The 2011 Bassmaster Elite Series season is now over for me. I brought another small limit to the scales yesterday and ended the tournament in 63rd place, a little less than two pounds outside the top 50 cut.
It was a disappointing way to end the year, especially since it's been so frustrating from the very beginning.
Today was no different in a lot of ways. I started by running to a school of fish I'd found and managed to catch a limit in about half an hour. Then I went looking for some better fish to upgrade my catch and caught a good one — close to five pounds. Unfortunately, I wasn't able to repeat that.
It's a humbling sport.
I plan to keep this diary going through the off-season, but I'll take this opportunity to sum up the 2011 season right now.
In a word (and one that I've already used here), it was frustrating. So much of what we do as professional anglers boils down to practice, and I think that's where I fell short this season.
In years past — when things were going better — I'd end practice and start a tournament absolutely knowing what I was going to catch during competition, where and how I was going to catch them and what they would weigh when I took the bag to the scales. That's not to say that I won all the time or even made a check, but I was completely dialed in to what "my" fish were doing.
This year wasn't like that for me. I spent too many competition days "practicing" and making up for what I didn't find or learn before the tournament started. At this level, you can't often afford to be practicing after the tournament starts. You'll miss a lot of cuts that way.
Moving forward with the diary, I want to talk about other aspects of a professional fishing career that you don't hear much about. We've covered a lot of stuff about how I approach tournaments, but not much about the business side of things.
And I want to talk about how I'll be working to improve my tournament fishing. This year has reinforced that I have a ways to go as an angler — I think we all do. If we stop learning and growing, we're in trouble.
I've even identified a couple of areas where I know I need to improve, and the biggest of those is taking advantage of all the information that's out there about the waters we fish. Other Elite pros are doing a better job of gathering and using the information than I've done in the past. I've got to close that gap.
The information superhighway that is the internet is changing the way we prepare for tournaments. We fish the same venues at pretty much the same time of year over and over again. That makes them fish smaller and smaller as anglers refine their approaches to the same waters and conditions.
The line between success and failure at the Elite level is getting finer all the time. I need to step up my game to stay on the right side of that line.
It's been a weird year and I hope I never have another like it, but as I like to say, it is what it is, and I'll learn from it. I have to stay positive and focused. I'm participating at the highest level in a sport I love.
I may not be competing in the 2012 Bassmaster Classic, but I'll be there at the Expo, working for my sponsors, and I enjoy that part of the business, too. I get to meet some great people. Hopefully, you'll come to Shreveport and I'll see you there.