Tony Bigot brings home first place co-angler Florida BASS Nation overall trophy
CORRECTIONS NOTICE: This article was updated Nov. 4, 2020 to correct wording concerning the tournament name and Lake Seminole; Nashville Auto Diesel College's name, and the year Tony Bigot's Transmission Service opened.
CRESTVIEW — An avid Northwest Florida fisherman is on his way to the next stage of competition after taking first place overall in the co-anglers division of the Florida B.A.S.S. Nation Pro-Am State Championship
Fort Walton Beach's Tony Bigot caught bass totaling 20.53 pounds during the tournament, which was Oct. 24 and 25 at Lake Seminole. He competed as a member of the Hub City Bassmasters Club of Crestview.
The win is a sweet repeat for Bigot. He also won first place in the co-angler division in October 2008 with a total catch of 14.72 pounds.
INTRO TO BASS FISHING
Bigot grew up fishing in the waters of Choctawhatchee Bay. He taught himself to fish, but he credits Gene Thompson and Hinton Day with introducing him to bass fishing in the 1970s.
"He (Thompson) just enjoyed bass fishing, and I went with him a few times, and I started enjoying it, too," Bigot said.
Day was another person who influenced and encouraged him in his early bass tournament fishing days.
Bigot joined the Miracle Strip Bass Club in Fort Walton Beach in 1976 and is now a member of Hub City Bassmasters in Crestview.
Ernie Martin, a teacher and coach at Crestview High School, said Bigot's professionalism and attention to detail were key to his success in the 2020 contest.
"On the first day, the best bite that he got, he was fishing a swim jig in shallow grass mat (grass that has grown to the surface of the water and looks like a mat as it lies over) ... The second day he was 'punching mats' in an area called Spring Creek in 10-12 foot range and ending up in the bigger limits (of fish).
"That grass gets kind of thick, and you need heavy hooks and weights to be able to get through there, to fall through to where it goes through the canopy, and that 7 to 8 feet of water is where it's shaded and the bass hang out," Martin added.
Martin said Bigot would test every piece of equipment, educate himself on the environment he would be fishing in, and make sure he had all the tools he needed for whatever conditions he might face.
Everything was taken apart, cleaned, tested and inspected.
"I promise you, he was probably a month and a half to two months out preparing just for that weekend. He did his homework and it paid off. It paid off big," Martin said.
Bigot took several things into consideration before the tournament began. One of the main techniques he recommends is to seek out the familiar. That applies to fishing in waters you know, as well as sites that are new to you.
"I've told this to hundreds of people, especially young kids, when I do seminars," Bigot said. "When you go to some place new, look for something familiar.
"Look for this type of grass, or that type of weeds, and this type of banks on the banks, or that kind of cover out on the lake, and fish for whatever looks familiar to you, and you will be more confident in it," he added. "You will fish a bait that you have more confidence in better than you will fish any other bait that you own."
The tools of the trade for Bigot this year included Quantum Smoke S3 Bait Casting rod and reel with 17 pound test Vicious Fluorocarbon Line, and a Mann’s Stone Jig with a Mann’s Frankentoad trailer.
On Sunday, he used a Quantum Flippin Stick Combo with a Trokar Flippin Hook, 60 pound test Vicious No Fade Braid, and a Mann’s Frankentoad with a 1½ oz. Tungsten Bullet Weight.
Bigot's sponsors for this tournament and other competitions are: Quantum Rods and Reels, Bass Pro Shops, Cabela’s, Mann’s Bait Company, Eagle Claw Trokar Hooks, HUK Performance Fishing, Vicious Fishing Line, Bullet Weights, Minn-Kota, Humminbird, Zebco, Nick’s Seafood Restaurant, Eyewear Unlimited and Suncoast Performance.
Fishing all over Florida and teaching people about the sport are a big part of Bigot's life. He teaches seminars across Northwest Florida. Of those, the greatest thing he does, he said, is being part of the Casting Kids events for the special needs kids at Silver Sands School during the past 13 years.
He also likes skeet shooting and building hot rods.
He has been the owner of Tony Bigot's Transmission Service on Eglin Parkway in Fort Walton Beach since 1985. He graduated from Choctawhatchee High School in 1965 and the Nashville Auto Diesel College in 1967.
Martin said Bigot's win wasn't just a win for Tony. It was a win for all the students in the CHS Outdoor Education classes, young Bassmasters Club members, attendees at his fishing seminars, and even the customers of his transmission shop in Fort Walton Beach.
"They know what kind of effort goes into it and they know that Tony does a professional job when it comes to his work in the transmission shop and as a fisherman in these tournaments," Martin said.
To see the complete results of the Florida B.A.S.S. Nation Pro-Am State Championship go to www.floridabassnation.com, click on Northwest Region, click on Pro Am Results and click on State Championship Results.