BassWestUSA - November/December, 2009, Page 26

Basstrix Paddletail

Swimbaits will always have a place in Velvick’s arsenal; in fact, it is hard to look at any season in recent memory where they have not had an impact on the outcome of at least one major event. From Steve Kennedy’s record setting performance with Basstrix Paddletails and Huddlestons at Clear Lake in 2007, and Kenyon Hill with the Sebile Magic Swimmer later that same year. To Todd Faircloth and Jason Williamson using Osprey swimbaits at Amistad each of the past two seasons; the swimbait is here to stay. But, when does a wise angler apply them? Velvick said to use some common sense. “I might pick up a swimbait until about 9:00 in the morning, and then again in the afternoon, once I’ve gotten a limit I feel will make me competitive,” he said. “That 9:00 in the morning to 2:00 in the afternoon window is reserved for catching my quality, limit fish. I basically look at swimbaits in the same vein that I would a topwater bait. You can’t always throw a topwater all day, why should swimbaits be any different?” So, while you may see a Tru-Tungsten Tru-Life swimbait on his heavy swimbait stick, and Abu Garcia Revo Winch spooled with heavy Trilene in the morning. He’ll be armed with a more conservative approach mid-day. “I’ll do what I need to do,” he said. “This is the Bassmaster Elite Series, not a specialty event. Putting swimbaits in their place has made it easier for me to compete, if anglers everywhere do the same, it could make a difference for them as well.”

things,” Velvick remembered. “They all told me that I needed to look at the statistics of my career, and the trophies on the wall of my home. What that created was a reminder that they believed in me; it was time to make a change. His primary approach was to start analyzing how he had fished in the past. The result was that he began to remember he was a much more versatile angler than he had allowed himself to be known for. “I had become the sightfishing and swimbait guy,” he said. “I still like being known that way, but I had to realize that I needed to go back to my old methods.” Velvick reported winning his first U.S. Open on topwater chug- gers and walking baits, he remembered cashing many checks on spoons in the deep clear waters of the west. “I’ve always done it all,” he said. “If I had to throw a Carolina rig, or a Texas rigged worm, I did it; I knew how to compete, and it was time to do it. I needed to show that I was an ‘overall angler,’ that I could dropshot, throw a crankbait and be in the thick of things.” So, beginning with the Elite Series Wildcard Qualifier in November of 2007, he began to approach things differently. “I went to Florida to practice on Okeechobee without the thought of shoving a swimbait down their throats,” he said. “I found two productive patterns, throwing lipless crankbaits and fishing big Berkley Power Worms on Texas rigs and Gambler shaky heads; I ran with those patterns.” Sticking to his newly restored weaponry, Velvick grabbed the lead on the first day of the event, and never looked back. He won the event in wire to wire fashion; his second BASS victory. “It was an instant reminder, instant positive feedback, and it gave me a lot of confidence,” he said. “I was back in the groove, re-qualified for the Elite Series, and ready to go after things in my new way.” His new approach has served him well. Since beating the odds at Okeechobee in the fall of 2008, and re-qualifying for the Elite Series, he has fished in 24 BASS events, and cashed checks in 13 of them. He earned more than $165,000 and tallied four Elite 12 finishes, including three in a row during the 2009 season. He also challenged for a slot in the 2009 postseason, which would have given him a chance at the Toyota Tundra Angler of the Year



Sebile Magic Swimmer

tru-Life Swimbait

title. He rose to 15th in the standings at one point, eventually finishing the year in 21st place. More importantly, he qualified for his first Bassmaster Classic in 2009, and thanks to a very strong year against the best anglers in the business, will make his second trip to the Classic stage when it returns to Lay Lake in February of 2009. All of this success is credited to his shift in approaches. “I really began to look at what I have invested in this sport,” he said. “Like my competitors, I spend a lot of money and time chasing the tour around the country, and I owed it to myself to give success a chance. There are certainly times when swimbaits; or just going for broke in general, are the only way to compete, but they are fewer in nature. The Elite Series requires having a mind on getting as many points on the ledger as possible, and if I am always swinging for the fences, I can’t stay focused on the larger goal of being the best tournament angler I can be.” Velvick often looks back on the votes of confidence from his friends, and leans on the sage advice of his colleague Rick Clunn, whom he calls a mentor. “Rick has always challenged me to look at how I am approaching things,” he said. “Eventually, he helped me to see when I should lean on swimbaits, and when I should leave them in the storage of my Triton. He wouldn’t tell me when I should or shouldn’t throw them, but he challenged me to look at it more closely.” With the support of his friends, the advice of his mentor, and a remembrance of his past success, he has turned the corner of swimbait junkie, to a tournament angler with a love for the big bait, when it is appropriate. “I had to recognize that being ready to live by the swimbait sword meant being ready to die by it as well,” said the two-time Bassmaster Classic qualifier. “I feel like I am fishing at my best again. I have a young body, and a mind that has gained years of experience, and I want to keep competing in the way that I am.” “My career has always been one of determination and forti- tude, as Clunn has reminded me, this journey I am on has brought me a lot. I’ve been able to do what I love for a living; it has pro- vided me opportunity to be on Outdoor television with my stints on Basscenter, and now my Going Coastal show as well. It’s working, and I plan on staying on this path.” BW


November/December 2009