John's Journal...


Victory on the Last Day

Click to enlargeEDITOR'S NOTE: George Cochran of Hot Springs, Arkansas, has just finished a tremendous bass-fishing career with a $500,000 FLW (Forrest L. Wood) Championship win, the highest payout for any bass-fishing tournament in history. Cochran, a Strike King pro staffer for 30 years, has won two Bassmasters Classics. Cochran admits, “Winning championships on both the BASS and the FLW circuits is a dream come true.” Only a few anglers in history have been able to complete a double grand slam like this.

QUESTION: On the last day of the tournament, there were 12 fishermen left, and all our totals were zeroed. Did you have any idea what was about to happen?

COCHRAN: Yes, I did, and to me this is the most amazing part of the story. My daughter, Leslie, who had just graduated from college, called me when I was driving to the Potomac River to fish in a tournament just before this FLW championship. Leslie told my wife, Debbie, that she’d had a dream and seen me finish in the top 10 in the Potomac River tournament. I finished seventh in that tournament and thought that was a little strange that Leslie had predicted that I would finish in the top 10. However, I wasn’t prepared for the phone call I got when I was driving from the Potomac River to the FLW championship. As I was on the road going to the FLW championship, my wife called and said, “Your daughter is here at the house, and she says she’s had the most-realistic dream of her life. She swears that what she saw happened and that she was there as a spectator. I’ll let her tell about her dream.” So Deb handed Leslie the phone, and Leslie said, “Dad, what I was dreaming seemed like reality. I was at the FLW Championship and saw you win it. I saw you hold the check and the trophy up.” I said, “Now, Leslie, I don’t know what to think of this.” These were the only two Click to enlargedreams Leslie ever had told me about, and to my knowledge, the only two dreams she’d ever had about my fishing. But she was accurate about both of them.

QUESTION: Wow, that’s amazing. Tell me about what happened on the last day of the tournament.

COCHRAN: I knew where I was going to fish on the last day, although I hadn’t practiced or fished in this quarter mile of boat docks. This place was the one I’d been saving. This spot is mine and my son’s favorite bank where we night fish for bass. There’s always fish on this bank. The entire lake (Lake Hamilton) that we were fishing on was really wide. But when you came to this certain bridge, the lake necked down and was only a couple of hundred yards wide at that point. Nobody fished this small section of the lake because there was so much boat traffic, you really couldn’t fish there. This area had some little deep pockets and some really big boat docks. Some of these docks are 30- to 40-feet long. The pockets are kind of flat and drop off into deep water. But bass are always feeding in this area, behind the boat docks in little openings where you can get to the bank.

On the last day, I ran straight to this section of the lake, hoping to get to fish it before the boat traffic made the area impossible. On my first cast, I missed a bass. On the second cast, I caught a bass on the Baby Chug Bug. And I saw two other bass following the hooked bass back to the boat. I was fishing the Baby Chug Bug on the days when we had no wind at the tournament. Then when we did have wind, and I needed a bigger splash, I’d fish the Spit-N-King. But on this last morning, the wind was dead still so I fished the Baby Chug Bug. In the next pocket I came to, I caught my third bass. In the next pocket I fished, I caught another bass. Then I pulled up behind a boat dock that looked like it was 40-yards long. The dock was secured to the bank by about 20 cables. I’m certain that no one ever Click to enlargeconsidered casting bait on the back side of the boat dock with all those cables in the water. But I was using 15-pound-test line on my own cranking rod, and I had a War Eagle ¼-ounce buzz bait tied onto the end of my line.

I threw that buzz bait as far as I could throw it across those cables, to the back of that boat dock. The bait would go over one cable, make a click-click sound, go over another cable and make a click-click sound. Then when the bait was about halfway back to the boat, a 3-pound bass attacked the bait. I drug those bass over three sets of cables before I got it to the boat, and the bass fell off the hook. When I pulled on my line just slightly, the line broke. I put that fish in my livewell, and I thought to myself, “I’ve just fished the most-perfect day in my life, except for the two Bassmasters Classics where I was flawless. On that day of the FLW Championship, I was totally focused, my casting was excellent, I caught every fish that bit my bait, and within the first hour of that last day of the tournament, I’d caught my limit. I probably had 9 pounds of bass during the first 40 minutes of the tournament. By 8 a.m., when I turned around to go back down that bank, there was so much boat traffic I couldn’t fish. So I left that area and went to two other places, caught a few more fish and was able to cull a bass. By 9:30 a.m., I left that area, went about a mile from my house, caught another nice bass and was able to cull another fish. From looking at the fish in my live well, I knew I had almost 11 pounds of bass. I was using the War Eagle buzzbait because I’d already fished the Strike King buzzbait, and on this day, on this lake, the bass seemed to want a different type of squeak than what the Stripe King buzzbait put out. To win the tournament, I had used the Spit-N-King, the Strike King Fancy Worm, the Baby Chug Bug and the War Eagle buzzbait. Throughout the tournament, I caught and weighed in bass on all these lures.

As I went to the weight-in, I felt confident that I had won the tournament. When I first started on that last day, I only had 5 spectator boats with me. After I’d caught my limit at 8 a.m., I looked around and saw 30 spectator boats behind me. By 9 a.m. there were 40 boats around me, and by 11 a.m., 62 boats were following me. In this tournament, every time you catch a fish, the officials put a notice on the internet. So, the people following the internet postings knew I’d won before I did. When I arrived at the weight-in site, all the fans were cheering for me and yelling, “You got it, you got it.” Then when I saw my daughter after the weigh-in, she said, “Dad, it happened just like I saw it in my dream.” Now if that doesn’t give you goose bumps, you don’t have a heart. Also in the tournament, they gave me a Field and Stream boat. When I was nine years old, my mother started buying me “Field and Stream” magazine, and I’d read it from cover to cover. I thought it was Click to enlargereally ironic that the boat I won and the shirt I wore were sponsored by the magazine I stared reading so many years ago.

QUESTION: What’s next for you George?

COCHRAN: When I hang up this phone, I’m going to take the check I’ve just won down to the bank and put it into my retirement found. Then, I’m going down to my local boat dealer and buying everyone there a steak dinner. I had boat trouble during the tournament, and those people at that dealership worked really hard to get my boat up and ready. As I was leaving, one of the employees said, “George, what are you going to do with that half-million dollars if you win it?” I said, “I’m going to come back here and buy all of you steak dinners.” I’m planning to fish the Bassmasters Classic this year, and then I’ll retire from the Bassmaster circuit. I’ll only be fishing the FLW tournaments next year.

Check back each day this week for more about GEORGE COCHRAN’S HALF-MILLION-DOLLAR WEEKEND

Day 1: Getting to Know George Cochran
Day 2: The Big Gamble
Day 3: Days One and Day Two of the Tournament
Day 4: Head-to-Head with Brent Chapman
Day 5: Victory on the Last Day



Entry 311, Day 5