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On Tour With The FLW

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FLW and St. Croix Pro Cody Hahner fishes well beyond his years.

Park Falls, WI - Have you ever wondered what it would be like to be one of the youngest up-and coming competitors on a professional bass tour?

Cody Hahner did until making the grade last year. At age 26, the St. Croix Rod pro-staffer is now focused on building his reputation within the FLW Tour after an inspiring rookie season that saw him qualify for the Forest Wood Cup. For legions of high school and college bass competitors, Hahner now serves as inspiration – and proof – that hard work really can pay big rewards.

"Being one of the youngest anglers on the tour has advantages and disadvantages, but overall it's pretty awesome," says Hahner. "I think my age makes me more approachable to high school and college anglers, and that's a big positive. I enjoy that connection and offering sound advice if they ask for it. It hasn't been long since I was in that position. Knowing that helps me stay grounded. It's important in life to not forget where you come from."

Another plus to being fresh on the tour, maintains Hahner, is that younger anglers tend to be more flexible in their approach to bass fishing. "They're more likely to try techniques that don't quite match up with the track record for a particular body of water," he explains. "That little bit of naivety sometimes helps me work up a bite I'll have all to myself. I'm still trying to figure out just when is the perfect time to take those risks, though, because they might also result in a complete miss."

Overall, Hahner believes that lack of experience is probably the toughest factor to overcome for young pros. "I'm still fishing tourneys on waters I've never seen before. Most of the veteran pros have fished every lake on our schedule several times during their careers. That provides a big advantage over newcomers. It's hard to match that firsthand experience."

As for surprises on tour, one thing the University of Wisconsin at Stevens Point graduate didn't see coming was just how fierce the competition can be at the professional level. "I thought I was doing just fine coming up through the ranks," he admits, "but then I got to the pro level and I was blown away by how sharp and amazingly efficient successful veteran competitors are. The first time I got to see real pros like Bryan Thrift and David Dudley get to work, I immediately realized I had to step up my game. They have so much confidence and their approaches were incredibly fine-tuned from having spent countless hours on the water. It was really impressive – and somewhat humbling," he laughs.

To that end, Hahner has been sharpening his game by fishing as many types of water as possible. With abundant populations of largemouth and smallmouth bass in his home state of Wisconsin, he's able to test, practice and learn the intricacies of new strategies daily. Fishing different types of water under all kinds of weather conditions is how you learn, he emphasizes.

Case in point, Hahner's favorite technique this summer has been stroking chatterbaits through grass instead of using a steady retrieve. "A buddy showed me how he could dismantle a school of bigmouths with this approach and I've been honing it to improve my grass game," he explained. "For this technique, I like the new 7'2" heavy power, medium action Rip-N-Chatter rods that St. Croix just released at ICAST. They offer this in both their Legend Glass and Mojo Bass Glass series'," he continues. "My favorite bait to pair it with is the Z-Man Jackhammer. I'll throw the 3/8-oz. size in water depths of 7' or less, and the ½- or ¾-ounce size if fishing deeper."

My favorite bait to pair it with is the Z-Man Jackhammer
Looking forward to fall, Hahner says he can't wait for the topwater bite to get started. "I love surface fishing," he says enthusiastically. "It lets me cover water fast and it's so explosive. For this I really like a St. Croix 7' medium power Avid X rod. I'll throw a Rebel Pop-R or Yellow Magic Japanese popper most of the time, but I'll also cut in a big Evergreen Shower Blow as a walk-the-dog bait."

As for other young anglers with pro aspirations for the future, Hahner stresses that there's no substitute for time spent on the water. "Don't just target your favorite lake or honey holes; hit as many different places as you can," he advises. "You need to develop a feel for the fish that translates into any situation. The only way to reach that point is to keep casting and trying new things."

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