It's been a good year!

All of this is a good feeling, needless to say. The guaranteed Bassmaster Classic spot is nice. I really appreciate it, but it’s not everything. My goal is to double-qualify so that someone else gets a chance to go. That’s really important to me.

Every Elite Series angler out there wants to go to the Classic. If I can double-qualify, that’ll help someone else. That’s what this sport is all about as far as I’m concerned. We all need to have some success if bass fishing as a whole is to be successful.

The older I get the more I appreciate things like that. I have the perspective of three decades in professional bass fishing. I know — really know — what it means to fish a Bassmaster Classic ... and to win one. It’s a powerful influence on your attitude and your career.

It seems like when I was in the prime of my career, I thought I’d win tournaments. It’s not so much that I expected to win them or that I took winning for granted, just that I thought I’d always win a few more.

But when you’re on the tail end of things, you have a different perspective. You understand in your heart that winning is hard, that it’s not going to happen every time out. In fact, you realize — or at least I did — that even being in a position to win should be cherished. It doesn’t happen that often.

I thought I could pull it out at Pickwick this year, but it didn’t work out that way. I ended up in third place. I guess that’s what I’m trying to say. It’s a tough business we’re in. I appreciate every opportunity I’m given. This one worked out. I’m thankful for that. It really is awesome.

My last win was in 2006 on Lake Champlain. That’s a while between wins.

Something else needs to be said here, too. The rule allowing every tournament winner to go to the Classic is a good one. I like it. There’s no better way to keep everyone in the game. You have some guys who are having a bad year. They haven’t cashed a check in any tournament. That’s a difficult position to be in.

But they can still make the Classic, if they can win one. That’s a real motivator. It keeps you thinking positive until the very last tournament — if you’re fishing the Opens that’s not until October on Table Rock.

We’ll see that new rule have a big effect on the fishing at Wheeler this week. A lot of the guys will be swinging for the fences. It could be an exciting tournament. Almost anyone can win if things go their way. Don’t kid yourself; almost every guy out there knows how to catch bass ... and how to win.

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