On the outside looking in

So, here I am at the Evan Williams Bourbon All-Star Championship... on the outside looking in.

I don’t like it, but I’m making the most of it.

I’m not going to try to kid anyone; it hurts. I’ve got a lot of history on the Alabama River, and was looking forward to competing in this unique, one-on-one format.

It just didn’t happen.

It wasn’t due to lack of effort; I gave it my best in the Ramada All-Star Semi-Final on Lake Jordan. I was in the right areas and even had the fish on to win. But that’s fishing, and I got beat by eight other guys who did a better job.

I want to win every tournament but it’s not easy to do when you’re fishing against a dozen of the best of the best. Sometimes, the fish win.

People often ask me what keeps me motivated since I’ve been fortunate to win so many titles throughout my career.

Well, experiences like this – when I don’t advance in a championship and find myself on the outside looking in – helps drive me to get better.

Jordan was frustrating for me. Bass were schooling around me but being very selective in what they bite. I pride myself in my ability to trick bass into biting but I didn’t get it done that week.

For me, you see, it’s not about catching the fish, it’s being able to figure out how to trigger the strikes and put bass in the boat. That experience will motivate me even more the next time I fish an event.

Until then, I’m hanging out at Toyota Trucks All-Star week helping promote the event and working with sponsors. Earlier this week, I took some sponsors to B.A.S.S. founder Ray Scott’s famed lake, and we caught the fire out of them. One of the guys with us had his best day ever – his five biggest would have weighed more than 28 pounds! We caught numerous 4- and 5-pounders in a half day of fishing.

Believe me, Ray’s lake is special.

Beginning today, I’ll work the tournament from a different perspective, providing on-the-water analysis for Bassmaster.com and The Bassmasters TV show throughout the championship.

Don’t get me wrong, Mark Zona and Tommy Sanders are the best in the business. I’m hoping my insight will only enhance the great job they do.

I’ll be following the competitors – all of whom are my friends – and providing viewers with my perspective of what each angler is doing and why. I’ll be sharing thoughts and strategies from a tournament angler’s point of view and diagnosing the fishing conditions.

It will be a new experience with me. I’ve never done much of this kind of thing but I’ll be close to the action.

As much as it will kill me to not be competing, it’s a big deal to be here. This will give me a chance to share with Bassmaster fans just how good these final eight guys are.

Of course, I’d rather be one of them. I’ll have my time to compete again, and you can bet I will be ready for it.

Remember, it’s all about the attitude.