We're now two tournaments into the 2013 Bassmaster Elite Series season, and I'm in 53rd place in the Toyota Bassmaster Angler of the Year standings after finishing 28th at the Sabine River and 72nd at Falcon Lake. As you might guess, that's not exactly where I want to be, but there's a lot of fishing yet to be done this year and plenty of opportunities to improve my position.
And though I'm not as high in the AOY standings as I'd like to be, I don't want anyone thinking that I'm upset about my season — I'm not. Things are going just fine and I'm fishing well. A few adjustments here or there, and I'd be right in the hunt.
A lot of people don't realize just how much of professional bass fishing is mental. I'd say it's about 99 percent, but that might be low. At this level, everyone can cast extremely well. Everyone knows the right knots to tie. Everyone can operate their boat and get to the fish quickly and efficiently. In short, everyone can fish.
What separates the best from the rest is what's going on just under the sponsor cap. It's all about decisions. Do you make the long run and cut your fishing day in half or do you stay close and gut it out? Do you leave solid keepers in hopes of finding a kicker or two? Do you spend the last half day of practice exploring new water or refining what you've already learned? If you make the right decisions, you make cuts, earn checks and win trophies.
If you don't.... Well, you know what happens then.
My new challenge is to balance my responsibilities and opportunities as the Bassmaster Classic champion with my job as an Elite Series pro. I know it's not going to be easy, but I'm in a position that every other angler would love to be in. We all want success, even if it comes with a price tag.
I've always been a competitive guy. That's one of the things that drew me to tournament fishing in the first place. Recently, I discovered that winning our sport's biggest championship doesn't quench that thirst for competition and success, it fires it even more.
As busy as I was after winning the Classic, I still couldn't wait to get out on the water and get the Elite season started. The Classic was a tremendous boost to my confidence, but it's no magic formula for success. I know that I still need to work hard, pay my dues and fish one tournament at a time, one day at a time and one cast at a time. That's the approach my friend Gary Klein takes with his career, and I've made it my approach, too. It works ... and not just for fishing.
Winning the Bassmaster Classic has given me the most sought-after trophy in all of fishing, a great payday and responsibilities as big as the opportunities.