A fifth place finish at the Toyota Bassmaster Angler of the Year Championship was more than just a good finish and a good paycheck for me. It was the redemption of what was, by my standards, my worst season as a professional angler.
I had several Top 12s, but I had some really, really poor finishes where I just totally missed the boat. I fell apart; I train wrecked. So, the best thing I take away from this season is that, coming into the Toyota Bassmaster Angler of the Year Championship in 41st place, I had a very slim chance to make the Bassmaster Classic, and I did it.
Being backed into a corner and being able to fight your way out makes me feel good. It’s almost like I had a really good season; I was able to salvage a bad season and still make the Classic.
After practice, I honestly felt pretty good going into the event. I was getting a good amount of 2 1/2- to 3-pound bites, but if there was one concern, it was the lake’s size. Thankfully, Chatuge is full of fish, otherwise, we really would have put a hurt on them the first day.
I think the weights may have dropped off a little bit the final day, but overall, it held pretty steady. That’s not bad considering that September is probably the toughest time to be fishing that lake.
I’m sure the lake will get a lot better once the weather cools off, and I know it’s pretty good in the spring because I saw a bunch of big ones swimming all over the bank — I just couldn’t get them to bite.
I ended up catching every one of my fish on One-Knocker Spooks. I fished a bone color in cloudy, low-light conditions and used a lemon shad color when the bank had gotten dirty from all the boat traffic.
I caught fish in a variety of spots from brush piles to hard bottom spots to channel swings, but I believe the key for me was where I fished. I spent most of my time in one major creek where I could keep an eye on everyone else in there.
That was an important point because good spots were in high demand and timing was critical. I found I could get one, maybe two good bites on a good spot and then I’d have to let it rest. But every time you’d leave a spot, you didn’t know if you’d be able to get back on it because someone else might be there.
In that big creek, I’d watch to see which points got fished and which ones did not. When I’d leave one spot, I’d go to one of the ones that had not been pressured.
In the end, it came down to managing my opportunities, not panicking when I couldn’t get on all the spots I wanted and taking advantage of the opportunities to do well. I guess, in a way, that’s kinda how this season went for me.