I know that a lot of my Bassmaster Elite Series peers take a step back after the season concludes. That’s understandable, because at times it can be a tiring and overwhelming sprint. I prefer to keep on fishing, though, because I feel like that’s my best chance to stay competitive over the long haul. That’s especially true after a year like 2021, when I wasn’t consistent and didn’t live up to my own expectations for myself.
Over the course of this last season, I inexplicably lost some fish at key times, and I’ve spent hours trying to figure out if something is wrong with my mechanics. Ultimately I realized that I was fishing well in AAA tournaments and when I fun fished, so I don’t think it’s a matter of overwhelming flaws as much as occasionally faulty execution. By continuing to fish a lot through the fall and winter, I hope to minimize or even eliminate those problems.
It’s easy to stay motivated because we have such a great schedule next year. We start with two events in Florida. Of course how good they are will ultimately depend on the weather, but if we hit it just right we know what lives there. I haven’t been to the Harris Chain since the first event of my first Elite season, and I’m excited to head back.
We follow up Florida with Santee Cooper, Chickamauga and Fork, all at prime times. Each one is exciting because of the potential of multiple 100-pound catches. I love the slugfests more than any other kind of tournament.
What really makes them exciting is that you’re never truly out of it – you can fall behind on the first day and then have a legitimate shot of catching 35 pounds and storming back up the leaderboard on Day 2. You can’t do that on a place like the Sabine. Of course, you can get left behind because you think it’s fishing tough and you undershoot the mark, or you can take a massive gamble and fail, but on all three of those places there’s monster fish potential.
Of course I’m particularly partial to Fork. As Lee Livesay showed last year, the lake is as healthy as ever, but fishing major tournaments there has changed. All of the little niche patterns and off-the-wall techniques have been exposed. It’s not a very big lake, either, so pressure will play a factor. Honestly, we’ve never been there when it was really on, so if we hit it right it’s possible that records will fall.
You’d think that would be the end of the riches, but in the summer we go to the St. Lawrence, where nobody will be surprised if someone weighs in 100 pounds of smallmouth. Oahe has them, too, and La Crosse is one of the most productive and fertile places we go.
Just thinking about all of those great venues has me excited, and that’s why I’ll be out on the water as often as possible this winter. Yes, you need to have some really great days and several superlative events to do well at this level, but you also need consistency. I’ve been up and down the past couple of years and that has hurt my overall performance and results.
I desperately want to win the Bassmaster Angler of the Year title, and I haven’t been in the hunt in a while. I’ve been in the running before, and I almost won a tournament this year. I’ve been around long enough to know that I still have what it takes, and the best way I can see to get myself back in the mix for the sport’s biggest title is to keep on fishing every chance I get.