Chris O’Brien is a tournament angler that should be on everyone’s up and coming list. Chris had great success on last years Northern Division COSTA FLW Series when he contended for Angler of The Year. As you will read, his committed work ethic and extreme passion for fishing create the ingredients for even more success in the world of tournament bass fishing.
You had a very strong 2016 season on the FLW Costa Series with some strong places. What was your favorite tournament of the 2016 season?
My favorite event of the season was Oneida Lake. I was on a very stable pattern early in practice that I was consistently able to reproduce throughout the week. I fished fast and effectively, covering a lot of productive water.
The key to the whole event was that I was able to power fish. When I’m able to fish fast I feel extremely comfortable and confident. I feel my best chances are covering as much water as possible, putting my bait in front of as many fish as possible
You were so consistent throughout the season including two 12th place finishes which is amazing. What helps you to stay consistent across tournaments and maintain your success?
Work ethic. I pride myself in being one of the hardest workers out there. It’s one of the few variables you can control in tournament fishing. I don’t take any days off and I fish sun up to sun down when I’m on the water.
In New York we have a shortened season due to winter and hard water. I take advantage of this by spending countless hours off the water doing research and map work. I like to be fully prepared when I roll up to a body of water for an event.
What were the 5 baits last year that you credit with your success?
Wow, this is a tough one! It’s tough because I tend to use the same baits often just differently. A Keitech swimbait is a huge player for me, weather I throw it on a jig head, Texas rigged or a wobble head the key is SLOW. The slower it’s fished the more action the bait has.
The Keitech Sexy Impact rigged on a drop shot is very key for me. It’s very subtle yet has a lot of action. The key is to not overwork the bait.
I throw a swim jig a lot. You can cover a lot of water fast and fish it through almost any type of cover. I typically rig a swim jig with either a swimbait trailer or a craw trailer, all depends on the type of forage in the fishery.
Another big player for me is the Keitech model 2 football jig. This is a very versatile jig that can be used around shallow docks all the way out to 25’+. The key to this bait is rate of fall. The deeper I fish it the smaller the trailer I use. In deeper water it has a bigger water column to cover. In shallow water I use a bigger trailer getting it to float slower.
Your traveling partner Casey Smith took down a win at the Potomac. How important is it to surround yourself with other strong anglers to help your tournament success?
Watching Casey win was a special moment. He and I have been close friends for years, and I was happy he was able to pull it off.
Traveling with someone who puts in just as much work as I do is critical. We feed and drive off each other. When it’s a grind or you start to feel fatigue, we know we have to push through because the other is still out there working hard. It’s also very helpful to be able to bounce ideas off each other knowing you’ll get an honest answer.
Am I correct that you ended up in 5th in AOY race? This is amazing but there are always a few I wish I would’ve moments. What were they for you?
Yes Chris, you’re correct, I finished 5th last season in the FLW Costa Series.
Two that come to mind quickly, missing the cut by a few ounces at both the 1000 Islands and Oneida Lake. At the 1000 Islands I was sitting in 3rd going into day 2 but they put the lake off limits that morning due to high winds. I didn’t have a great backup plan, putting most of my eggs in the lake basket throughout practice.
I’ve learned you can’t fully commit to something when there are variables out of your control. You always need a backup plan, however good or bad it may be.
I missed the cut by mere ounces at Oneida. On Day 1, I had a 2 pound late penalty costing me dearly in the end. I’ve always fished hard until the last second never giving up and this time I pushed it too far. Moving forward I know that I can’t push it as close. One more fish doesn’t have any meaning if you’re not back to weigh in on time.
You started your 2017 with a beautiful new Nitro rig. How is this boat setup for tournament angling that will help you be successful this year?
I chose to run a Z21 this season based on ride and fish ability. The storage and layout of the boat was well thought, not a bit of space unused. It was hands down built for tournament angling.
This rig gives me ample opportunity to stay organized throughout long weeks on the water resulting in more time spent fishing. Its long length paired with a slightly narrower beam help this rig cut through waves instead of slamming into them. Up north you need a rig that can handle the big water.
This may be a stupid question from a non-tournament angler but what is the purpose of having double electronics both at the wheel and on the deck of your boat?
That’s a great question, you wouldn’t believe how many times I get asked that! All four work together and serve a purpose. All of them are networked together, share waypoints and have the ability to share different types of sonar. Typically I use one at the console for creating a map using Humminbird Autochart Live and the other at the console for side imaging, down imaging and 2d sonar.
At the bow I use 1 for 360 imaging and the other with a split screen of map with down imaging or 2d sonar. These combinations allow me to thoroughly see under the water, make my own detailed maps, all allowing me to be dialed into areas. Practice is typically a limited time so efficiency is key and all details are imperative.
As you look to the schedule for this year, what is the tournament that you feel most confident about?
As the season approaches I’m looking forward to the 1000 Islands most. Growing up as a kid, my family had a cottage in Cape Vincent. I spent my summers up there from the last day of school until Labor Day weekend. This is where I learned to fish, caught my first bass and have very fond memories. In turn I also have a great deal of experience fishing there. I feel I have a good understanding of their habitat and seasonal movements.
What is the tournament that you are least confident about?
I’m least confident about the Potomac. I don’t have a lot of experience on tidal fisheries and with the expansive, mostly featureless grass flats, it can be tough to breakdown. I’m doing a lot of research on tidal water fisheries and how bass move to better grasp how they may position themselves throughout the changing water levels. I’ve also done a lot of map work looking for any irregularity that may turn into features throughout the flats.
Who are your sponsors?
My major sponsors include 3S Business Corporation, Keitech USA, Betlem Heating and Cooling and Bryce Marine/Nitro Boats. I feel I’ve surrounded myself with the greatest companies around. My motto is if you want to be successful, surround yourself with success. All of these companies rank at the top in their field. It’s easy to promote them knowing they provide a superior product or service. I can’t thank this group enough for all their support. They’re the ones that make it all possible.
Thank you Chris. I will be following your upcoming tournament season with great interest. Hope you have a great 2017 season!