- Ken Duke
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PALATKA, Fla --
There's an attitude among touring bass pros that is generally supported by statistics. It goes something like this: Locals seldom win big national tournaments because of the "nostalgia factor."
They know too much about the body of water and let it cloud their thinking during competition. Rather than concentrate on the fish-holding areas they found in practice, they start thinking about all the places they've caught bass in the past and spend the tournament running around like a chicken with its head cut off.
Instead of winning, they fail -- often spectacularly.
Generally, locals don't fare all that well in events that draw anglers from all over the country or even the world.
Yes, there are exceptions, like Lake Amistad, where Texans have won five out of the seven BASS events held there or the California Delta, where Californians have won six of eight times, but more typically the locals fall short.
Bassmaster Elite Series pro Peter Thliveros is successful just about anywhere he fishes. It's how he's racked up nearly $2 million in BASS earnings. But put him in Florida and he's especially dangerous.
The St. Johns River is his home water, and he's won far more than his share of trophies and prize money fishing there.
But it wasn't always that way. In his earliest days of fishing national tournaments on the river, Thliveros struggled, finishing 93rd at a 1983 Super B.A.S.S. event, 115th in the 1984 Super B.A.S.S., 146th at the 1984 Florida Invitational and 68th at the 1985 Super B.A.S.S. tournament.
Then, at the next St. Johns B.A.S.S. event in 1991, he was sixth. He won the 1992 B.A.S.S. Top 100 tournament in 1992, finished fourth at the 1999 Florida Invitational there and won the Bassmaster Tour event in 2008.
"I think it was just a maturity thing and the fact that I picked up a lot of knowledge from traveling and getting out of the state of Florida," Thliveros said. "I started fishing a little differently, putting some things together and just got a lot better as an angler."
So to improve his home water performance, he had to hone his skills on the road?
"Definitely. I became a lot more versatile by traveling and fishing with the best in the business. You can top out by fishing at home all of the time. There's just so much you can see and experience and learn if you don't get out of your own backyard and challenge yourself as an angler."
Last week, Thliveros finished a solid 19th at the Elite Series event on the St. Johns. It gave him some valuable Toyota Tundra Bassmaster Angler of the Year points (he's 12th) and put him in good position to qualify for his 14th Bassmaster Classic, but it wasn't the finish he wanted.
Ironically, it might have been the "reverse nostalgia factor."
"I had a bad Day Two," Thliveros explained (he weighed in just 7 pounds, 6 ounces). "I was stubborn and tried to force a sight-fishing bite that wasn't working for me. I found the right fish, but couldn't make them bite. Rather than change what wasn't working and put my local knowledge to work, I tried to disregard it and picked the wrong areas.
"I should have trusted my instincts as a local."