Missing FLWTC A Big
Disappointment For Fritts
Wednesday, July 12, 2006
Photo: FLW Outdoors/Jeff SchroederDavid Fritts missed out on qualifying for the FLW Tour Championship by just a single point.
A dead fish at Champlain. A big one that got away at Murray. They're among the reasons why David Fritts won't be competing in the FLW Tour Championship (FLWTC) next month at Alabama's Lake Logan Martin, site of his 1993 Bassmaster Classic victory.
He finished 49th in the Angler of the Year (AOY) race � one spot and one point away from qualification.
He'll be in Birmingham for the tournament � if somebody drops out, he's the first alternate. But he knows his chances of competing for the $500,000 top prize are slim, and that's a bitter disappointment. The 49-year-old from North Carolina is a crankbait wizard, and Logan Martin in August is an ideal place to display that skill. His record there is stellar: In four tournaments, including two Classics, he's fared no worse than 3rd place.
"It's pretty disappointing because you don't get many opportunities to catch fish on crankbaits anymore," he said. "The (FLWTC) and a couple of the (FLW) Series tournaments in the fall are about all you get."
Is he a Dinosaur?
Prior to this year, Fritts was a stalwart on the Bassmaster Tour for nearly two decades. Perhaps more than anybody, he suffered when BASS began scheduling the majority of its tournaments around the spring spawn. Likewise, the FLW Tour regular season has always concluded in June, with only the championship taking place in the dog days of summer or later. And it's the summer and fall when Fritts' preferred style of fishing moves to the forefront.
"That's sort of been the trend since 1997 or '98," he said.
"There are just very few good structure tournaments. You have some pre-spawn tournaments where you can catch them on a crankbait pretty good, but there's usually already a lot of fish on beds, and it's hard to compete unless you're sight-fishing. "The Series has got two (events) in the fall, but they're in the late fall (October and November). A lot of those fish will have moved into the creeks and into shallow water, and flipping will probably be the main thing. It won't be like it would be if they were in August and September. " That's why he viewed this year's FLWTC as a big brass ring.
"Some lakes are a lot better for structure fishing than others. At Logan Martin, fish can be caught a lot of different ways, but structure fishing is a good way to give yourself a chance to win. "I feel like I missed out on a real good opportunity to win another FLW Tour Championship (he won his first in 1997). I always get psyched up and usually fish well, and this one's at a lake where I've had a lot of success in the past."
One Expired, One Escaped
The fish that died in the livewell at Champlain (where he finished 113th) and the one that never made it into the boat at Murray (48th) will haunt Fritts for awhile. Until last month, he hadn't had a fish die on him since ... well, since he can't remember. The 8-ounce penalty cost him 10 places in the standings � and thus 10 points in the AOY race. He caught the fish on a Zoom Speed Craw.
"He swallowed the bait, and I cut the line off like I always do when that happens," he said. "I really don't know what went wrong. "Unfortunately it was one of my bigger smallmouths, about 3 1/4 (pounds) or something, and it's kind of hard to cull a fish that size. Of course, when you take 8 ounces off, it gets a little smaller."
At Murray, he hooked one on a crankbait that weighed in excess of 8 pounds and had it right up next to the boat. "When my co-angler went to net it, it just straightened the hooks out and pulled off. That was a really big fish. "But that's the way fishing is � you take the good with the bad. Some years you have a lot of the bad, and then other years you can't do anything wrong. "Hopefully next year will be better."
> Fritts' year wasn't devoid of highlights. He was 5th at Okeechobee to begin the season and 4th at Kentucky Lake (the tournament that most suited his style of fishing). "I can't really say it was an off year. Anytime you put together two Top 10s on this circuit, that's a pretty decent year."
> Going into Champlain, he was 24th in the points and thought that 26 pounds over the first 2 days (he weighed 26-02) would have been enough to secure an FLWTC berth. "I figured 13 pounds a day would do it. But when the wind laid down on the first day, that really helped the guys who were sight-fishing."
> He came within half a pound of winning two Classics at Logan Martin. In 1997, he finished just 7 ounces behind winner Dion Hibdon and 6 back of runner-up Dalton Bobo.