It was an awesome experience. When I decided to move away from the crowd and give myself more space, I knew I was taking a risk. Things don't always go your way when you do something like that. It worked out for me, though. I'm about as happy as a guy can be.
The automatic guaranteed spot in next year's Classic is a really huge deal. It's one more thing that I don't have to worry about this year. But, I have to be honest and say that wasn't — or isn't — the most important thing to me. I'm really more interested in the Toyota Tundra Bassmaster Angler of the Year honor than I am in anything else.
No one in this business wants to miss a Bassmaster Classic. It's the biggest tournament in all of bass fishing. Being guaranteed a spot is something every angler wants. But, it isn't all there is to professional bass fishing. In my mind, it's not even the most important.
A lot of guys don't believe me when I say I'd rather have the AOY than a Classic win, but it's true. I know you get more press and publicity from the Classic, not to mention more money. Still, I'd rather be called Angler of the Year. To me it's more prestigious. It's harder to win. It means more.
Even when I was a little kid I dreamed about winning it. Most kids imagine themselves in the stadium, holding up the trophy with the crowd cheering and the confetti falling down after the Classic. I don't know why my fantasies took another route, but they did. I wanted to be the winner for the whole season. That was my goal then. It's my goal now.
Winning one so early in the season puts me on track for that. I'm right in the hunt. My strategy is to fish exactly like I planned before this year ever started — put the throttle down and try to earn the most points of any angler during the whole season.
I don't know a lot about the other lakes we're going to fish, but I feel I can be competitive on them. I have enough experience to put something together before the competition starts. We all have three days to get ready. As far as I'm concerned, that's enough time.
If Kevin (VanDam) hasn't proven that, it can't be proven. Look at what he's done over the years with threedays of practice. We all know what to do. It's a matter of putting your head down and going to work. That's what I intend to do.
If things go my way, I'll be where I want to be at the end of the season — the 2011 Toyota Tundra Bassmaster Angler of the Year. If not, I'll be thankful for what I have.