After knocking on the door for several years and finally breaking through in 2013, Andy Morgan decided he was staying - and not letting anyone else in.
The Dayton, Tenn., resident has repeated as the national Kellogg's Angler of the Year. That distinction for 2014 will be officially celebrated Saturday in Columbia, S.C., during the Walmart FLW Tour's Super Bowl of sorts, the Forrest Wood Cup. Competition starts today on Lake Murray.
"It feels good, for sure. It puts you on the top of the heap of our little sport," Morgan said Wednesday by phone between media appearances. "But it's always a surprise. Everything has to work out, and little things make such a big difference.
"Take a couple of fish away from me during the year," he said, "and I wouldn't have won."
Morgan finished second in two of the six tournaments in FLW's top series this year: March 6-9 on Lake Hartwell in South Carolina and April 10-13 on Beaver Lake in Arkansas. He clinched his second consecutive title with a 14th-place finish the last weekend in June on Kentucky Lake, when he had to sweat out the finish (15th) of Cody Meyer from Auburn, Calif.
Morgan finished with a series record of 1,132 points, just nine more than Meyer, who also broke the former standard. Brent Ehrler of Redlands, Calif., finished third with 1,070, and Brett Hite of Phoenix was fourth with 1,022. Hite won the opening tournament on Lake Okeechobee in Florida, but Morgan moved into first in the fourth tournament and stayed there.
Fellow Dayton resident Michael Neal, the operator of Dayton Boat Dock, finished seventh with 1,007 points and was the runner-up in the Pickwick Lake tournament in early June, and Spring City's Wesley Strader tied for ninth place with 982 points, so Rhea County had three of the top 10 in the top series in FLW. The three are good friends and hunt together as well.
"That's how we all grew up. There's not a lot to do in Rhea except hunt and fish," Morgan said. "But it's right there where Watts Barr and Chickamauga come together, and it makes for good training."
Morgan, 42, has been a professional angler for 19 years and has the most top-10s, 57, of anyone ever in FLW tournament series. He has finished in the top 10 in points nine times in the last 12 years, including the last eight in a row. He was fourth in 2009 and second in 2010.
He has qualified 16 times for the Forrest Wood Cup, where his highest finish was fifth in 2011. He's also one of the hosts of the "Moultrie's The Hit List" televison series on white tail deer hunting. That show on the Outdoor Channel is about to begin its fifth season and is expanding from 26 weeks a year to all 52, by the way.
But Morgan admits another crack at the top of the fishing heap already is on his mind.
"I'm looking forward to the 2015 season," he said. "I'll be trying to go for a three-peat as AOY, and a lot of my sponsors have new products. That's very exciting."
Contact Ron Bush at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6291.