Fishing as a Co-Angler creates it's own set of challenges and the successful non-boaters are the ones who are quick to adapt, versatile and confident in their own skills. While some may say that it is all about the draw and that only those with good partners do well, that could not be further from the truth. Having a great boater draw for the day helps, but those who consistently do well from the back of the boat must also know how to catch them in any type of situation. With a 1st, 2nd, and 3rd in this year's Bassmaster Central Opens, Oklahoma's Clayton Coppin has proved that he has what it takes to fish as a Co-Angler at the highest level.
I had the chance to talk in depth with Clayton about what makes a successful Co-Angler and also get some insight on his phenomenal year.
With Clayton, it is really all about the approach going into the event. Much like his Pro partners, Clayton is a big believer in the use of pre-fish as a path to success. "Going into each event, I need to spend as much time on the water as possible to get a good idea of what the fish are doing prior to the event." said Copppin. For Table Rock (where he finished 3rd), he practiced nine days before the event. For an event closer to home on the Arkansas River he spent three weeks getting ready for the second stop on this years Open trail. He could not stress how important it is to get in your boat and learn it just like the Pros. This added knowledge helped him in all of the events this year and he said he put the time in daylight to dark and gave him a good idea of what to expect before he made his first cast in the event.
While he agreed that having a top-notch pro as a partner for the day is a good thing, he also mentioned that these guys are very good and don't miss anything. He recalled the final day of the recent Table Rock event where he drew Elite Series Angler Kevin Short who went on to win the event, he said this guy was a master of boat positioning and picked apart each area well before Clayton had a chance to fish it. In a situation like this, Clayton suggests doing something totally opposite of what the boater is doing. "By the chance you get a cast in to a spot...the area is toast." To counter this, he will do something different. If the boater is using a crankbait, try a spinnerbait. If they are fishing close to shore, fish a little deeper. There is no way you are going to compete cast for cast with an angler of that caliber. He did mention that if the boater is tearing them up on a certain bait or color, he will switch to that bait, but isn't one to retie after they catch a fish or two.
This season was also a year of versatility for Clayton and no single bait was used at all of the events. For the first event on Lake Lewisville in Texas (where he won), Clayton relied on a spinnerbait while his boaters were focusing on using a jerkbait bite. At the Arkansas River, his second place finish, he utilized a Berkley Power Worm with a 1/4 and 3/8 oz Eco Pro Tungsten weight in either black or green pumpkin. He stressed the importance of using tungsten as well as the added benefit of using a color that matched his soft plastic. At the final event, he relied heavily on a drop-shot and Roboworm. He was fishing the deep standing timber (a technique he refined during pre-fish). For this situation, he likes to use the cylinder shaped drop-shot weights as they seem to hang up less in the flooded timber. He used both 3/16 and 1/2 Eco Pro Tungsten Pro Drop Shot Weights to get down deep to where the fish were.
Clayton had a year he will never forget and it was one of the most successful, if not the best, season on the Bassmaster Opens for a Co-Angler. He credits the time he put in as well as the equipment he used for his top finishes. He plans to make the switch to the boater side for next season and see how his skills translate to the front of the boat. Congrats Clayton!