Kyle Grover of Trabuco Canyon, Calif. locked in the 2014 FLW Rayovac Western Division Angler of the Year (AOY) title at last week's final FLW event, claiming an 18th at Havasu, 2nd on the California Delta and most recently a 4th at Clear Lake. Grover beat out Roy Hawk who was leading the points race going into the Clear Lake stop. He accumulated season earnings of $26,094.
This year marked the first that the SoCal angler had competed in an entire season in the FLW. "Three or years ago, I fished two events, one at Shasta and one at Roosevelt; but this is the first full season that I've fished," he stated."I did okay then, but didn't really have the time. This year the schedule was spread out. It is really the only true pro style circuit that is out here that goes all over the West; so it means a lot."
He attributed this year's success to his experience and skill advancement since his last FLW entries. "I've become a lot better fisherman; every year I get better," he said. "The biggest thing that has helped me is changing the way that I fish. I have become more of a heavy line, burn bank (fisherman). I cover a lot more water than I used to. I have mostly been known as a deep water fisherman with spinning rods in my hand; but I put my head down and really learned to fish shallow crankbaits, chatterbaits and topwater."
Grover explained that he worked on his patterns before getting to the fisheries. "I did my homework," he said. "I talked to people the whole year leading up to the tournaments. I am in a tackle shop all day, so people would come in and I would ask 'em what they were doin'."
Grover was looking forward to all of the western stops in the division and speculated that his best finish would be at Havasu. "I thought I could get the cut in all three," he recalled. "My worst finish was at the lake that I am the best at. I finished 18th at Havasu and I really thought I could win that tournament, but the weather changed the first day and I didn't adapt quick enough. I only caught three fish the first day and then, I got 'em really good the 2nd day when I switched and I barely missed the cut."
The tidal water stop on the California Delta was the fishery that Grover was expecting to be the biggest challenge and that is where he had his best finish. "I had never been to the Delta before this trip and I got there four days before the tournament," said Grover. "I did what I thought I could the first day when I had about 18 to 19 lbs; so I was happy. I ended up stumbling across a couple of nine pounders, which jumped me up. The Delta is way bigger than it looks on a map, so staying in a general area that I had learned helped, especially because the fish would replenish each day."
Clear Lake was another lake that Grover had limited practice on. "I had only been there once before, seven or eight years ago," he said. " I only had two banks on the whole lake that I could get bit on and if I got bit it was a three to six pounder. I was catching eight or 10 keepers a day."
Grover will continue to the next level of competition at Lake Wheeler, where he hopes to qualify for the Forrest Wood Cup. "I leave next week," he said. "I am excited. It is another new lake. I have had to go to all of these other lakes that I had never been to and fish against locals. I am sure there will be a pile of locals there that I will have to go out against, but I really just want to qualify for the Forrest Wood Cup. All I've got to do is beat all the guys from the west and I don't think anybody else from here has been there; so it will be an even playing field. It will be fun."
Although he enjoys the tournament scene, he is not planning to attempt life on tour, at least not for now. "It would be cool to do when I am a little bit older, but I've seen so many guys, being around this business my whole life, that go back and go broke. I am engaged and I'd rather just hang out around here, sell boats, fish these three tournaments and team tournaments and be around my family."
PASSING THE TORCH
Electronics are in Grover's future. "I am going to have a wrapped boat from Lowrance next year; they are going to sponsor me," he said. "Don Iovino is going to retire and they are kind of looking at me to take over the torch and keep going with that. I really enjoy fishing with my electronics."
Top two images from Clear Lake - FLW/Dan Johnson
Lower two images from California Delta - FLW/David A. Brown