As I sat down to write my blog, I began to reflect on all that has occurred during the 2020 season, and it made me realize what a tremendous effort it has taken by so many to pull this thing off.
With all the adversity we faced, it would have been easy for B.A.S.S. and the anglers to simply cancel the season. But with vision and determination, B.A.S.S. has made the 2020 season one of the most memorable of my career.
It took not only the efforts of B.A.S.S., but all of their sponsors and the host cities who welcomed us into their hometowns during a pandemic.
Who would have ever dreamed we would see multiple Bassmaster Elite Series tournaments receive live coverage all four days on ESPN2? Not me, but it happened.
Adversity often brings opportunity, and by cautiously navigating forward during this crazy COVID-19 pandemic, B.A.S.S. has been able to bring our sport to a larger audience than ever before. With one tournament left, it's only fitting the we end our season with Toyota Bassmaster Texas Fest benefiting Texas Parks and Wildlife on Lake Fork.
Fork is a special place for many reasons. But to a bass fisherman, it's a place where dreams can come true. A place where on any cast, you may hook the bass of a lifetime.
Texas Parks and Wildlife has invested heavily in all of their fisheries, but Lake Fork is the crown jewel of a conservation effort like no other in the United States. With all that's on the line for the Elites Series anglers this week, it's only fitting the season be played out here.
There will be life-changing accomplishments here this week as we crown the 2020 Bassmaster Angler of the Year, the Rookie of the Year and hand out 40 berths to the 2021 Academy Sports + Outdoors Bassmaster Classic presented by Huk. Thanks to our great sponsor Toyota, this week’s payout will also be the largest of any 2020 Elite Series event.
So, now that I've set the stage for the week to come, it all comes down to points and math.
I can assure everyone there are a lot of anglers — myself included — who’ve been crunching the numbers coming into this tournament trying to figure out what it will take to accomplish their goals.
There's a magic number that a lot of the anglers are trying to figure out — and it's somewhere around 540 plus or minus three or four. That's the total points it will take to qualify for the Classic.
There are currently 20 anglers who have 548 points or more, and for 16 of those guys it will be a fun week with little stress other than trying to win this tournament. They’re mathematically locked into the Classic.
The top four in AOY points all have a legitimate shot at winning the most coveted trophy in this sport. There will be some long hours for those four this week.
Just below those anglers there's a group of seven or eight who are right around the points cut line and only need to catch one bass to punch their ticket to the Classic. But the real action starts around 30th place in the AOY Points and goes down to roughly 53rd place.
There are some seasoned veterans like Brandon Lester, Jason Williamson and Bill Lowen who are currently inside the Classic cut line and just need to have a solid finish to punch their tickets.
But just behind that 40th place angler, there are some hungry rookies like Wes Logan and Bob Downey and seasoned veterans like Chad Pipkens, Gerald Swindle, Bernie Shultz and the Texas killer Keith Combs who will all have a lot to say about who's going to get the remaining Classic berths.
It's going to be an awesome week for sure.
For me, 2020 has been a solid year with some good finishes. It will be a season that I’ll remember as one of my best — and not because of those tournament finishes.
I started this season with a left shoulder that caused me so much pain that I wasn't sure if I would even be able to fish. Looking back now, the pandemic and the delay in the season allowed my shoulder time to rest and heal.
Then during the New York tournaments, I injured my right shoulder. An MRI revealed a "posterior superior labral tear extending up to the bicep anchor." I don’t know what any of that means, but it hurts.
With all that said, it's been a year of pain and gut checks. There have been a lot of days when I was ready to quit.
But as I sit writing, I'm so, so happy that I sucked it up and finished.