Milford angler Mitchell qualifies for FLW Cup

Kurt Mitchell casts his rod. Submitted photo/Jody White

MILFORD – There aren’t many things that get Kurt Mitchell as excited as reeling in a fish in the last few minutes of a tournament.

Mitchell, the Milford native, just completed his fourth season as a professional angler in the Fishing League Worldwide – a bass fishing league consisting of anglers from across the United States and Canada.

But for the first time over that four-year span, he’ll be competing in the FLW Cup. The winner of the end-of-season tournament, consisting of 52 of the best FLW anglers, is awarded $300,000.

The tournament is set for Aug. 9-11 on Lake Hamilton in Hot Springs, Arkansas.

“There’s nothing in the world that gets me excited like the competition of it,” said Mitchell. “You hook into a five-pounder the last five minutes of a tournament, that’s everything. It’s awesome.”

Mitchell has been bass fishing since his father got him hooked on it at the age of nine. It was his neighbor who got him into tournament fishing at the age of 12.

It wasn’t until he qualified for the National Guard Junior World championship at the age of 14 years old that he started to take fishing seriously. He qualified for the tournament four times, placing as high as fourth place out of the 50 kids in his age class.

“That’s when I kind of realized that I could probably do something with it,” he said. “It’s the competition that just drives me crazy. I love it.”

Now, following his best FLW season yet, he is set to compete as the lone Delawarean in the field of 53 for the annual championship bass fishing tournament.

Mitchell competed in seven tournaments during this past FLW tour season, racking up 1,019 points and $53,000 in earnings to put him in 24th place in the standings. He reeled in 80 bass over that span.

The top 40 anglers in the standings qualify for the Cup, with 12 additional spots being handed out. Mitchell easily secured his spot in the tourney by placing well within the FLW top 40.

An angler in the FLW since 2016, Mitchell moved up from 98th place last season and 54th and 50th in 2017 and 2016, respectively.

“Going into the year, my goal is always to be top 10,” said Mitchell. “You want to make a name for yourself. But I am tickled to death with top 30, for sure.”

He’s not just the lone Delaware native in the Cup, he also just so happens to be the lone Delawarean out of all 170 anglers in the FLW Tour.

“The learning curve from fishing in Delaware to these great big bodies of water, it’s huge,” he explained. “It’s night and day difference. I didn’t know it was going to be that much of a learning curve – I knew it was going to be a big learning curve when I got into the tour, but I didn’t realize how much I had to learn.”

The learning, for Mitchell, is part of what makes competitive fishing so much fun for him.

Every time he goes fishing, whether it’s a professional tournament or just practice on a body of water in Delaware, Mitchell tries to take something away from the experience.

“You’re constantly learning,” he said. “If you want to be a professional fisherman, you have to love learning as much as you love fishing. That’s the biggest thing. A lot of people get stuck in their ways, and they quit learning, and that’s no good.”

Experience and confidence were two factors that played a part in the uptick in success, he says.

So did a change in his mindset and bait.

“Confidence had a lot to do with it,” he said. “This year, rather than going out and try to get a lot of bites throughout the day, I would get bigger bait. The five to eight inch bait.

“I’m going out there and I’m only getting five or six bites, but they’re bigger, so it’s just confidence that I’m going to get my five or six bites every day and making it work.”

When he arrives in Arkansas in early August, Mitchell and the other 51 anglers will have a few days to familiarize themselves with the area before the tournament officially gets underway.

The winner, according to the FLW website, receives the $300,000 prize and a 2020 FLW Cup entry.

“I’m just hoping to get as much exposure as I can,” he said. “The more exposure I can get fishing in the Cup, the better off I’ll be.”

Reach staff writer Ben Heck at bheck@newszap.com.

Reach staff writer Ben Heck at bheck@newszap.com

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