I can’t tell you how much winning the 2020 Bassmaster Angler of Year title has meant to me.
This has been a dream of mine since long before I started my pro career in 1992. I have always thought that the Bassmaster Angler of the Year title is about as good as it gets.
I won three FLW AOY titles, and each was an honor and impactful for my career. But this is just extra special. I am very grateful for the opportunities that made it possible for me to compete and very grateful to have won it.
Any angler who starts a tournament season with a circuit has his eyes on winning – regardless of whether it’s with the local bass club, a regional tournament trail or a professional tour. We’re competitors.
Those who have done it know what I mean. It’s really special, and to do it at the very highest level is humbling.
It wasn’t easy; last season was a roller coaster ride. As it went on, I felt the pressure building.
I began to sense the pressure after three events when I was leading in points. Everybody was asking questions about it, but I knew we still had a ways to go.
It wasn’t until the last two events when it really hit me. I put a ton of pressure on myself and did poorly in the eighth tournament. I fell out of the lead but was able to rebound in the last tournament of the year.
Honestly, I’m still pinching myself.
I also was blown away by the attention I received. I’ve fished four Bassmaster Classics and had good success in other circuits, but I’ve never seen anything like this. The number of podcasts and interviews I did for two weeks was numbing. For a while there, it felt like I was doing three or four podcasts a day.
Getting the first place $100,000 check and some bonuses from sponsors helped financially, which is great. I’m not sure what that will all look like going forward, but it’s really not about the money. As a competitor, nothing can compare to winning at this level for me.
Naturally, my goal is to win it again in 2021, but the Elite field is loaded with talented anglers who are thinking the same thing.
Back when I won the first two FLW titles, I put pressure on myself to repeat because people expect you to catch them great every time.
But that’s not practical, nor can you force it to happen.
I’ll start every tournament trying to win and do the best I can while fishing against the fish, then put my results out there against others in the field.
My standard has always been that if I finish in the top half of the field then I’ve had a decent event. You do that for a season and your chances of winning an event – or even AOY – go up.
I’ve had a good career and winning AOY made it even better. Fishing professionally for 28 years is quite significant, and winning that title was the most significant event of my career. I couldn’t be happier.