CLENT DAVIS’ ROOKIE CAMPAIGN
Story by Matt Pangrac - Photos courtesy of FLW Outdoors Communications
Montevallo, AL – Entering his rookie season on the FLW Tour, Alabama’s Clent Davis had two main goals that he wanted to accomplish. He wanted to qualify for the Forrest Wood Cup this coming August on Georgia’s Lake Lanier, and he also set his sights on the Rookie Of the Year title.
Midway through his rookie campaign, he added a third goal – finish in the top 15 in the FLW Tour Angler Of the Year standings and earn a berth into the Toyota Texas Bass Classic this fall on Lake Conroe in Texas.
When the dust settled on the 2012 season, the 26-year-old had checked off every item on his “to do” list.
In the first FLW Tour event of the season on Lake Hartwell, Davis finished in 74th place, missing a check by a single ounce. While a finish in the middle of the pack may not seem like a season-changing performance, it was a key lesson that he learned at Hartwell that propelled him to a string of four consecutive finishes in the top 40 and a 14th place finish in the AOY standings by the conclusion of the Tour season on Lake Champlain. He also claimed the ROY title with 964 points.
“At Hartwell, I really didn’t have a great tournament,” Davis explained. “I thought that if I wasn’t throwing The Alabama Rig, I was going to get killed. I spent two days of trying to push that bite and it just wasn’t happening.”
Rather than try to fight his way through the remainder of the season relying on unfamiliar patterns and techniques, Davis decided to reexamine his tournament strategy and fish the rest of the season in his comfort zone. “The Hartwell tournament earlier this year made me realize that I needed to stick with what I know best. That’s what I did the rest of the season and it really worked out well for me,” he said.
Following Hartwell, Davis, who qualified for the FLW Tour through the 2011 EverStart Series Southeast division, rattled a 10th place finish at Table Rock Lake, 36th place finish at Beaver Lake, 11th place finish at the Potomac River, and a 20th place finish at Kentucky Lake.
He entered the final Major of the season on Lake Champlain firmly planted near the top of the AOY standings, but opted to play it safe and ensure his spot in the Forrest Wood Cup rather make a long run and gamble on catching a big bag to secure the ROY title as well. In the end, it worked out.
“During practice, I couldn’t decide if I wanted to make the long run to Ticonderoga or stay close and fish Missisquoi Bay,” Davis said. “I decided on Missisquoi Bay for the simple reason that it was closer to the launch and I really wanted to make sure that I weighed-in at least one fish on the first day so that I’d be locked into the Cup.”
With a day one limit of just over 13 pounds, Davis finished the first day in 95th place and although he knew he had made the Forrest Wood Cup, he thought that he had let his chances of earning the ROY title and a spot in the TTBC slip out of his grasp. “I really thought that I’d lost it,” he admitted. “After the weigh-in, I was looking at the standings and saw that I still had a chance, so I opted to stay close again on the second day.”
On Friday, Davis brought another 12-14 to the scales to finish the tournament in 91st place. It wasn’t pretty, but in addition wrapping up the ROY, he made the TTBC cut by nine points. “I would have liked to cash a check at Champlain, but I’ll take reaching all three of my goals and not complain at all about it,” Davis said.
“Winning Rookie Of the Year is a huge deal for me because you only get one chance to earn that title. I hope that a few sponsors come along with it, because I definitely need the help,” said Davis, who worked full-time at Advance Auto Parts until the start of the 2012 season. “This year was one of those deals where I had to do well or I wouldn’t be able to come back next year. Financially, I just didn’t have enough money to be able to stay out here and not cash checks.”
Currently, Davis is putting in his homework in hopes of cashing a big check this upcoming August in the Forrest Wood Cup on Lake Lanier. He just kicked off a two week long scout trip on Lanier, and although he lives just three hours from the famous spotted bass fishery, he had never fished it before.
“It’s one of those deals where I’m not an expert on this lake, but spotted bass in August love getting in bush piles, so the more that you can find the better. The only thing that you can do is find as many as you can during pre-practice and then when you come back for official practice you hit all the ones that you’ve found and see which ones are hot.”
Based on what he’s seen from Lake Lanier through two days of pre-practice, Davis said that he’s fishing well within his comfort zone. “I grew up fishing for spotted bass, and Lanier seems to fish a lot like Lake Martin back home and a little bit like Lake Jordan,” he explained.
Doing his homework is nothing new to Davis, who fished at the collegiate level for the University of Montevallo in the National Guard FLW College Fishing Southeastern Division. “I’m not sure that the majority of collegiate anglers today realize how much FLW College fishing does for them,” explained Davis. “You go to a lake, get in a boat with somebody, and have the possibility of getting paid to go fishing and then you back to school. It’s a tremendous learning experience.
“There were guys who would get a guide to take them out before the tournament, and they may have done well, but they didn’t really learn anything,” he continued. “Going through college, I never got any help and I still don’t get any help. I think that it's better for me to go out and learn myself. Regardless of success or failure, that’s the best option.”
In 2011, Davis fished the pro side of the EverStart Southeastern Division, and also fished all six FLW Tour Majors as a co-angler, winning the season finale on Pickwick Lake. He said that the time he spent in the back of the boat with tour level anglers was invaluable.
“I don’t care how good you think you are, you just learn so much from the veteran pros when you fish as a co-angler. A lot of the pros out here are amazing when it comes to time management and decision making,” he explained. “One of the things that I’m still terrible at is time management on the water and managing my areas. It’s one of those things where I’m still learning and trying to get better at every single day out here.
“This year has been a dream come true, because this is something that I’ve wanted to do my entire life,” concluded Davis. “The one thing that really helped me out this year was that I didn’t worry about stuff that didn’t go right. I just kept my head down and made the best out of every day.”