on the river that day. I have to give all the credit to my boat and motor for getting us through that stretch of the river. The low end power on the Evinrude ETEC is a must have to keep the nose of the boat up and ride over the waves; this also helps keep you from spearing the next wave. I just can’t say enough about the ETEC; it’s a bullet proof workhorse.”
Let’s talk about how Larry Nixon caught massive limits of bohemian smallmouth to put him back in the winner’s circle after a 5 year dry spell. Mr. Nixon, how did you do it? “Mostly doing what I call drag shotting. I had an area that I would set up drifts on and let the wind blow me across it while dragging a drop shot. I caught a few on a Berkley Gulp! Goby, but after seeing the bait fish in the area, I switched to the Berkley Gulp! Alive! Jerk Shad.” Most anglers from the region already know that the Goby is a favorite forage for the Smallmouth in the Great Lakes Region. (Note: Lake St. Clair is connected to two Great Lakes via a shipping lane.) This makes goby imitations a productive bait to use in these waters. However, Larry noticed that there was a minnow type forage in the area, “I’m not sure exactly what they were, but there were huge balls of them swimming around. Also, the smallmouth bass I was catching, were spitting them up. This told me to change from the Goby to the Jerk Shad, and I think is why I started catching slightly bigger bass than other anglers.” His set up for the drop shot utilized a 1/4 ounce weight and 1/0 Gamakatsu hook; main line was 10 pound Spider Wire Invisabraid with a 10 pound Trilene 100% fluorocarbon leader. “Each morning, the bass were welded to the bottom and absolutely eating the Jerk Shad. No sooner than the bait would get in the drift area, I’d have a fish on. They were hungry, and there were so many in the school they were very competitive.” Larry did say that on day three, he caught a couple good fish on a Berkley Havoc Stick Fish mounted to a half ounce Yamamoto Head and 4/0 hook, however, this pattern was only effective on day three; he speculated that it was due to the heavier winds on day four.
As a southern angler, I am often baffled at how the Professionals find large schools of bass so far off shore; Larry was fishing 10 miles from the nearest shoreline. I understand how using mapping software can help you find ledges, creeks and various off shore structure that are travel routes for bass. However, if you take a look at Lake St. Clair in one of the mapping programs, you’ll notice there are not many contours; this lake is a bowl. Larry described his theory on how he found this massive school of bruiser smallmouth, “I look for areas that they will spawn in, then move off shore to find a combination of things. This combination just so happened to be way off shore. First is clearer water. On a lake like St. Clair, the wind can really stir the water up and make it milky. Smallmouth don’t like this milky water; they are sight feeders and will move to clearer water so they can feed. Second is depth; it’s vital to find the depth they are using. With St. Clair, you can move a mile towards the shore and not shallow up more than a half a foot. So once you find the right depth you still have a lot of water to cover. Once I have clear water, at a depth the smallmouth are using; next I want a hard bottom. St. Clair has a lot of what they call Shrimp Grass in it. If you bring back this shrimp grass on your baits, your bottom is not hard enough. So I head away from spawning grounds looking for clear water, the depth the bass are using, and the hardest bottom I can find.”
Larry’s plan is an effective one; he has always been very competitive on Lake St. Clair and when a tournament launches out of the Detroit River, there is no doubt Larry will be headed north to Lake St Clair, “I love it up there, I’ve got a lot of experience on Lake St. Clair, which gives me a lot of confidence. I also feel I have a strong advantage over a lot of the younger anglers on St. Clair. Because target fishing is so popular, the younger anglers are very intimidated by this large open, flat, body of water.”
Larry and I spoke some about the rest of the season and what he thought about the Lake Wheeler and Sam Rayburn tournaments. If Larry can pull off enough points to make the top five in the FLW Tour Opens, he will gain a birth into the 2013 Forrest Wood Cup, before the Major events start. He quickly replied, “Although I’ve won on Lake Wheeler, the time of the year we fish it is not my best. I’ve fished Sam Rayburn a lot, but it’s also in the fall. You know Mike, I’m a deer hunter, come the fall I like to switch over to hunting. I guess I’m going to have to get and keep my head straight this year.”
I asked Larry about next year’s FLW Majors schedule, with Beaver Lake on the list, and Larry hailing from Arkansas, I figured he’d be pretty excited about it. “Beaver has always been a thorn in my side, I’ve done very well out there, I’ve won on Beaver, but these last couple years it has been trouble for me. Those Alabama Rigs are wearing me out, on that lake. If it were up to me, I’d have all the tournaments within about an eight hour drive of the central United States, with one exception, Lake St. Clair. I’ll fish where ever they want us too; I love to fish it doesn’t matter where.”
As one of the legends that brought bass fishing to where it is today, Larry Nixon is in the company of many professionals of our sport that are retiring. These retiring anglers speak about the aches and pains brought on from fishing at this competitive level along with traveling thousands of miles a year. I asked Larry if these aches and pains were also an issue for him. A very enthusiastic Nixon, replied “No it’s not, I feel good, and as long as I can keep my great sponsors happy, Evinrude, Chevy, Stratos, Berkley, I’ll keep fishing tournaments. For me, it’s more about the mental aspect. The younger anglers today are good, and you really have to be mentally prepared and focused to keep winning.” Larry went on to say with a chuckle, “I’m still capable of winning and will keep fishing as long as I can, I’m not quitting anytime soon.”
Larry also answered a few questions from the Ultimate Bass Forum members, to see those visit the Ultimate Bass Forums Questions for Larry Nixon
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