With the regular season behind us, I’m spending my time assessing the past Elite season while turning my focus to the Toyota Trucks All-Star Week coming up Sept. 20 in Decatur, Ill.
I’m grateful to have qualified for All-Star Week because it’s always a great time. The top eight Toyota Tundra Bassmaster Angler of the Year rankings qualify, and the remaining four spots are filled through fan voting.
Which reminds me; if you haven’t voted for your favorite angler, vote today. There are a lot of deserving anglers who didn’t qualify and need your support.
I’m somewhat satisfied with my season. I never missed a cut and finished 7th overall, yet I wasn’t in the Angler of Year race at the end. Brent Chapman won the title with an incredible year filled with high finishes and consistency. That’s what you have to do to be a champion.
As good as he fished, several others — Todd Faircloth, Terry Scroggins, Ott DeFoe and Randy Howell — were right there with him in the end.
AOY races usually boil down to two or three guys battling it out near the end, but Brent had a lot of competition and my hats off to him for hanging tough.
That’s how tough our competition has become. It’s critical you log Top 5 finishes and win events if you are going to have a chance.
What’s frustrating is I had the opportunities to make more Top 12 cuts, but one lost a big fish here and there that were extremely costly.
During the drive home from each tournament, I assess my performance and decision-making to help me improve.
The common theme this year was the few key fish that I lost in each event.
And here’s the thing – not many were due to a mistake. At St. John’s, I chalk it up to sight fishing and the fish biting funny. At Okeechobee, I made the Top 12 but lost a few in heavy reeds. That’s the nature of that cover.
And at Bull Shoals, I caught 50 fish a day and lost two all week…the biggest bites I got.
I never was in position on the final day to win any tournament, yet I could have been had I landed one or two key fish in each event.
So, during the offseason, while fishing in media and promotional outings, I’m going to be experimenting with different rod actions, lines and hooks to see if I can better maximize my opportunities.
Don’t get me wrong — my strike-to-land ratios are very high. I have the best equipment that utilizes the latest technology out there. But when you have fished competitively as long as I have, there’s a tendency to become complacent with what has worked in the past.
I’m keeping an open mind and this fall will experiment with other rod actions, hook sizes and line combinations within the families of companies I use. I’m also trying some new KVD Mustad hooks in various applications to see how they perform with various baits in different situations.
Becoming a better angler isn’t just about learning new techniques or trying new lures. Oftentimes, it’s a simple matter of tweaking fundamentals and reconfirming that what you’re doing is the best for each application.
Because, in my world, it’s all about the attitude!