It’s déjà vu this week for 27-year-old Jared Miller: Once again, he’s in position to qualify for the Bassmaster Elite Series.
Fifth in points in the 2011 Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Central Open circuit, Miller could earn an Elite Series invitation if he does well at this week’s season finale on Table Rock Lake, Oct. 20-22 out of Branson, Mo.
It’s almost identical to the situation he faced last year in his rookie season as an Open pro. The then-college senior had been sitting in ninth place in points in the Central Opens as he approached the season’s end. But a 50th-place finish in 2010’s last event, the Lake Texoma tournament, knocked him out.
Undeterred, Miller went after his dream job even harder in 2011.
“Ever since I was a little kid, I wanted to fish professionally,” said Miller, 27. “My goal is to make the Elites.”
He could score via two of his three chosen avenues. Now out of college with a “day job,” Miller competed this season not only in the 2011 Central Opens circuit, but also in the Northern Opens division as well as in the B.A.S.S. Federation Nation events in his native Oklahoma. He’s done well in the Central Opens — fifth in points is a remarkable second-year accomplishment — and in the Federation. But the Northern Opens were another story.
“I bombed in the Northerns,” Miller said.
But he was a big success not only in the Central circuit, but also on the Federation trail. After a long string of qualifying tournaments — including a divisional on Table Rock Lake in June — Miller is set to be Oklahoma’s sole representative in the Nov. 3-5 Bassmaster Federation Nation Championship presented by Yamaha and Skeeter on the Ouachita River out of Monroe, La.
Six Federation Nation anglers will emerge from the championship with berths in the 2012 Bassmaster Classic. The overall winner will be given the option to turn Elite. That would make the Federation Miller’s second chance to qualify for the Elite Series if the Central Open doesn’t pan out for him.
He’s managed to give equal attention to both the tournaments. He was on the Ouachita River last week, putting the Federation Nation Championship first because the water would be off-limits if he waited until after the Open. After a week of tough river practice — all his fish were small, he said — he drove to Table Rock Lake on Saturday to squeeze in about four days’ worth of water time before opening day Thursday .
Coincidentally, Miller’s most recent Federation success came on Table Rock. But that was in June, when the water level was high. This week’s Open tournament promises to present markedly different conditions, Miller said.
“The water’s down to normal, and it’s tough, tough fishing,” he said. “Fishing was easier when we were there (on Table Rock) for the Federation — with high water, you could pick just about any stretch of bushes on the lake and the fish were there. Now the fish are all spread out.”
He has another thing figured out about the season finale: Don’t waste time and energy calculating Open points scenarios.
“Last year I tried to calculate all the different ways it could turn out, and it didn’t help me,” he said. “This year I haven’t even looked at points. I am trying to block out everything and fish as hard as I can.”