It was an epic day — one of those days where the water is slick and there’s just enough breeze to keep you from getting hot. It was the kind of day you dream about in practice, 77 degrees at the warmest. You could see the line really good; you could really pick the areas apart; you could feel things lining up.
From 19th to first place — they’re calling it historic. I say it’s pretty good, but if you look at the weights going into the last day, I wasn’t that far back. Before we launched, I looked at the weights and I saw Wheeler up there in first. Then I started looking at the weight difference, and it wasn’t a big jump to finish a lot higher.
Winning was a shock though. You could tell when they announced it that I didn’t really know how to react. I was just shocked. The moment was so awesome, and watching it, you really don’t get a feel for how excited I was. I’m not the type of guy to jump around a lot, but I can tell you that inside so much was going on. I don’t know how to describe it…super happy is all I can say.
I’m super happy for my family and for my fans. There are a lot of people who still put me on their Fantasy Fishing team this year, and I don’t really know why. It feels pretty cool to do this for them: to help them out. And personally, I feel so excited. It’s like I’ve turned a corner that I was trying to get around all year. Taking home a big, blue trophy — it’s under a blanket right now in the back seat as I head back towards Alabama — it’s an amazing feeling.
Winning turns an okay year into a great year.
I knew I had a chance when I landed the 6-pounder. That’s when I really sealed the giant bag. It was the kind of bag where when you bag them, they look bigger than you thought they were. But even then, I wasn’t focused on my chances of winning. I told my wife and kids the night before that I needed 23 pounds. I told them when I came in that I thought I had 22 pounds, because I thought 23 pounds was far-fetched at Champlain at this time of year.
I’m sure most people did.
Still, it happened. This was the first Bassmaster Elite Series tournament I’ve won way up north, which feels good in its own way. I’ve always felt comfortable fishing up there at places like Champlain and St. Clair, and over the years, I’ve had some close calls in places like Detroit, Buffalo and La Crosse. To finally take home a trophy from one of those beautiful northern lakes really feels special.
This is the first time my family has been with me during a win since Guntersville in 2009, which always makes it special. It feels incredible to rally from so far back into first place. But most of all, it feels good to win again. I’ll never forget Champlain in 2017, and I’ll never be able to say thanks enough to the fans who’ve stuck with me along the way.
This one’s for you guys. This one was epic.