When the 2019 Bassmaster Elite Series schedule was first announced, I circled both Lake Fork and Guntersville on my calendar. They’re both great lakes but they can be fickle, and I knew that at least part of our field would weigh in monster catches. As it turned out, I figured things out pretty well at both fisheries, and they produced my two best finishes of the year so far – 12th at Fork and 11th at Guntersville.
Those results brought me into eighth place in the Toyota Bassmaster Angler of the Year race, with the next two events up north. Then came a seven week break.
Obviously whenever you have that kind of momentum going you don’t want anything to stop it, but I don’t feel that I’ve lost anything in the interim. As my wife just reminded me, I’ve fished every day since then except for four, and those were when I was at ICAST. Some product testing, some fun fishing and a few tournaments. During the summer up here in Minnesota it feels ridiculous not to fish, because the rest of the year the weather sucks. We should have ice in two months, and it’ll probably last until May.
Now it’s time to get back out on tour, and next up are two more tournaments that I’ve had circled on my calendar since they were first announced. We’ll be in smallmouth country in New York, and I really haven’t smallmouth fished all year. I’m leaving early to get some time on nearby waters to ensure that I’m not sloppy on tournament days. I haven’t used any 8-pound test or belly-landed a big brown fish all year, so I need to dial those skills back in.
To be honest, while I’m a pretty good smallmouth fisherman by Elite Series standards, if we were fishing against just hammers from places like Minnesota and Canada and Wisconsin I might not be near the top of the heap. That’s why my efforts will come in handy at the St. Lawrence, where everybody is going to catch big bags. It’ll be a fun tournament even if I don’t do particularly well, but of course you can’t take that attitude into the tournament. The one that really excites me, though, is Cayuga, which for me will probably be a largemouth deal.
I spend a lot of summer days on the water up here in Minnesota flipping deep grass, and I’m fishing for largemouth probably 90 percent of the time. Cayuga is probably the closest thing I’ll ever experience to fishing an Elite Series tournament on my home waters of Minnetonka. I’ve been excited about the possibility of it ever since I watched footage of Greg Hackney winning an Elite tournament there in 2014. When we visited in 2016, I finished 16th, but it was a spawn and postspawn tournament. The fish were on inside grass lines eating Senkos and similar presentations. This one is later in the year, and I hope that means it’ll fish more to my strengths.
If I can make some things happen at these next two slugfests it’ll bring us to the true test of our skills and resilience. Fort Gibson in mid-September is going to make some heroes and break some hearts. While some of us will go on to St. Clair afterward for the AOY Championship, in some respects AOY will be won or lost in Oklahoma. You’ll catch five a day if you’re lucky, and if you lose one you may see your chances wash down the drain along with it.
We have a lot of fishing left to go, and whoever emerges on top will truly earn the title.