Over the past couple of years of my Bassmaster Elite Series career, the fisheries of upstate New York have treated me pretty well. As often happens in this sport, just when you think you have things figured out, that’s when it can get tough. I didn’t make the cut to Saturday at either the St. Lawrence River or Cayuga, and that’s put my back against the wall as the season nears its end.
Coming off the long break after Guntersville, I was inside the Bassmaster Classic cut and ready to compete in the cooler weather. I wanted to fish well enough that the upcoming event at Fort Gibson wouldn’t determine whether I made the Classic or the Toyota Bassmaster Angler of the Year Championship, but that’s the situation I find myself in now.
My 58th place finish at the St. Lawrence was the direct result of depending too much on history. That’s the worst thing you can do in this sport. I tried to force-feed the fish the baits I wanted to throw, in the areas that I wanted to catch them, and it just didn’t work out. I also lost some key fish on Day 1 on a jerkbait and a Ned Rig. That happens to everyone at times, so I can’t really blame my equipment. It was primarily a matter of making bad decisions.
I followed that up by finishing 53rd at Cayuga, where once again I allowed myself to get too locked into what I thought should have been going on, and that bit me in the butt. In past trips there many of the good bags have come from the north end of the lake, so that’s where I spent a substantial portion of my practice. As it turned out, a lot of fish ended up being caught way south. To make it even more hurtful, I understand that a bunch of them were caught on a jerkbait, my favorite way to fish.
I’m not sure why I didn’t do better. As it was, I only ended up about 5 pounds out of the cut. I executed well. I didn’t miss any fish, and there were several competitors fishing around me who made the cut. I just could not get the slightly bigger bites that I needed. A couple of quality fish would have gone a long way.
I know exactly what I did wrong and I’ve had a lot of time to think about it, so I’ll learn from my mistakes, but that doesn’t make it sting any less. I left the weigh-in Friday afternoon, went back to our rental house, showered, packed my clothes and drove all through the night to get home. That’s 16 hours straight, 16 hours of thinking about how I could’ve done better. I left a lot on the table, not just those critical points, but also a bunch of money. It’s a lot easier to make that drive after a good event.
To be quite honest, I was so confident heading into those two tournaments about what I was going to do that I pretty much shocked myself by finishing on the wrong side of the cut line. I’ve been thinking about it ever since, and every time I get on social media and see one of my friends talking about how well they did it makes me want to puke. I’m happy for them, but I’m mad at myself.
I have to learn from those mistakes, but I also have to put them behind me because it’s all on the line at Fort Gibson. If I can get past that one and into the AOY Championship, I’ll be thrilled, because I have a solid track record at St. Clair. Of course the worst-case scenario would be to bomb at Fort Gibson and fall out of the top 50. It’s not going to be an easy one, that’s for sure, but I have to utilize a smart game plan to make sure that this season doesn’t end prematurely.
Next time I’ll talk about how I plan to approach the final regular season event.