Now that we’re at the mid-season break, I think it’s important for me to evaluate where I am and consider my game plan for the remainder of the season. For starters, I’m pleased to have finished in the money three times.
Cherokee was a top 10, Toledo Bend was a Top 12 and Dardanelle was a 40th place. That’s encouraging, but the bitter downside is that we’ve have six events, so I’ve finished out of the money three times.
Now, my bad events have been really bad ones, so there have been lessons to learn this season. Honestly, going into every tournament, I feel like I’m going to do well — even though, sometimes, coming out of practice I don’t.
But that’s the nature of our sport. This just shows you how difficult it is to put together an Angler of the Year type season.
I always start every new season with the goal of winning Toyota Bassmaster Angler of the Year, but that ended at the season’s second event on Lake Okeechobee when I finished 75th. From there, the focus shifted to my second goal, which is to keep myself in contention for a Bassmaster Classic qualification.
To me, it’s always important to have a goal out there; to have a prize for which you’re working. That helps keep me motivated to push as hard as I can.
Thankfully, my Classic dreams are still very much alive. I’m currently about 20 points out of the cut, but with three regular season events, plus the Angler of the Year Championship remaining, there’s still plenty of room to do some damage.
What has me particularly enthusiastic is that I’m really looking forward to the northern swing that will comprise the latter part of the season. It’s going to be nice to get away from the Texas heat and enjoy the north country, but I can also tell you that we southern boys who don’t get to let loose on smallmouth very often are excited about getting several chances to do so.
If you look at my history, when we’ve gone up north over the past three or four seasons, I’ve done very well up there. I almost won an event on the St. Lawrence River, I led the first day of a Lake St. Clair event and had a good finish and Lake Champlain has been very good to me. Also, during last year’s AOY Championship at Mille Lacs, I had a really strong tournament.
So, I have four upcoming events on waters that I’m not only familiar with, but also where I’ve been successful in the past. It’s always important to keep a positive attitude and having a genuinely enthusiastic outlook for these remaining events will help keep me on track.
That’s going to be important for the rest of the season because I really can’t afford another slip up. I need to get checks throughout the rest of the season, and I need to have at least one more really good finish.
Although two checks and a top 20 would do it for my Classic qualification, that’s certainly not what I’m shooting for. I’m going to fish to win; that’s really what this thing is about. You can end up having a bad tournament by shooting to win, but that’s just the nature of who I am. It’s how I’ve fished my whole career.
You hear guys saying, “I’m just going to fish for a check,” but I really don’t know how to do that. All I know how to do is go out in practice, try to find the biggest fish I can and then catch them in the tournament.
I don’t know how to fish conservatively, I have to stick to what I’ve done my whole career. In most cases, this has served me well; now, I’m hoping it will help me get the job done on those northern smallmouth.