PALATKA, Fla. -- I've been asked several times about my win on the Harris Chain and how it'll affect my fishing this season. The answer to that is simple: It won't affect my fishing one bit. I'll fish exactly like I always do — try to win and get as many points towards the Toyota Tundra Bassmaster Angler of the Year title as possible.
Don't get me wrong. I'm as happy as can be with how things turned out. It's the kind of thing that makes you stop and giggle for no reason other than that you're happy. (I actually did that on Wednesday during practice for the St. Johns tournament.) After 11 years it's really nice to win one, especially close to home. It's a real treasure.
And the automatic ticket into next year's Bassmaster Classic is nice, too. I've said it more than once — the Classic is special and the older you get, the more special it gets. It's humbling to be in one, look around, and realize that several of your competitors from years back aren't there. They didn't qualify. That makes you appreciate what you've got and realize that it's not a given. It's something you have to earn over and over again.
All that doesn't mean I'm going to go crazy on the water, though. I'm still going to fish with the same attitude I've always had. If I can't win, I'll catch as many fish as I can. I have no intention of swinging for the fences everyday or going out and looking only for 6-pound bass.
I don't want weekends off this year. I want to work on Saturdays and Sundays, at least when we're fishing a tournament. I want to fish like I always have and end up on Sunday night dog-tired. I'm a professional angler. Catching bass is a matter of pride.
This win is an opportunity. It's a good start for the year. I want to take advantage of that, and build on it, and maybe make a run on the AOY title this year. That would mean a lot to me. It really would.
There's no doubt that winning a Classic does more for your career and is a bigger deal in the eyes of the fans. I accept that. But, I also know that the AOY is more prestigious among the anglers and says more about a man's overall bass fishing skills. It's earned over the course of a whole season on a variety of different types of waters and under a variety of different conditions.
I'm off to a good start this year. I'd like to keep things going and maybe be in the hunt when June rolls around. Opportunities like that only come along every so often. Regardless of how things turn out, however, you'll not hear me complain. Thanks to the Lord, I'm living a good life. I'll take it and say thanks for it.