Time to get serious

What a relief! With my fellow Bassmaster Elite Series angler Cory Johnston winning the Basspro.com Bassmaster Northern Open on the St. Lawrence River recently, I’m now qualified for the 2022 Bassmaster Classic on Lake Hartwell.

I ended the Elite season outside the Classic cut, but I knew I still had a chance, depending on how the Opens turned out. Essentially, if an angler wins an Open and they fish all three of that division’s events, they receive a Classic berth. If they don’t fish all three events, or if they’re already qualified for the Classic (Cory qualified by finishing fifth in the Bassmaster Angler of the Year points), that spot goes back to the Elite field. 

Needless to say, I was super excited to hear of Cory’s win. For one thing, he’s a great angler, and I was happy for his hard-earned victory. But of course, I was also very relieved to know that I’d be heading to next year’s Classic on Lake Hartwell. 

I remember seeing the news while I was on the St. Johns River. I was the boat captain for my daughter Hilary and her partner in the Florida B.A.S.S. Nation high school event, and since they run the trolling motor, I was sitting there with my eyes glued to Bassmaster LIVE at the Northern Open.

I have to admit, the day before, I was thinking it probably was not going to happen. I thought Coop Gallant, who led Day 2, was probably going to catch 28 pounds on Championship Saturday and win the event. But as I started checking the stats on the other top anglers and realized that they wouldn’t qualify for the Classic, I started getting goose bumps.

I didn’t want to get too excited because I knew things could change quickly. I waited until the weigh-in, and I started getting some text messages saying, “It looks like you’re going to get the Classic bid.”

It wasn’t official until I got a text message from some people at B.A.S.S. I hate to use the phrase “dream come true,” but it was awesome. It made the season better.

The best part about this was the excitement I saw in my family. My dad was at a promotional event, and he had fans coming up to him and telling him what happened. So he stopped in the middle of it to call me. He was super excited; this means a lot to him too. 

For me, I’m not sure it has all sunk in yet. I was super excited, but it was such a busy weekend with Hillary’s tournament. I was really focused on her. I think it’s just starting to sink in. 

I have visualized fishing the Classic lake, and that’s the first step for me — to visualize things. I’ve been to Hartwell many times, I understand the layout of the lake and I actually like the lake. There are big spots in there and I think the Classic is going to be a fun tournament.

Looking at the way this season ended, yeah, I got help from Cory Johnston, but I still put myself in position to get that opportunity. I feel blessed that I’ve been able to check off two career goals: qualifying for the Elites and now making the Classic. It’s a blessing, and I give glory to God, honestly.

This motivates me to put my head down and fish my guts out this next Elite season and at the Bassmaster Classic. I’ve accomplished all my goals other than winning an Elite tournament and winning the Classic, so it’s time to get serious.