I had a blast in Florida these past couple of weeks; the Elite Series was all that I had hoped for. After waiting 9 months since qualifying in June, it’s hard to believe that it is actually happening. My main goal for this season is to get better as an angler and to learn as much as I can. With two events down, the education has definitely started. It is similar to when I took my first college exam and got the scores back; I realized how much I have to learn.
At the St. Johns River Showdown, I was on the right pattern but just didn’t have enough areas; at Okeechobee, I never figured out the right pattern.
I knew going into the St. Johns that sight fishing would be the winning pattern. The weather was stable for the entire week, and I think most of us knew it would be won that way. I believe where I went wrong was picking the wrong lake to concentrate in. I picked Crescent Lake, where Edwin Evers won last year, to spend most of my practice. This year’s winner, Alton Jones, and many other top finishers chose Lake George.
Crescent Lake fished really small because there are only certain areas that you can sight fish. Edwin won there last year because he had most of it to himself. This year, the guys that chose Crescent all found the same fish. I found 26 pounds of bedders on Wednesday; and by Noon on the first day of the tournament, my competitors had caught them all. Bass fishing is all about having different options and backup areas, and the guys fishing in Lake George had much more water to fish.
At Lake Okeechobee, I let the wind screw up my whole game plan in practice. The wind blew so hard that I thought I couldn’t fish areas exposed to the wind. I spent most of practice fishing protected areas like canals and backwater areas and more than anything just wasted away my practice session.
Observation Shoal on the west side of the lake was one area that I wanted to fish in practice, but I counted it out because the wind blew out of the east for 3 days straight. I thought that 2- to 3-foot waves crashing down on those reeds would cause the fish to leave. Boy was I wrong!! Many of the top finishers fished that area, including second place finisher Chris Lane.
I was kicking myself after the event, because I should have just toughed it up in practice and got out there in the wind. I would have found them. I will never again let weather totally dictate my game plan.
Even though I see all that I could have done differently, I still have to be pleased with 21st and 41st place finishes in my first two Elite events. I am getting really excited about these next couple of tournaments. I leave for Lake Norman on Saturday. I finished 4th there last year, so hopefully I can pick up where I left off. After that are Bull Shoals and one of my home lakes, Douglas. It is going to be fun!
Remember to chase your dreams!