I have just arrived back in Oklahoma after competing in my first Bassmaster Open for the year on Lake Toho in Florida.
I must say that is not the way I wanted to start the year. This was the tournament I was most concerned about of all the nine Opens; I just haven’t quite gotten my head around Florida fishing and especially during cold fronts, which I seem to run into every time I’m down there.
I was hoping to just stay in the Top 60 to salvage enough points to keep me in the hunt to make the Elites, but after a 130th-place finish, that’s not going to happen, so for the next two Southern Opens I can really go for a win and try make the Classic.
Unfortunately, that finish doesn’t show just how close I was to having a good tournament. The fish I had found during the first day of practice were the ones I stayed on most of the tournament, but 30-plus boats had also found the same fish. The boats were well spread out as it was a huge bay with deep offshore hydrilla sitting from 5 to 8 feet of water. I was ripping a Trap from the grass burning and killing it and caught my four fish on the first day doing this. I didn’t see any other boats catching fish; they were all throwing jerkbaits.
What I didn’t know was a handful of guys were throwing the A-rig through there and absolutely wrecking them. Other boats saw what was going on and got in on the action.
It wasn’t until late on the second day after I ran around the lake trying to make something happen that I came back to my fish with an hour to go. As I pulled in, there were only five boats left and one was where I wanted to be. I pulled up short and threw my Trap around hoping they would bite for the afternoon.
Only a few minutes in, I see the guy hook a nice fish on the A-rig. He goes to the back and starts balance beaming good ones. I couldn’t believe it. He does this three times in a row then packs up and heads back to the weigh-in.
With only 30 minutes to go, I pulled my A-rig out but didn’t have a bite and went back to the weigh-in with two small fish. I was very disheartened that I had found the right fish but did not throw the right bait to catch them.
Back at the ramp, former Carhartt Bassmaster College Series angler Matt Lee sees me and asked if I caught them in there. I told him what had happened and he reassured me I was right on the juice. I should have been throwing the A-rig as he had almost 17 pounds doing that in the area and had a solid 13th-position finish.
I knew from the start it was going to be a big task to fly into the U.S. from Australia and experience the extreme weather changes. We had record heat waves into the 125-degree range and I had to transition straight into the middle of winter.
I left Toho with a better understanding of Florida winter techniques and new skills for adapting in the future.
Amistad, here I come!
The best part of it all is I’m only a few days from heading down to Lake Amistad for my first Bassmaster Central Open. I fished Amistad for a week last year with my good mate and rod sponsor Ian Miller of Millerods in Australia.
I love this lake and can’t wait to get down there. Its cold, clear, deep water suits my style a lot better as my background for finesse fishing is stronger than any other technique.
Word is that it’s going to be tough, and 10 pounds a day could be good. However, I will be fishing against the best bass fishermen in the world and they will catch them.
I’ll keep everyone posted with how my pre-fish is going. This tournament is going to be the turning point for me this year. I’m going to make it, not because I want it more than ever but because it has to be.
Whatever it takes!