Before the 2015 GEICO Bassmaster Classic presented by GoPro, I said it over and over again.
“I’m not nervous.”
“I’m not nervous.”
But let’s be honest:
This was my first Bassmaster Classic – something I had dreamed of since I was a kid.
And when the moment finally came, yeah, I was nervous.
I would have been nervous if it had been sunny and 60 degrees. So you can imagine how I felt starting the first day of my first Classic after a two-hour weather delay with the temperatures in the teens.
While we were sitting there waiting out that delay, I thought about how I would account for such a drastic change in weather conditions.
I had been getting 15-20 bites a day in practice. I knew it would be much tougher, and I wondered how I would be able to make the adjustments needed on a day that had been shortened to just six hours.
By the time I finally got on the water, my nervousness went to a whole other level. I did everything way too fast.
The water temperature on Lake Hartwell had dropped from the mid- to upper 40s down into the low to mid-40s, a five- or six- degree change. It was pretty obvious the fish were not going be very active. That tells you that you have to slow down, and you have to be prepared for that.
I have no doubt that I should’ve been fishing slower on Day 1, and that’s why I only came in with three bass that weighed 8 pounds, 4 ounces. I was in 30th place, not even in line to make the cut.
After that first day, I settled down, and I was back to approaching it like one of our regular-season Elite Series events.
I slowed way down on Day 2, did things more efficiently, and brought 15-14 to the scales to make the cut in 18th place. Then by Day 3, I got in my groove, brought in 16-0 and landed in 9th place with 40-2.
There are a lot of things I’ll remember about my first Classic, and being so nervous that first day is only one of them.
Every fish I weighed in at Bon Secours Wellness Arena was caught off the same Lake Hartwell dock. I caught 27 keepers off that dock – three the first day and 12 each of the next two days.
The biggest fish of the tournament, a 6-11 largemouth, was also caught off that dock. Unfortunately, it bit for one of my buddies, Aaron Martens, on Day 2 instead of me. But even that gave me more confidence going back to the dock for Day 3.
On that third day, when I had made the cut, I told my family where the dock was. I let them know that I was going to start there and spend the majority of my time there that day. I told them if they wanted to watch my third day go down, they could see it all from there.
They all came out there – my wife, my brother, a close friend of mine, then my mom and stepdad. I was literally skipping my Berkley Havoc Bottom Hopper up under their feet and catching 3-pounders from under the dock.
This was happening in the Classic!
On Day 3!
They got it all on video. You can click here for a glimpse of what was, without a doubt, one of the coolest experiences I have ever had while fishing a tournament.
I was disappointed with how I did on Day 1, and I still am. I expected much more from myself that day.
But I finished in the Top 10 and learned a lot that will help me going forward.
This was my first Classic, not my last.