Rob Jordan’s Big Jump: Bulldog BFL to FLW Tour
Rob Jordan’s hard work on and off the water gave him the opportunity to make a big move in 2018
Talks about “lessons learned” in first year on the big Tour
For those of you who fish the BFL and dream about one day making the All American finals and the FLW Tour, there’s at least one Georgia Big Stick out there who did it. And he did it in one season. Forget the Costas, the Opens, the ABA tours and even the Elites. Flowery Branch’s Rob Jordan, who finished second in last year’s BFL Bulldog standings, jumped head first into the fray that’s known as the FLW Tour, where making a check means making a living.
Rob finished an impressive seventh place in the Rookie of the Year standings on the FLW Tour–an extraordinary accomplishment for a Gwinnett County native who cut his teeth on local ponds as a teenager, still guides at Lake Lanier and has fished the BFL’s for nearly 10 years.
Rob made two checks this season, each for $10,000, when he had a Top 50 at Kentucky Lake and a Top 30 here at Lanier, Rob’s home lake. And in any other year or any other lake, his 34 pounds of smallmouth after two days at St. Clair would have meant another check, as he finished just two pounds out of the money. Rob said aside from his home lake, Lanier, St. Clair is probably the second best lake he has fished (behind Champlain, on the Vermont/New York border where he finished second in a BASS Open several years ago as a co-angler and which he called “….an awesome place.”).
Rob, who attended Brookwood High School, had three Top Five’s in the always-tough Bulldog Division last year. He finished third at Lanier at the Bulldog kickoff with 16-9, and finished fourth with 12-13 about nine months later when the anglers returned to Laurel Park. He also had a fifth place finish at Oconee in March, where he caught 16-15. Rob is ranked the third best fisherman on Lake Lanier by BassRankings.com.
Rob is just one of Georgia’s Big Sticks who call Lanier home to venture out onto the big Tour. Gainesville’s David Nichol, who is ranked 10th in BassRankings.com for Lake Lanier, also fished the FLW Tour this year, finishing in 108th place. But he finished 12th in the Rookie of the Year (ROY) race and finished in the money in three tournaments, including two Top 25’s and one Top 50. Nichol, a Georgia Big Stick who also had a 7th place finish in the All American a few years ago, has won more than $120,000 in FLW tournaments, with two wins and eight Top 10’s to his credit.
Jordan, who like many pros has been tournament fishing since his teenage years, has worked hard to get where he is. He fished as a pro in the BFL for ten years, never finishing higher than 35th in the standings (that was in 2009). But he had his moments, with five Top 10 finishes in tournaments in between 2009 and 2016. Then he caught fire last year with three Top 5 finishes and placing seventh in the All American. The game was on.
We caught up with Rob last week less than a month after the FLW Tour ended and about two months of ahead of the two-day BFL Bulldog event on Lanier.
GBS: So how did you get from fishing Gwinnett County ponds to competing against the likes of Mark Rose at Kentucky Lake?
Rob: I grew up in a fishing family, from all sides. My Dad, my grandparents, my great uncle, they were all great fishermen. They all fished tournaments, from the Red Man to the Elites [his cousin fished them for awhile]. I started fishing Lanier at about age 13, but I was also looking for ponds to fish. I also fished West Point a lot over the years. I fished the creeks and up the river there.
GBS: It’s become pretty much a spot lake, hasn’t it? Unless you want to test that ride up the river?
Jordan: It has changed a lot. I fished it shallow for many years. Everyone thinks I’m really a deep, open-water spots guy, and I do love it, but deep down I would rather run the the banks and fish for largemouth. I’ve won a lot of tournaments up here fishing for largemouth, and probably 75% of the time I’ve won I’ve had some largemouth in the bag. Everyone assumes it’s always spots, and I do catch some big spots from time to time, but the largemouth fishing up here has changed dramatically. You can’t just go run pockets and catch them [at Lanier] like you used to. There are still big ones in the lake, they are still around, but they roam more than they used to.
GBS: Rob, tell us about the All American, and what worked for you at Cross Lake.
Rob: I threw a black and blue Zman custom chatterbait with a green pumpkin Swimmerz trailer, also by Zman. I also used a 1/8 ounce Hammer jighead by Fish Head, paired up with a variety of straight tail worms. On the chatterbait I used 20 pound Seaguar AbrazX on a Daiwa Tatula 7’6″ Flippin’ rod with a Tatula Sv reel. The spinning reel setup was a Tatula Elite 7’0 Power spin rod with a Tatula spinning reel with 20 pound Smackdown braid with a 12 pound Seaguar Abrazx leader.
