Not going anywhere

This was my year back. Overall, it was a good one.

I finished 11th in the Bassmaster Angler of the Year standings so I have a spot in the 2022 Academy Sports + Outdoors Bassmaster Classic presented by Huk. I also won a blue trophy at the Dovetail Games Bassmaster Elite at Sabine River sponsored by Bassmaster 2022 the video game. That’s a year I’ll take every year. 

If I have any disappointment, it comes from the decision I made at our last event, the 2021 Farmers Insurance Bassmaster Elite at St. Lawrence River. I knew — we all knew — that Seth Feider would catch them. That was a given. We also knew that if we were going to make up any ground on him we’d have to catch massive bags of smallmouth. 

I decided to fish the river. That was a mistake. I didn’t catch them. I should have taken a chance and made a run to the lake ... go for broke. But that’s water spilled over the dam. You can always look back and see where you could have, should have, done different. I’ll not complain about it. I only mention it so that you have a picture of what happened, why I finished 91st when I was having such a good year. 

Maybe the real story is how I came back to the Bassmaster Elite Series. I fished my way back through the Basspro.com Bassmaster Opens, and I have no problem telling you that I won’t try to do that again.

The Opens are different from the Bassmaster Elite Series. For one thing there are twice as many boats in an Open. That creates issues beyond more competition. The water starts to fish smaller. It’s hard to put a pattern together and run it for three days. There’s always somebody on “your” spot.

Add to that the fact that there are maybe as many as 30 or 40 local anglers fishing. Some of them have big sticks and a lot of tournament experience. Beyond that you have to deal with top professionals who know how to fish competitively. 

Something else is that it only takes one bad day and you’re out. I’m not talking about a bad tournament. I’m talking about one day. 

My tournament at the 2020 Basspro.com Bassmaster Central Open on Sam Rayburn is an example of what I just said. I needed a big bag on the second day to stay competitive. I went for broke. It worked. I made the Elites. If that had been a bad day, I wouldn’t be writing this column. 

The whole experience was stressful. I had to make the Elites. Everybody knew that’s what I was doing. It was the decision I had made. I had nothing else to fall back on to earn a living. 

In the end, though, it all worked out. I’m happy, my sponsors are happy and things are moving in a positive direction.

I’ll end by telling you this: Making the Elites through the Opens is a tough task. I’ve done it twice now, and that’s as many times as a guy can expect to get in one lifetime. I’m with B.A.S.S. and I’ll stay with B.A.S.S. until they kick me out or I retire. I’m not going anywhere.