If you're an Elite Series angler and you've got your sights set on the 2008 Toyota Tundra Bassmaster Angler of the Year title, there's still a long way to go — eight tournaments to be exact. Mark Davis, currently leading the race over Dean Rojas by a mere nine points, knows that but it doesn't dampen his enthusiasm for the title or his optimism about winning it.
"When I decided to come back that was my goal. I never said any different. It's the most coveted title in professional bass fishing, other than maybe the Classic title. I can't think of anything better, or more prestigious, in my first year back with BASS. Honestly, it would mean the world to me.
"It's something you have to earn over a long season with hard work and versatility as a bass angler. With the quality of competition in the Elite Series, it's something you have to work for every day. One or two bad tournaments, or take something for granted, and you're in trouble. In fact, you're beat."
Davis, winner of three prior AOY titles — 1995, 1998 and 2001 — as well as the 1995 Bassmaster Classic, doesn't just talk the talk when it comes to work, he walks the walk, too. His three prior titles were all earned with a mix of successful fall and spring fishing, an accomplishment that stands as a virtual monument to his work ethic and skills as an angler.
And, by all appearances in 2008, he hasn't lost a thing over the years. On the Harris Chain he finished 13th; on the Kissimmee Chain he finished 18th; and on Falcon he was 5th. Harris and Kissimmee might be similar, but Falcon is a different body of water. It takes a different set of skills to be competitive there.
"I'm happy so far," he says with his Southern drawl. "I figured if I could get out of Florida with a little something I'd be in pretty good shape. That happened, and now I'm looking forward to the rest of the tour. It's basically my kind of fishing from here on out. It's mine to win or lose, no excuses.
"I love to look for schooled, postspawn bass holding on structure under open water. I'm excited about the rest of the tournaments but that shouldn't be taken as overconfidence or cockiness. I know what I'm up against. I know I've got my work cut out for me, but I feel like I can handle it."
All that said, Davis is worried about Amistad. "The lake is about half spawn and half postspawn. That's not what I was hoping to find when I got here. I was hoping that most of them would be off the beds by now, but that's not the case."
"I've fished three days now and can't find any real big bass. I've caught a lot of smaller ones but only a few 4- and 5-pounders. And I know it'll take 4- and 5-pounders to win. Some of the guys will catch big stringers. I hope I'm one of them. If I don't, it'll hurt me.
"But I've got to say it again, winning a fourth Angler of the Year title would mean the world to me. I can't think of any fishing honor I'd rather have. But even if I don't win it, I'm glad to be back."