I can finally exhale.
Earning a spot in the 2021 Bassmaster Elite Series was the hardest thing I’ve ever done, but it was worth all the effort. I set a goal and reaching it feels great.
Of course, I’m excited to have this new opportunity, but achieving it was do or die for me. This season had so many implications for me because I didn’t fish any other trails. I was 100% committed to the the Basspro.com Bassmaster Opens, so I had no other source of tournament income.
Winning an individual tournament is certainly very difficult, but managing the ups and downs of fishing both divisions — Eastern and Central — was incredibly challenging. On top of that, I invited the world to watch that journey through my social media channels.
I’m very fortunate to have a lot of wonderful people supporting me, but when I had a few rough events, I could definitely hear the concern in their messages. I will say that every single one of those messages of encouragement and belief helped me get through this season and reach my goal.
I’ll be honest, the 2020 season weighed heavily on me. I lost sleep — the guys who I traveled with know the stress that I was under.
It was tough. There were several tournaments where I would have panicky nightmares about them before I went on the road. At these events, I’d wake up in the middle of the night worried about where I was going to start or where I was going to fish.
With the pandemic moving several events later in the year, it was such a weird time to be fishing tournaments. I’ve never experienced anything like that; you start to lose grasp of what you should do.
Fortunately, I got to Lay Lake, and it was fishing normal for this time of year. I did a lot of praying over this tournament. I prayed that I would approach this tournament focused and leave it all on the table.
This was much less stressful than the previous events on Cherokee and Lewisville. On that second day, I went out and had fun.
I probably caught 40 fish. I caught largemouth in the grass, I caught largemouth on topwater out of laydown trees, I caught spotted bass jerkbaiting in 30 feet of water. It was good to get back to instincts and catching a lot of fish.
Even though I placed 46th, it felt good to finish off the year fishing well.
To squeak it out in a year full of curveballs and survive it was great. I have to say it was a little bittersweet leaving Lay Lake and saying goodbye to the guys I’ve roomed with all year.
All those guys are fighting to make it into the Elites and even though this year didn’t work out for them, I consider them all super accomplished anglers who deserve to make it some day. I know they will, but still, it was tough because I’m not sure when I’ll see them again.
Looking ahead, I’m eager to reconnect with a lot of old friends that I’ll be fishing against on the Elites. Fans can expect to see me fish as hard as I can and work every event to earn a Classic spot.
The whole goal behind this was to win a Classic some day and fulfill my family legacy. My dad’s in good health for now, but time is not on my side.
So hopefully, I can fish hard, perform well and put myself in position to do something special. I’d love for him to see that.