When I look back at 2016, there is absolutely no doubt that I have more than I ever thought I’d have to be thankful for. Qualifying for the Bassmaster Elite Series is an absolute dream come true. That was my goal at the beginning of the season and to be preparing for that is incredible.
As I look at these lakes and think that I’m going to be competing against some of the top anglers in the world, it is something that still amazes me. I have to pinch myself
And then you add the GEICO Bassmaster Classic in my home state with a bunch of my family and friends that are going to be there. To say that I’m thankful for that would be a huge understatement. I literally have to pinch myself on a daily basis.
Honestly, my Classic qualification came earlier than I was anticipating. Consistency is what we aim for in this sport, and while you want to win, you can never count on winning an event. Everything has to go exactly right, so to reach the Classic by winning an event is very gratifying.
And to have the Classic in my home state of Texas makes this even more special. By comparison, my dad has fished 17 Classics and he has never fished one in his home state.
This means I’ll have a lot of local backing. I have people I don’t even know coming to the Classic to watch me fish. From the response I’ve gotten after qualifying, it seems like everybody from the City of Waco, Texas, is going to be there.
What’s most exciting is knowing that I’ll have one of the loudest fan bases there. Every single day, they’re going to try and blow the top off of that place!
Now, as far as fishing Lake Conroe, I’ve never been on the lake, so I wouldn’t say that location will help my performance. However, time of year will play into my favor.
This Classic will be a month later than most Classics have been and it’s farther south, so it will be a spawn and maybe postspawn event. I consider that one of my strengths, so the timing will affect my performance more than anything.
Where the location comes into play is through my scouting. Since Conroe is fairly close to home, it’s not so expensive to visit the lake.
Once the Classic gets here, I think one of the most difficult things — especially for guys attending their first Classic — is the attention. I’ve talked to my dad a lot about this and he’s told me you have to treat it like another tournament.
Even though there’s the glitz and glam and the media and the people and the thrill of being there, you have to manage all of this so it doesn’t distract you.
I’ve obviously never fished a Classic, but I’ve been around a lot of it. I’ve seen what happens when you win one and I’ve seen what happens when you lose one. So I’ve seen the multiple sides of this event as closely as you can without fishing it.
Even my dad said he has trouble, at times, not getting caught up in this being the Bassmaster Classic. You just have to be mentally tough, put your blinders on and keep your eyes focused on the track.
That being said, I fully plan to enjoy my first Classic. Where I intend to take it all in is when you roll into the stadium and they can your name.
I’m also looking forward to the welcome dinner with all the families and friends. I’m looking forward to sharing that moment with my fiancée Kelsey.
Aside from that, I’m just looking forward to competing. I love to fish, but nothing drives me more than the competition aspect. I feel that during 2016 I fished very well under pressure, and I hope I can translate that in 2017 and do even better.
Considering the 2017 schedule, I think that having two Elite events under my belt will help me keep from being too overwhelmed by the Classic. There will be first-time jitters with fishing my first Classic, but it won’t be my first time fishing against the best in the world.
Of course, it’s impossible to deny the emotion of an event like this, and I foresee getting a little misty-eyed as I idle out on that first morning. At the first Open I ever fished (Lake Toho, 2015) I remember thinking that it was taking that next step toward fulfilling a dream. In 2016 at the Open that I won on the Red River, I got misty-eyed while idling out that last morning because I knew I was that close to the dream.
Going out that first morning of the Classic, it will be an emotional moment knowing that one of the guys I’m idling out with is going to relive their dream or complete their dream. Realizing that it could be me is going to bring up a lot of emotions.
But as soon as I get to that first starting spot, all that’s going back inside, because it will be time to work.