I can't tell you how good it feels to have ended this segment of the season — the last two tournaments on West Point Lake and the Alabama River — with good finishes. I believe momentum can be really strong in bass fishing, and I'm excited to have some as we enter the final three events.
The turning point for me was Day 2 at West Point. I was in 87th place at the end of the first day and obviously not having a very good tournament. That's when I decided to change water and fish my strengths. Fortunately, it was one of those events where you didn't need a giant bag to be competitive. I was able to regroup and finish 17th.
Now, I realize that 17th isn't exactly a fantastic finish, but if you're 87th after the first day and find a way to move up 70 places two days later, that's a victory in my book. I was delighted to get those points and felt that I had salvaged the tournament.
Now — after five events — I'm in fifth place in Toyota Bassmaster Angler of the Year standings and 50 points behind the leader, Edwin Evers. That's a tall mountain to climb, especially with Edwin fishing so well. All I can do from here on out is to fish as hard as I can and let the points fall where they may. Edwin's having a phenomenal year, but I'm going to do all I can to make it a race.
Lately I've been humbled to see so many high school anglers attending the weigh-ins for the Elite Series. It seems like every day several young people tell me their goal is to qualify for the Elites. It's wonderful to see that next generation working so hard to become good anglers and great stewards of our natural resources. Those kinds of efforts will ensure that we have great fishing in this country for many, many years to come.
A lot of these young anglers are participating in high school fishing programs across the country. That opportunity wasn't out there when I was a teenager, but I'm excited to see it now.
If you're an angler in high school, I hope you'll join your school's fishing program, and if your school doesn't have one, I hope you'll take the time and effort to start one. Find a teacher who loves to fish, or talk to your principal about it. With the right sponsor, you can build a great program.
Speaking of high school anglers, in the next few weeks I'll be at a Skeeter owner's tournament and taking two high school champions out for a day on Lake Fork in Texas. I'm really looking forward to it.
Right now, though, I'm in Augusta, Ga., where I'll be delivering the keynote address at the Fishers of Men National Championship tournament on Clarks Hill Lake. After that, I'm headed home for three weeks of rest and relaxation. It's great to have some momentum headed into this break, but it's also nice to have a little time off.