I grew up watching The Bassmasters, and I am sure I watched many Bassmaster Classics throughout my childhood, but the first one that I can remember really well was the ‘98 Classic that Denny Brauer won. I had just turned 12 and was trying to learn all I could about fishing. I remember the commentator saying that Denny was flipping laydowns. Thinking that a laydown was this revolutionary new bait, I asked Dad what a laydown was. He laughed and said, “It’s the trees in the water that Denny is fishing.” Ha-ha.
In 14 years, I have gone from a clueless 12-year-old bass fishing fan dreaming of fishing in a Classic someday to a pro angler that has competed in his first Bassmaster Classic. It’s pretty humbling when I think about it. My first Classic was absolutely incredible; I really had a blast. Even though I finished 38 places lower than what I wanted, I can still say that it was the most fun that I have ever had fishing a tournament. B.A.S.S. and Tulsa rolled out the red carpet for us; they went above and beyond to make the 2013 Classic great.
The Classic is really an extravaganza; and with all the media interviews, appearances, and fancy dinners, it is hard to stay focused on fishing. During Media Day, I was asked about my game plan so much that I started to second guess what my plan even was. The guys that were able to put all the hoopla out of their heads were the ones that caught the fish. On the first day of the tournament, I let my nerves get the best of me and I fished entirely too fast. The water temp was 44 degrees, and I should have slowed way down. But hindsight is always 20/20. I slowed way down on Day 2 and caught them better but my first day flop kept me out of fishing on Day 3.
Not qualifying for Day 3 was not all bad. I got to meet some great fans at the Classic Expo and talk fishing with tons of people. Seeing the amount of people in the Expo was mind blowing. It was hard to even walk around sometimes it was so crowded. I love seeing huge crowds. It gets me pumped up and lets me know how big bass fishing really is. We have a great sport, and it is definitely growing right now. It is an exciting time to be a part of it.
After experiencing the Classic, I now know what to expect. I believe my next go around will be much more successful. The Classic is the pinnacle of our sport, and I will do all I can to qualify for it year after year. The 2014 Classic on Guntersville is a year away, and I am already getting excited about it. I bet records will be broken.
Until then, Cliff Pace will reign as our Classic champion and I couldn’t be happier for him. He is a great dude and an excellent fisherman. I really admire guys who stay humble through fame and fortune, and Cliff is one of those guys. Our Toyota AOY champ, Brent Chapman, is another guy who has stayed humble and grounded through great success. Learning from guys like Cliff and Brent, I strive to be humble each and every day. Cliff is a great role model for young anglers, and the way he conducts himself off the water is just as important as his skills on the water.
Dare to fail.