Grading my second Elite season

Looking back on my second Bassmaster Elite Series season, I’d say that overall, I think I did above average by finishing 12th in Bassmaster Angler of the Year points. But there’s still a lot of places I could improve.

It started off slow, and that’s something that seems to happen to me most years. It takes me a while to get into a fishing groove, to get into fishing shape.

I think that’s mainly because I live in Minnesota where the lakes freeze. Once we hit October, I kind shift my focus from fishing to hunting. 

I don’t get back to fishing until after Christmas because the only way to do that during the last few months of the year would be to travel south, and I don’t want to do that until we’re closer to a new tournament season.

I guess you can say my characteristic slow start to a new season is a combination of physical rust and the decision-making process. I know some guys enjoy ice fishing, but that’s really not my style. I go once every couple of years to remind myself why I don’t do it.

Starting out early, Florida is always a crap shoot. In 2021, there were then a few cold water events — a few crazy events — so I knew I was going to struggle a little bit. Looking at the back half of the season, I knew I was going to make up some ground.

I knew I had to change things up and have a few good events because I had fallen out of the Bassmaster Classic cut pretty far, and it was going to be an uphill battle. Also, we were getting into the part of the season where I thought I’d do well. With sight fishing and postspawn techniques, I felt very comfortable.

The turning point was definitely Lake Fork where I got back on track and finished 10th. I really needed to do that because at Pickwick Lake and the Sabine River, the combination of bad weather and bad decision making led to two terrible events.

The Lake Fork event was nice, because once I realized how many fish were still spawning, it made my decision making really easy. I could focus on one specific thing during practice.

I like sight fishing and bed fishing so that fit right in my wheelhouse. Did I think I’d be in the Top 10 at Fork? Not really, but I suspected I’d have a good event because there were enough fish on beds. I had played with enough of them that I knew I was going to be able to catch some fish. 

I thought I could put 20 pounds a day on the scale, but a couple lucky bites got me up there higher.

I’d say the first half of the year, I’d give myself a C or maybe a B-. I really picked it up the second half of the year, so Id give myself a B or an A because I managed to land a Top 10 in four of the last five Elite tournaments.

I was really kicking myself that I was not able to get a Top 10 at Guntersville because I was really close. Finishing 14th wasn’t bad, but I just didn’t figure it out in time. Otherwise, I would have been able to finish in the Top 10 at the last five events, and that would have been a nice feather in my cap.

You might think I had a lot of pressure on me after winning Rookie of the Year in 2020, but I didn’t feel that going into this year. I actually had more pressure on me at the end of 2020 because of being so close to AOY and having ROY on the line.

Actually, I think not being able to close out the AOY deal kind of offset winning Rookie of the Year. That’s all part of the mental game, but I chose not to carry that forward.

I tend to go into each new season with a blank slate. I was excited to get back, but the ROY title didn’t affect my fishing one way or the other. 

I will say that after two Elite seasons, I feel like I belong here now; I can compete here. I had a really good rookie season and to be able to back that up with another solid season and make another Classic, I feel like I’m where I’m supposed to be.