I’m back in Dallas this week after fishing the Red River Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Central Open #2 presented by Allstate. This may have been one of the most important tournaments of my career to date. I’m on my final year of my American Sporting Visa, and to continue chasing my dream, I need to make the Elites to be eligible for a Green Card.
Basically, this is probably my last shot at making the Elites. If I don't, I must go home to Australia.
I was sitting sixth in Opens points after Amistad and leading into this event, which was right where I needed to be. After fishing the tournament I feel like I am more proud of this finish than any other since I started competing in the United States. I believe the Red River is one of the toughest and most demanding fisheries — mentally and physically —on tour.
There are so many things that you need to be thinking about before hitting the water and on the water. It’s crazy.
Just some include: What are the water levels doing? Are they dropping the water? If so, by how much, and in which pool? Which pool should I spend most of the pre-fish in? Should I run several spots, or put my head down and fish one area? Do I catch the scheduled lock time, or fish longer but risk being locked out? Should I fish the dirty water, or fish with the crowds in the clearer back waters?
Then there is the wear and tear on yourself and your equipment.
The Red is hard on gear, and having a 2,500-pound boat stuck on a sandbar or log becomes a common, everyday event and you have to take it on every day and not let it get to you.
Falling out of your boat is a high risk, and if you were fishing Lake St. Clair in the summer, it wouldn’t be a problem. But here, you face a mess of sharp, dagger-like trees all around your boat and the ever present gators keeping a watchful eye on you.
My practice went well. I had found fish in a lot of different areas, and I was having trouble making the decision on where to start on the first day.
This time last year, I fished the Red River Open and faced things I had not seen before, like dropping water levels the day of the tournament, and it saw me finish in the 100s.
The harsh lessons I have learned from then really helped me this year. This is where I realized how important it is to not give up.
The last few years have presented me with some of the toughest times of my life, and giving up seemed like the only option at times. But looking back now, those tough times prepared me for whatever obstacle I would have to face now.
If I gave up, I would have never learned.
By the time 10:30 a.m. rolls around on the first day of the event, I haven’t had a single bite. Everything I had found in Pool 5 just wasn’t working. Conditions had changed and I wasn’t able to adjust to what the fish were doing.
That’s when I made a kind of crazy decision to lock down to Pool 4 and fish the last few hours of my day in an area in Sullivan’s, more than an hour boat run from where I was.
My attitude today is at a level I never thought possible and is totally different from where I was the last few years.
I roll into Sullivan’s at 11:30 to see boats in every spot I want to fish. I try to make it to a row of trees that are free, and I find out I can’t even get to them as they had unexpectedly dropped the water level in Pool 4. Now, it is 1:30 p.m., my boat is stuck, the wind is blowing 25mph and it is overcast. Conditions are absolutely nothing like the last five days of practice.
I could feel the panic button starting to show up, but I shut it down pretty quick. I didn’t let it affect me, and not once did I have a negative thought. I stayed positive, and I never let the thought that I wasn’t going to catch them enter my mind. Just believing it’s going to happen is a huge thing.
I sit down, crank my Yamaha and idle to the nearest drain of deep water to where my fish were, reach into my rod locker and pull out my Swim Freak Millerod/Shimano combo with my new Bassman Bladed jig tied on, a great reaction bait for the conditions.
My nonboater and I began to catch them. I had four fish in no time.