Flying High

by David A. Brown

Courtesy FLW Outdoors Magazine - Jan/Feb 2012 issue.


Shawn Murphy (left) poses with Bill Taylor, FLW director of tournament operations,
while holding the ROY trophy.

Shawn Murphy might not have set out to become the Walmart FLW Tour Rookie of the Year, but he certainly did set out with the discipline, determination and diligence that tend to yield such medals. The Nicholasville, Ky., pro carried a self-perpetuating motivation that got him through the tough times and made him smile in those mission-accomplished moments. Here’s how he did it.

Getting Here

Murphy’s father, Greg, introduced him to local night tournaments as a youth. He started his organized tournament trail career in the Walmart Bass Fishing League, and when the yen for a greater challenge became too much to ignore, he moved up to the EverStart Series Central Division, where he won angler of the year in 2009, his rookie season.

Strategy Points

Murphy, who describes himself as an aggressive straight shooter who speaks his mind, entered the 2011 season with one goal: to qualify for the Forrest Wood Cup. He promised himself that he wouldn’t let anybody outwork him and that he would properly manage all the elements that affect fishing results within his ability to do so.

“With the level of guys I was competing against, I knew I had to give it my all,” Murphy says. “The biggest thing to me was to get out [on the water] right at daylight and stay right until dusk. I wanted to do everything I could do to eliminate any second-guessing. Coming into the year, I had a guideline of all the things that I can be in charge of, other than catching fish. I went through all of those steps each and every night and every day while I was out on the water.”

That regimen covered all aspects of tackle and preparation, including changing his line after practice and every night after a tournament day. Murphy heard plenty of criticism about wasting line, but for him, such investments bought him that all-important competitive edge called “confidence.”

“I’d tell doubters, ‘It might be a waste, but if that line breaks the next
day, at least I know that I gave it my all,’” he says.

Pro Tools

Murphy also devoted long hours to map study and Internet research, along with intense electronics practice.

“Learning how to use Lowrance StructureScan was pivotal in the way I finished at some events this year,” he says. “Between events this year, I went to my home lake [Herrington in central Kentucky], and I didn’t take any fishing rods. It was just about simply getting out there with that StructureScan and learning what was what. I learned the difference between what a largemouth or spotted bass looks like and a striper or a bottom fish.”

Season at a Glance

Murphy’s season started dismally with just one fish on day one at the Beaver Lake event, but that night he refocused his game plan and ended in the money at 46th place.

“That gave me the confidence that I can compete with these guys,” he says. “That was what got me going forward.”

Unfortunately, he stumbled again in event No. 2 at Lake Hartwell. He finished 131st. Murphy then bounced back with a 21st-place performance at Chickamauga, and a 26th-place finish on the Red River provided another boost. Murphy finished 68th at Kentucky Lake and in the money at Pickwick with a 23rd-place showing.

Murphy credits his mother’s lifelong faith in him and his natural abilities for the success he’s achieved.

“When I was growing up, my mom [Venita] would always tell me, ‘If you put your mind to something, you can do it because I know you’re the best at everything already,’” Murphy recalls. “She believed in me and had faith in me that I can be the best. That was something I always referred to when I was down or wasn’t catching fish. I’d say to myself, ‘Hey, put your mind to this and you’ll be the best."


Building and Flying

As the owner of SGM Homes and SGM Excavating, Shawn Murphy spends most of his nonfishing workweek raking concrete, operating a bulldozer or nego-tiating with prospective homebuyers. Oddly enough, he recently found a connec-tion between his vocation and his newest dream.  A long-standing fascination with the remote-controlled toy helicopters of his son Gavin prompted Murphy to express an interest in learning to fly the real thing. He then was surprised by his wife, Kristy, with a birthday gift – a helicopter flight lesson. When the big day arrived, the pilot not only provided a memorable aerial tour, but he also gave Murphy a few minutes on the stick.  “Here I am sweating and a nervous wreck, but I took the controls and the pilot was really impressed with the way I flew the thing,” Murphy says. “You have to use your hands, feet and eye coordination all at the same time, and I reflected that back to when I’m running heavy equip-
ment.” Now, thoroughly hooked, Murphy hopes to someday acquire a pilot’s license, though not to replace fishing, but rather to augment his profession.  “That’s a long-term goal, to be successful in fishing and my other businesses and maybe try to purchase a helicopter,” he says. “Maybe I can fly over some of these lakes and check them out.”