DAYTON, Tenn. — Even though the rest of the FLW fishing field found themselves looking up at rookie Casey Martin this weekend, a trio of area fishermen carved out solid performances in front of the hometown crowd.
Wesley Strader, Michael Neal and Andy Morgan finished with top-five performances during the Walmart FLW tour event at Lake Chickamauga in Dayton. In addition, Morgan clinched the Angler of the Year award and a $100,000 bonus that comes along with it.
"Being the AOY is all about consistency," Morgan, who finished fifth overall, said. "I thought I blew it with a bad finish earlier in the year, but I had some good performances, including a fifth here. The name of the game is consistency, but there's nothing sweeter than to come here and be named the AOY in front of the home crowd.
"It's sweet as sugar."
A large crowd came to Walmart in Dayton on Sunday afternoon to watch the final weigh-ins, with the applause noticeably louder for the three area fishermen. Strader was runner-up to Martin, while Neal finished third. Being in front of the home town fans had both its positives and negatives. Neal, who runs the Dayton Boat Dock, described the experience as "special," but admitted that for the three local competitors competing Sunday, that there was some pressure that came along with it.
"Everybody is really wanting you to do good," he said. "I'm not sure they expected me to win or finish third, but I thought we all did pretty good. I didn't have a good first day and missed a few key fish, but I was happy with where I wound up."
Martin laughed as he noted that there was some pressure on him as well, seeing a poster celebrating the three local competitors on Sunday. Strader said that it was enjoyable to be able to compete in an event so close to home.
"It's not often that we get to sleep in our own bed," he said. "We're gone six to nine months out of the year and sleep in hotels and campers. It's not as glamorous as it looks.
"I'm happy to be able to sleep in my own bed and eat in my own kitchen."
The event will be broadcast on NBC Sports on August 4th.
Contact Gene Henley at email@example.com or 423-757-6311. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/genehenleytfp.