My first Bassmaster Elite Series event — the 2021 AFTCO Bassmaster Elite at St. Johns River — is under my belt, and it was awesome. Of course, a big part of that is because I won it, but something else happened that’s almost as important. I’m in the group of the best competitive bass anglers that exists.
I guess the question I’m asked the most is about being overwhelmed by all the talent that’s in the Elite Series. The answer to that is simple but also complicated.
It’s pretty cool to look over on a Sunday morning and see Mark Menendez and Greg Hackney sitting in their boats. They’re two of the greatest ever with reputations earned over many years of fishing all over the country and under all kinds of conditions. When I say it’s pretty cool I mean that I’m impressed with what they’ve accomplished and what they can do when everything is on the line.
It doesn’t mean I’m intimidated or scared though. They’re men just like the rest of us. And, you have to remember that at the end of the day it’s about you and the fish. It doesn’t matter who else is fishing. If you catch the bass, you’ll be in good shape at the end of the day. If you don’t, you’ll be hurting.
I live in North Carolina right by the state line with South Carolina. But, I’ve had some success in Florida. In fact, I won the first Bassmaster Open I ever fished last January on Kissimmee, and now I can say I’ve won the first Elite Series tournament I ever fished on the St. Johns River. The Sunshine State has been good to me.
The reason for that is that I don’t worry about anything other than the fish. Who’s in the field, or out of the field, is not any of my concern. If you’re fishing down there in January, February or March, you know you’re fishing around the spawn. Once you figure out what stage they’re in you can target them effectively.
That’s my thinking about all the other tournaments too. I’m not real big on going to the other lakes or rivers early. I wait for the tournament. We get three days to prefish right before the competition. That’s usually enough time to figure things out. You know, you learn what’s happening right before the tournament. That’s really all that matters.
There are other reasons I don’t usually prefish until right before the tournament — family and money. Time away from my wife and child hurts. I miss them when I’m gone. The less of that I have to go through the better I like it.
The other thing is money. The truth about being a professional bass angler is that, in the end, it’s about making a living fishing.
Traveling to a lake or river early costs money. There’s no way you’ll spend less than a $1,000 in three days, more than that if you stay longer. So what you’re really doing is increasing your entry fees into a tournament. If you make a check, that cuts into your profit. If you don’t, it increases your loss. There’s nothing complicated about that.
I have no idea what the future holds. My ultimate goal is to win a Bassmaster Angler of the Year title and be crowned a Bassmaster Classic champion.
At the same time I know that I’ve been blessed with success, and I think that’s because I stick to what works for me — family, my practice schedule and never forgetting that’s it’s not me against any of the other anglers. It’s all about the fish.