I didn’t think it was going to happen

When the YETI Bassmaster Elite at Lake St. Clair started, I was confident that I had an area with good fish. But in this business that’s a long ways from thinking you’re going to win. Based on the results from other tournaments, I thought that 20 pounds a day would put an angler in the Top 10 and put him in the field on Sunday.

I managed to weigh a little better than that so when Sunday morning came around I was in a good place. Honestly, though, I thought if I was going to have any chance to win I’d need around 25 pounds. At that time I was in eighth place, about 2 1/2 pounds behind. There are two sides to that. The weight is close so it’s possible to make that up with a big sack. But, at the same time in order to win, I’d have to jump over seven other top professional bass anglers. That’s a tall order. 

It was all doable where I was fishing, but to do that I knew that I’d have to execute perfectly and not lose any big fish. My confidence was up but it wasn’t like it was a sure thing, or even likely to happen. I’ve been doing this for a while so I know how it all works.  

Along with all of that was the mechanical thing. In the first four tournaments, I’d had serious equipment failures that prevented me from being able to fish at 100%. In fact, in one event I had to come in early on the second day.

After a while you get sort of paranoid. You almost expect a failure of some kind. I was so worried about another problem that I ran my boat at 25 mph most of the day trying to baby it and make sure nothing else went wrong.

There isn’t anything worse than worrying about your equipment during competition. You have to put your full focus on finding and catching fish. Anything less will doom your tournament. I tried to get everything out of my mind. I have good equipment. That is a fact. It was just a bunch of unrelated issues. Nevertheless, it was always in the back of my mind.  

Actually, to be brutally honest about it all I came back in on the first two days about 30 minutes early each day. The first day I was just being careful. On the second day it was to make sure I got back. I haven’t earned a check all year. I knew I had enough weight to make the cut for Saturday. I wanted to make sure I got a check.

You don’t hear that very often — in public — but it’s a fact of the business. We do this for a living. It’s how we support our families. If you don’t make money at it, you won’t be around very long. 

All the issues, doubts and uncertainness are behind me now. My equipment worked perfectly, and I’m enjoying my first Bassmaster Elite Series win at 2020 YETI Bassmaster Elite at Lake St. Clair. Hopefully it won’t be my last.