For Leavenworth resident Larry Stoafer, outdoor sports like fishing and hunting have been part of his life since his grandfather introduced them to him when he was about 6 years old. These days, Stoafer is preparing to compete at the highest level of bass fishing at the 2018 Forrest Wood Cup at Lake Ouachita in Arkansas.
The Forrest Wood Cup is the equivalent of the Super Bowl or World Series for bass fishing and Stoafer will compete for the first time in the event in August.
Stouffer was one of the 10 to qualify from the Costa Fishing League Worldwide Series. As Stoafer described it, the Costa FLW is like the AAA level of Minor League Baseball. The other 40 participants in the tournament are at the top of the professional level. Qualifying has been a dream for the retired military man.
“The Wood Cup is a dream,” Stoafer said. “When you’re a bass fishing junkie you read everything. You watch every show and you do all that stuff. Now you get to fish against guys you grew up idolizing. It is from a personal perspective of enjoying the moment. That’s the big key is to live in the moment because this sport is so humbling.”
Stoafer has been doing tournament fishing for about 11 years. He joined a local bass club in 2007 around the same time he started to come to the end of his military career. Bass fishing came as he was looking for additional hobbies to do after he retired. When he was done with the military in 2009, Stoafer devoted the increased time he had to it. As he said, he caught the tournament bug and put all of his focus onto it.
It started out just with local events in the Kansas and Missouri area, but eventually, he went to the FLW and worked his way up the different levels before eventually reaching the Costa Series.
With Stoafer now qualified for the Forrest Wood Cup, his time is spent preparing. A lot of research and studying goes into preparation to figure out the fish patterns of the lake. Stoafer has traveled to the lake since he qualified to learn about the 40,000-acre area. As the tournament nears, the lake will have times where it is off-limits for competitors to allow fairness. Eventually, they can be on the lake, but not with anyone who lives on or around the lake, and then more off time before the event starts.
The tournament will last three days and the fishermen get to submit their five biggest fish each day and the highest cumulative weight at the end of the three days will be the winner.
After the tournament is over, Stoafer will look into possibly going up to the top level of bass fishing. To do that he will need to develop even more time and acquire some bigger sponsors, which he says is one of the most important things.
“It’s all about sponsors,” Stoafer said. “This is one of those industries where you can’t live off your tournament winnings alone.”
Stoafer had high praise for his current sponsorship, but the level he would need for the next level requires some different sponsors.
For anyone who is interested in competitive bass fishing, Stoafer first pushes them to join a local bass fishing club.
“That’s (bass fishing club) where you truly learn about competitive fishing,” Stoafer said. “There is a great one here in town if people didn’t know. It has a tremendous group of guys willing to teach and they will teach folks how to do all these things. That is a great way to get started.”