As the 2013 Bassmaster Elite Series season comes to a close, I can't help but look back at the year. While most of it is still a blur, I know I learned some things, overcame some things and made some mistakes, too.
The biggest thing I learned was how I fished differently this year versus last year. Last year, with a Bassmaster Classic berth secured early on, I was able to take risks and make decisions for the event, not the season. This year I found myself fishing more conservatively, and it definitely showed in the standings.
While I believe I fished very well, I only had myself in position to win one event going into the final day. Last year, I had myself in position to win in three or four tournaments on the final day. Overall, I finished in the top 20 in the AOY standings and secured another Bassmaster Classic spot, so it was a good year. Looking forward to next year, I might not worry about the Classic and fish each event as I did in 2012, but that's easier said than done.
I made some mistakes throughout the year, including one at the final event at St. Clair. My mistake was trying to see and find fish everywhere. With only two and a half days of practice, it's tough to see everything, but you don't want to miss anything either.
I really should have focused on one area and found more places in that area that held fish. As it ended up, I had two areas on St. Clair that I fished and not much else to work with. Had I focused on that area more, I could have found a few more spots that could have produced some more quality fish.
When I mention overcoming some things, I'm mostly talking about dealing with the AOY title all season. I had a quite a few more obligations than in the past, and that takes time away from fishing and preparation. This is not a complaint; I feel pretty good about my season. I just had more on my plate.
I want to take the opportunity to congratulate Aaron Martens on his second Toyota Bassmaster Angler of the Year title. It was a honor and pretty cool to be the one to hand him the trophy. Aaron, by example, as shown me a lot of what it takes to be a true champion in our sport. His attention to detail is incredible. He is so organized and detailed that I sometimes kid him about it. His work ethic is second to none. He spends more hours on the water during practice than anyone — I'm sure of it. Congratulations Aaron, and thanks for setting an example for anyone wanting to be the best.
Lastly, I want to thank all my sponsors. I know I mention them from time to time in this column, but 2013 was a fantastic year for me, and it all started with my team. That begins with my wife Bobbi, daughter Makayla, son Mason, my mom and dad and our entire extended family.
My sponsors Triton Boats, Mercury Marine, TroKar Hooks, Wright and McGill, Tightlines UV, Livingston, Gamma fishing line, Gear Grabbar, Fulton, Mesu Bait Company, Costa, Motorguide, Eagle Claw, Dyna-Tek, Labette County Kansas and Pegetables have made my season possible and helped me to become a better angler.
Finally, I want to thank all the fans of the sport and the fans who follow my career. The many messages and congratulations that I have received over the past 12 months as Angler of the Year will always be treasured.
Right now, I'm looking forward to a few months off (unless I get voted into Toyota All-Star Week). I could really use your votes to make that event.
Meanwhile, I plan to keep my focus by doing some hunting and taking Makayla and Mason out for some fishing. Bring on Guntersville and the 2014 Bassmaster Classic! It should be one heck of a start to 2014!