GBS: How do you evaluate Lanier when compared to other spotted bass fisheries?
Jordan: It’s the most consistent spotted bass lake in the world, no doubt. You catch them every day out there. You usually can’t catch more than one–two at the most–in each spot you go to this time of year. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve caught one and just pulled up the trolling motor and headed to the next spot. You can easily get sucked into staying there after you catch a good one. Once you’ve kind of busted up the party they play that game with you (laughing). They know that boat is up there. People don’t realize that if spotted bass can see a four-inch herring at 25 feet they can see the bottom of your boat real easily.
GBS: What was the toughest part of moving to the big Tour?
Rob: Two things. On the fishing side of things, I learned that having a good network is key. You also have to remember that in order fish consistently and in order to finish high you have to set out to win that tournament. If you just fish for a check, you’re not going to get one.
GBS: In other words, you’ve got to target winning fish.
Rob: Exactly, you have to do that. Even if you fall short, you have to go for it. That’s the biggest thing I’ve taken away from it. The lakes are going to give up what the lakes are going to give up–and there’s not much you can do about that. Also, don’t ‘save’ fish. Catch as many as you can each day, because there’s no sure thing. Keep an open mind when you fish. Your number one goal is to cash as many checks as you can, but you also want to fish consistently and put yourself in contention. Looking back over the last year, I can think of three or four days where if I had done better I would have made the [Forest Wood] Cup.
GBS: You had the Top 30 at Lanier and Top 50 at Kentucky Lake, but had a tougher time at Smith Lake, known also as a spotted bass fishery. What happened in that tournament?
Rob: It’s a different lake than Lanier. I did find fish better than the results showed. I did lose a couple of key fish and weighed in some 12 to 14 ounce fish in place of them. That was such a tight tournament. But everybody talks about losing fish and I don’t really want to be one of those guys. I wanted to target some spawning largemouths and the water came up four feet the first night of practice. Some guys found a few later in the tournament and I had found some, but I found some spots in an area that a lot of guys were fishing. We were thinking we might have 12-13 pounds apiece but it ended up being closer to nine pounds, due to the pressure. It was a very different fishery, more bank oriented stuff, and fished more like the upper parts of Hartwell and the rivers in Lanier. It has the spots but not the quality of spots we have here at Lanier.
GBS: How are you finding time to balance all of this?
Rob: It’s difficult. But the guiding allows me to be able to fish the Tour. I’ve tried hard to build a loyal client base over the years in order to do what I am doing. With the guiding, it’s my main job and what I do all year and my main source of income. It allows me to get quality one-on-one time with people, which I enjoy. It’s open water fishing, which makes it easy for the novice (at times) to be successful. Sometimes when you’re in the right area, that lake [Lanier] will literally surprise you.
GBS: You’ve earned some very solid sponsors in your career.
Rob: Absolutely! Z Man is the first company I started working with years ago and they’ve been a tremendous supporter. Along the way, their brand and their product line has grown tremendously. The Ned rig, swimbaits, trailers and all their products have been terrific. It’s a company that has grown and I’ve been thankful to be a part of it. The same thing is true for Fish Head over the years, and they have also expanded their product line, well beyond the famous Fish Head Spin.
GBS: What about your non-endemic sponsors?
Rob: I’ve worked closely with two companies outside the fishing industry. The first is Martin Docks, which has been a great partnership on the lake and they do build the best docks on Lanier. Another company I work closely with is ATS Electrical. They do industrial and commercial work across the country. I met them through my guiding service and became close friends. It’s a great way for them to expand their reach and generate business through clients of mine. It’s a small world. It’s not about what they can do for you but it’s about you moving the needle for them. Without these great partners, it’s just not possible to fish at this level. It gives me a chance to build my career and there are business opportunities to work together.
GBS: What are your plans rest of 2018 and in 2019?
I’ll be fishing the FLW Tour again in 2019 and becoming a part of these changes that are happening, especially with the new rule on co-anglers. I know it’s not popular with many folks. But there were probably a few tournaments this year that could have been a ten or twenty thousand dollar swing. I think in the end it will attract more anglers to the FLW Tour, viewership will go and everyone will benefit. Right now, with some of these long weigh-ins (some taking over 3 hours) you’re not only losing your audience but you’re also risking losing fish, as the survival rate worsens the longer they are in the tank. There are just so many people going through there. I think the new rules will work out long-term.
GBS: Rob, thanks for the time and best of luck.
Rob: You’re welcome, Dave. Anytime.