Wooley Wins When it CountsBy: Full Limit Outdoor Media
Every now and then you read a story about a guy who wins something and it makes you smile. The guy in the story is usually some sort of an underdog, possibly up against some tough odds. The guy in the story must be likable enough to be the kind of winner that people can pull for and be glad that he won. Well, that guy is Michael Wooley and that “something” that he won was the recent FLW Tour event on Lake Chickamauga.
Michael is a soft-spoken sophomore on the FLW Tour who hails from Collierville, TN, which is the exact same town that Strike King Lures is headquartered in. He has spent countless hours trailering his Ranger boat from his home to Kentucky and Pickwick Lakes, where he honed his skills searching for and catching bass on the two TVA lakes known for their offshore fishing. His skill set is obvious based on his FLW record where he has cashed several checks on TVA impoundments.
Wooley finished 30th in AOY points in his 2014 rookie campaign on the FLW Tour. That Forrest Wood Cup qualifying performance was greatly aided by a 7th at Pickwick and a 28th at Kentucky Lake. He then ended his season with an 8th place finish at the Cup on a very stingy Lake Murray in August 2014.
2015, however, has been a case of the classic “sophomore slump” that so often seems to follow a valiant freshman effort. In the first four events on the 2015 Tour, Wooley failed to make a day-3 cut. Despite cutting two $10,000 checks at Toho and Beaver, he also had two 100-plus place finishes. According to Michael, “It’s been a really down year for me. I wasn’t certain if I was even going to fish the Tour next season. I wasn’t winning enough to justify staying out here. I don’t have the financial support from sponsors that other guys do.”
However, that’s where this story takes a turn for the better. Michael knew heading into the Tour event on Lake Chickamauga that if any event they had this season would fit his style, it would be this one. He headed into the practice period on this impoundment of the Tennessee River feeling a little more at home.
The practice period played out just as Michael had hoped as he spent the vast majority of his time studying his electronics, combing the lake’s offshore structure in search of tournament-grade schools of bass. One of the spots that he found on the first day of practice would turn out to be the cornerstone of his eventual win.
“I found this spot in a creek. It was basically a long bar and the way the creek channel interacted with it formed a saddle. There was a lot of gizzard shad present, but the school itself wasn’t enormous. It was just what I would call a good school of bass,” said Wooley.
Wooley pieced together three days-worth of 5 bass limits that left him leading from day 2 on. He caught his fish on a combination of a straight tail worm fished on a homemade jighead and Strike King ¾ oz. Tour Grade Football Jig with a Rage Tail Lobster for a trailer. The jig was green pumpkin in color and the trailer was blue craw.
“The odd thing was despite the bigtime presence of shad, the bass would only eat something dragged and crawled on the bottom,” Wooley remarked. “And, they really only bit good in the morning. After that, they would slide down off the top of the bar and get nearly impossible to catch”.
Despite having a short time widow to catch his stringer each day, Michael put himself in the catbird seat heading into the last day with the lead. Day 4 started out going the wrong way for Wooley as he only managed 2 fish from his honey hole. Wooley’s victory could have been slipping away as his fellow competitor Stetson Blaylock was putting together an epic last day surge.
However, once the fish hit the scales and the weights were tallied, Michael Wooley was pronounced the FLW Tour Lake Chickamauga Champion. He bested second place by a shade under 2 pounds, and that was enough to hoist the trophy and first place prize of $125,000.
“This event was a major turning point for me. I’ve had a tough season that promoted a lot of doubt and uncertainty. This win, though, will allow me to continue my dream. It’s not all about the money either. This kind of validated to myself that I can compete out here and this is where I belong,” Wooley commented in the humble fashion that those who know him would expect.
This is that story about that guy who won that event. The good guy who had his back against the wall. The guy that is chasing his dream out of his pocket. The guy that proves yet again, never count out a good guy with a great plan.