Bird: I finally closed the door

Winning the 2020 Bassmaster Central Open at Neely Henry Lake was special to me for more than one way. For starters I was finally able to close the door on a win.

Back earlier in my career I won the Toyota Series Championship on the Arkansas River. But that was in 1998. After that I haven’t secured a professional win in any of the circuits. That’s been frustrating because I was frequently in a position to win. The last five years or so have been especially frustrating. 

Before that I was raising three kids. I took that responsibility seriously. As a result I fished conservatively. I was the guy who always needed to bring a limit to the scales so that I would earn a check. That was my mindset no matter where I was fishing or with which circuit. It was a comfort thing. 

Truthfully, I was pretty successful at that. Over my career, counting all the circuits and all the tournaments I fished, I earned over a million dollars bass fishing. That’s no small thing. I’m proud of it, and it worked for supporting my family. But, at the same time, it created a situation that I was the guy who was around on the final day, but never holding the trophy.

Now, though, my kids are grown and living on their own. They no longer need my financial support. And so, with the help and encouragement of another professional angler — Kelly Jordon — I’ve worked on developing a different mindset. I now fish every tournament to win. It’s no longer about earning a check. It’s about winning the tournament.

I’ll not say that these last few years have been without their frustrations, though. Every year I’ve had at least two opportunities to win, and didn’t do it. I could give you the specific reasons on a tournament by tournament basis but that would miss the point. What was really going on was that my excitement and nerves were getting the best of me. I made mistakes I shouldn’t have made. 

That didn’t happen last Saturday, and it feels good to be able to say that. 

This win is also special because it puts me in the 2021 Academy Sports + Outdoors Bassmaster Classic on Lake Ray Roberts. It’s a thrill that I’m really looking forward to when next March comes along. 

The lake is only a couple of hours from my house. That means I’ll be close to home where my family, friends and fellow anglers can share the experience with me. That makes it extra special. And, although I’ve only fished one tournament on it in the last 10 years I do know it’s a good lake for a tournament like the Classic — full of big bass and a pleasure to fish, especially in March.

Last weekend was good to me. I won a tournament, closed a door that needed to be closed and opened one to the greatest fishing show on earth. I’m thankful for all of it.