After two consecutive failures to make the cut to Day 3 in New York, my Bassmaster Elite Series season is effectively over. Yes, I’m still headed to Oklahoma for the event on Fort Gibson (as well as an Open on Grand Lake), but I’m in 60th place overall, 42 points out of 50th. That’s the cut to make the Toyota Bassmaster Angler of the Year Championship on St. Clair. Even if I win at Fort Gibson that won’t be enough.
To put it mildly, it sucks. I’ve had some other words for it the past few days, but I don’t think Bassmaster will publish them.
I almost wish that I could point back to some particular event or mishap that caused me to fall this low in the standings, but it really boils down to something remarkably simple – a failure to catch limits every day. I’ve gone back through all of my results, and if I’d just filled out limits on the days I fell short with bare-minimum keepers, I’d be well inside the Classic cut.
That struggle plagued me at Lanier and Guntersville. At Lanier I had one of the best practices of my career, but I didn’t adapt to changing conditions and weighed in two small fish the first day, then came back with a solid limit the following day. If I’d caught that amount both days I would’ve made the cut.
It killed me at Lake Fork, where I only weighed in four fish for 12-03 on Day 1, then caught more than 19 pounds on Day 2. I missed the cut by 3 stinking ounces just when I’d started to really figure things out. It’s not like I could’ve punted that first day and gone to a Ned Rig to catch number five. It’s Lake Fork! To think that way would be to give up before things had a chance to develop. I had to bet on my own abilities.
When I stepped off stage at Cayuga, I felt like running into traffic. The two days after I got home were pure hell. I tried to write this yesterday, but the tears started rolling down my face. I have no one to blame but myself, and yet I still can’t quite diagnose exactly where I failed. I had enough good days along the way to know that I’m on the right path.
So that leaves an Open on Grand and then the final Elite Series event of the year. My whole year – and my attitude going into the offseason – depends on the state of Oklahoma. That’s a lot of pressure and at the same time it frees me up to fish the way I know I’m capable of performing. I’m a way better angler than my results show, but no one will believe it until I’m consistently in the money. You are what your results say you are. I want to go into the fall knowing that I’m not as crappy as I appear to be. I’m fishing for pride, momentum, some money, and an opportunity to save some face and regroup.
I’ve never been the type of guy who catches one on his last cast, or reels up a backlash to find a 6-pounder attached, or gets boat number one during a sight fishing tournament – I don’t get those kinds of breaks. Those are the things you can’t control, but I need to be ready, so that when a few of the cards finally fall my way I’ll be ready to capitalize on them.
That progression starts with getting things right between my ears. That’s the first and perhaps most important step to taking my career to the next level. Last year I felt like I let down my mother, and my fans and the Chain Rats, but right now I need to focus entirely on myself. That’s the only way I’ll dig myself out of this hole and start working to get stronger.