Hello again! It's been too long since my last column, and a lot has happened. For one, I won the BASSfest tournament on Kentucky Lake. For another, I've been busy with appearances, and now I'm getting ready for our industry's biggest trade show — ICAST — that's coming up in a couple of weeks.
Busy is good … especially for me. I love being busy, and I really enjoy the ICAST show. More on that next time. First, I want to tell you more about the tournament.
BASSfest was a great moment for me. Winning any tournament in the Elite Series is a big deal, but winning that tournament on Kentucky Lake was bigger than most for a few reasons.
For one, the win gave me an automatic berth in the 2016 Bassmaster Classic on Grand Lake in my home state of Oklahoma, and it moved me up into ninth place in the Toyota Bassmaster Angler of the Year standings. After the terrible start I had this year at the Sabine River (94th), just getting into the hunt for a Classic spot became my goal. And BASSfest is the only stop on the Elite schedule this year that gives the winner an automatic berth.
Of course, missing the Classic is always bad, but missing one in your home state can really sting. As Randy Howell (2014 Classic champ) and Casey Ashley (2015 champ) can tell you, you have to take advantage of every chance to win at home. It got away from me the last time the Classic was on Grand (2013), but I learned a lot and plan to do better next time.
I was also proud of my big fish pattern at Kentucky Lake and that I was able to catch really good fish every day of the tournament. In fact, I had daily big fish on three of the four competition days as well as big fish for the entire tournament (an 8-11 in the finals). It turned out that I needed every one of them, too, to hold off Kevin VanDam, who finished second.
It was special to have my family on stage with me for the trophy presentation. Unfortunately, my daughter (Kylee) couldn't be there (she was at a church camp), but my wife (Tuesday) and son (Kade) were there and made it really memorable.
Speaking of my son, he played an interesting role in the tournament that's hard to explain. I'll start by telling you he's 6 years old and does all the things other normal 6-year-old boys do. You just never know what he's thinking and he always has something interesting to say. Seeing the world through the eyes of a 6-year-old is endlessly fascinating.
Well, going into BASSfest, Kade did something he's never done before. He predicted that I would win. I've been fortunate enough to win a few tournaments since he was born and even a couple since he's been old enough to know what Dad does for a living, but he's never gone around telling people that I was going to win ... until now.
It started after the first day of practice. I came in at the end of a long day and he just came right out and told me that I was going to win the tournament. I remember saying, "I don't know about that, son. I just had a pretty terrible practice day. In fact, I didn't catch a fish!" He told me it didn't matter; I was going to win.
As practice wore on, I got on a pretty good pattern and figured some things out, but I forgot about his prediction.
But he didn't forget. Once the tournament started, Tuesday was checking BASSTrakk to see how I was doing on the water. Kade told her not to worry — that I was going to win no matter what. She probably didn't think anything more of it than I did. Even though Kade said it with a lot of confidence, you can't take that kind of thing seriously.
I was in pretty good shape after the first day, and Kade was sticking to his prediction. Then he went a little further and told me I was "going to catch a big one." That sounded pretty good to me, but I didn't think any more of it until I weighed in an 8-pounder on Day 2. It was good for big bass of the day and anchored a catch that put me in the lead.
But Kade wasn't finished. Not only was he sure that I was going to win the tournament, but he told us I was "going to catch another big one!" At this point, Tuesday and I were looking at each other and thinking he should have stopped after the first predictions. You just can't keep up the luck with predictions like that, right?
But Kade was right again. I held onto the lead in the tournament and caught a 6-12 that was the biggest bass of Day 3. By now he definitely had our attention!
This next part might seem like I'm making it up, but it's absolutely true. Going into the finals, Kade stuck by his prediction of my winning the tournament and added to his big bass predictions. He said I was "going to catch another big one — a really big one!" I just shook my head, laughed and told him I hoped he was right.
If you followed the tournament, you know what happened. I had another good day and caught another big fish. The Day 4 lunker weighed 8-11 and was the biggest bass of the entire tournament. It put me over the top for the win.
About all Kade could say was "I told you so!"
Maybe we should take a family vacation to Las Vegas.