I'm more upset about my performance on the Sabine River (94th at last week's Bassmaster Elite Series event) than I have been in a long time.
To set the stage a little, I had a good practice. I really thought I was on the fish to win the tournament, and that doesn't happen very often. You hear a lot about how tough it is to win an Elite event, and it's true. When you think you have that kind of opportunity, it's exciting and you want to take advantage of it.
Unfortunately, things didn't work out so well. On the first day, I managed just two keepers weighing 4 pounds, 8 ounces to put me in 72nd place. I was on a pretty good pattern with a Zoom Horny Toad and had quite a few bites, but I couldn't get them in the boat. I'd get them about halfway in before they came off. It was frustrating, and I couldn't get enough bites to compensate for all the fish I was losing.
I should have had about 12 pounds in the opening round and been on a pace to make the finals. Instead I dug a hole for myself and that cost me in a way I didn't anticipate.
Going into Day 2, I figured I needed about 12 pounds to make the cut (top 53 anglers) and fish Saturday. That turned out to be a miscalculation.
Ordinarily, in an Elite Series event, the guys catch them just as well on Day 2 as they do on Day 1 — sometimes even better. Most tournament circuits aren't like that — weights go down — but not here. In the Elites, you need to back up a good Day 1 with a better Day 2. I knew I'd have to make up for all those lost opportunities from the first day and thought 12 pounds would do it.
Things went a little bit better for me on Day 2. I didn't whack 'em by any means, but I had about 8 pounds. It turns out that would have been enough to put me inside the cut, but, of course, I didn't know that.
But since I thought it would take 12 pounds to get back in the mix, I looked at my little 8-pound bag with disappointment and decided I needed more. I pushed things, fished every second I could fish, made every cast I thought I had time to make and wound up having to hustle to get back to the check-in area on time.
When I rounded a turn coming out of a creek I had been fishing, I hit it a little too fast and ended up on a shallow flat, churning through silt and debris and clogging my engine. It overheated and cost me 20 minutes. That's how late I was to check-in — enough to disqualify my entire catch and leave me in 94th place.
I took the fish to the scales anyway. They weighed 7-15. It would have given me 12-7 for the first two rounds and put me in 48th place … inside the cut.
Instead I took the early trip home.
Hindsight, of course, is 20/20. If I had known that weights were so far down on Day 2, I'd have headed in earlier and tried to move up a few more places on Day 3 to salvage the tournament.
Usually, after a bad tournament, I'll think about it on the drive home — or to the next event — get it all sorted out in my head, and move on to the next one. If you can't do that in this business, you'll drive yourself crazy.
But this one's sticking with me. I've been thinking about this tournament since it ended for me on Friday, and I don't like that. I've got to do something to change it and get my mind on our next stop — Lake Guntersville.
Tomorrow I'm going out to the pecan farm and sit on a tractor for a few hours. That always seems to help. It keeps me busy, takes my mind off things and — maybe more importantly — there's plenty of work I need to get done out there. I'm actually looking forward to it.
Next week, let's talk about the need for speed in springtime fishing. It's one of my favorite times to be on the water … along with summer, fall and winter!