7 min to read
FLW Tour Pro Angler Kevin Stewart interview
Category : BASS ANGLER INTERVIEWS
Bass Angler Headquarters catches up with Kevin Stewart just before he heads back to Lake Okeechobee, the first stop on the FLW Tour in his freshman year. This West Coast pro from Elk Grove, California has had a strong 2012 Season out west finishing 19th overall in the FLW Everstart Western Series and WON Bass Daiwa Cup Overall Points Champion. Let’s find out how he got here and where he’s heading.
Who are your sponsors this year? – TOP This, Phoenix Boats, Mercury Marine, Lowrance Electronics, Power-Pole, Delta Marine Sales, iRod, Blade Runner Tackle, D&M Custom Baits, Fisherman’s Warehouse, TNT Baits, Endless Possibilities and Bass Angler Headquarters takes care of my website.
Are you still driving the TOP This wrapped boat? Yes, I’m in my 2012 TOP This wrapped Phoenix 721 Pro XP with my Mercury Pro XS 250. I will be selling this boat at the end of the season and hopping into a new 921 Phoenix/Mercury for next season.
Let’s start out with last year. You finished 1st in the WON Bass points race and were the 2012 Daiwa Cup Angler of the Year. Tell us about your season and how you remained so consistent?
The Cup was not my primary goal when I started out the season although it was on my mind. It was my second year in WON Bass and I wanted to just finish strong in each and every event. I did make a good run at the Cup in 2011, but the legendary Mike Folkestad ran away with it. This year, I started out with an 11th place finish at Lake Shasta and then was able to knock down a handful of Top 20’s. I stumbled toward the end, as the chance to win the Cup became more real. I had a bad finish at Clear Lake, which should have been one of my best. Ultimately, I was able to pull it off with Shawn Lee coming on strong at the end of the season. It comes down to just going fishing. Trying to put five in the boat and putting yourself in the area to get the right bites.
You took a number of years off of tournament fishing and picked back up a few years ago. How did that affect your performance when you got going again?
I started out in team tournaments in 1993. I fished in those events until around 1998. Around that time, both my daughters got heavily into soccer. Pretty soon we were traveling around the country, they were playing, I was coaching, and fishing took a back seat. I was only on the water, maybe a half-dozen times a year. That lasted for a solid seven years. When my oldest went to college, I started to get back into team fishing around 2007. It was like starting all over again. You really can’t take that much time off and expect to be where you need to be. I pretty quickly got into the Pro/Ams, donated a lot of money with some poor showings in 2009. In 2010, I really buckled down and was able to break out and have some better finishes.
Now you’re heading out east to fish the Walmart FLW Tour. Would you have made that decision, had you not finished as well on the west coast last year?
Yes, I would have. In 2011, when I finished the year 4th in points in the Everstart and 3rd in WON Bass, I really wanted to head east and fish the FLW Tour. I still had some family obligations though, my girls’ graduations and stuff like that. I didn’t want to have to make the decision to fish versus being at an important event with my family. So I decided to wait another year, get my ducks in a row, work on some sponsor opportunities. It was an honor to win the Daiwa Cup. It was icing on the cake, but it wasn’t the deciding factor.
You drove out and did some pre-fishing on Lake Okeechobee before the off-limits period, was that your first time on the lake?
Yes, I’ve never fished Okeechobee before. I did fish Toho once, but this was my first time fishing on Okeechobee. What an amazing lake! It is incredible. We have some awesome lakes in the west with the Delta, Clear Lake and our reservoirs, but this place is unreal. Just a maze of deep, backwater jungles of bullrushes and reeds.
How did it go?
Learned a lot in the four days I fished. Spent a lot of time just getting the lay of the lake. Burned a TON of fuel, just doing a lot of looking and learning my way around. I didn’t do a lot of fishing the first day. By the third and fourth day I fell into a bit of a pattern and caught quite a few fish. The big bite eluded me. Really, the bite wasn’t very good. A big cold front kinda killed it.
How is your confidence level going into next week?
I do feel confident. Those early practice days really helped me. To think that I could go back to Okeechobee, on my first big FLW event, and win, would be a dream come true. Realistically, I feel confident I can get a top fifty finish and cash a check, as long as I avoid making any big mistakes.
What tournaments on the FLW schedule do you think will fit your style of fishing the most? Which tournaments on the schedule are you the most concerned about?
All six events on the Tour are new to me. I haven’t fished any of these lakes. Okeechobee is in my wheel house, as far as style is concerned. I’m a Delta/Clear Lake guy, so flipping, punching, throwing weedless reaction baits will be comfortable. Skip down to Lewis Smith, Grand Lake and Beaver and in my research and what I’ve been hearing, they have some similarities to our Oroville, Shasta and lakes like Comanche. Eufaula seems to be the hardest to figure out, so far. There is not a lot out there to go on, so I will probably put more time in out there. Lake Chickamauga will be different as well. It’s a river system, but not a tidal river system, like I am used to with the Delta.
When you leave this week, will you be gone until after Chickamauga? Any breaks?
My wife Susan and I worked out a schedule. We put all the tournament dates down, with the off-limits and breaks. I’ll be flying home during most of the off-limits. I’ll put my practice time in where I need to, but I’ll be heading home for a couple of weeks when I can.
Have you set any personal goals for the season? What would constitute a “good” first season on the FLW Tour?
You have to set goals. I’m trying to set goals that are attainable. I’d like to cash checks in at least 50% of the events. If I can qualify for the Forrest Wood Cup in my first year, I think that would be a major accomplishment.
Obviously, you won’t be able to fish any of the western tournaments in the first half of the year, are you going to come back and fish any of the western events during the second half of the year?
You bet. I’ll be back home the first of July, unless I qualify for the Cup. If I do qualify, I’ll go straight to the Red River and put in some time there. I’ll definitely try to fish the special events on the Delta, like the Snag-Proof Open and the Yamamoto Big Bass. I’ll be at the US Open on Lake Mead for sure and I plan on fishing the final Everstart event on Clear Lake in October.
Is there anyone you would like to thank, who will be supporting you this year?
I’m very fortunate to have my wonderful wife Susan and my two beautiful daughters, Nikki and Carly, as well as our immediate family. They support me 100%. It makes it so nice to have your family, friends and sponsors behind you. It helps motivate you to put the time and effort in to succeed.
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