Back to square one

Well, the honeymoon is over.

After a year of major highs (my 2011 Bassmaster Classic win followed by another Toyota Tundra Bassmaster Angler of Year title), reality has set in.

We’re starting a new season and it’s time to get back to work.

I’m headed to Florida for the first two events in the Bassmaster Elite Series hoping to get off to as good of a start as I did last year.

My back-to-back Top 12 finishes in Florida were critical in propelling me to the Angler of Year title, and I know a strong start is even more imperative this year. Our Elite field is every bit as strong – if not stronger – so it’s not going to be an easy task.

Naturally my ultimate goal is to win Angler of Year again but first I have to put together a strong season to qualify for next year’s Classic.

Last year’s start was a milestone for me since I historically haven’t fished that well early in Florida. But the experience I’ve gained over the years has really helped me become a better Florida angler and I expect to be a threat again this year.

We start this week at the St. Johns River and I anticipate the same kind of fishing we encountered there last year. It probably will be a sight fishing tournament, but I’m hoping that the warmer winter may have pushed the spawn up and I can find good concentrations of fish that aren’t locked on beds. Last year, if you weren’t fishing for spawners, it was hard to get fish to bite.

Not that I’m a bad sight fisherman; heck, I grew up sight fishing here in Michigan, where the waters are clear and vegetation is the primary cover. Yet, in a major tournament, sight fishing can be time consuming and frustrating which is why I usually look for something else that better suits my strengths to supplement it.

What’s really cool about the St. Johns fishery is the potential of catching a monster bass is as good as anywhere we fish. The system has an abundance of big fish and 13-plus-pounders aren’t that unusual. I recall seeing a couple last year that were downright scary, if not freaky in size.

After we leave the St. Johns, it’s off to Okeechobee the next week. Keep your eyes on this tournament, as I expect it to produce the heaviest weight of the season.

It’s been a few years since I’ve been there but I really like it because it’s vast and offers so many different ways to catch them. There’s always a pattern within a pattern because of the diversity and variety of vegetation.

The fish may be bedding there, too, but I think I can find other ways of catching them. It reminds me of when I won at Toho in Florida a few years ago. Everyone else was sight fishing, but I won by fishing a Red Eye Shad over scattered patches of grass.

It feels good to starting another season, and I’m as rejuvenated as ever. I love the fellowship and competition as much today as I did when I started some 20 years ago.

Remember, it’s all about the attitude!

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