A positive start to the Elites

The St. Johns River tournament is behind us. I finished in the 33rd spot. I would like to have finished higher — won, actually, but I’ll take it. One of my goals was to do better there this time than last time. I did that so I’m OK with everything.

It was an interesting tournament. I had trouble the first couple of days of practice. I just couldn’t put everything together. It wasn’t so much that I wasn’t catching fish. It was more that I couldn’t figure out why. But then on the third day things got a little better. I made a long run and basically fished a big lake.

Besides bettering my last tournament there, I had an extra day to get ready for Okeechobee. That’s kind of important to me. I really want to do well there. I’ve won four B.A.S.S. tournaments. Two of them were on the Big O. It would be kind of neat if I could win again. I’m not saying I will, just that it’d be neat if I did.

I grew up fishing lakes like that. There’re all pretty much the same — big, shallow round bowls with lots of vegetation in them. I think that’s why some guys have trouble fishing in Florida. There’s too much vegetation to throw at. After a while it all starts to look the same, but it isn’t.

What I do is try to find my favorite water color and then try to figure out what kind of vegetation they’re wanting to relate to at the particular time I’m fishing. That’s what I think is the most important. Florida bass, at least in the central part of the state, are all about the vegetation. You have to know if they want pads, hydrilla or cattails.

Of course, those are just three examples of the weeds we have around here. There’s every kind imaginable in the Big O. I’d hate to try and count them. It doesn’t matter. The bass will know what they want, and the winning angler will know that, too. Weeds in Florida are the cover and structure that we find in other parts of the country.

I stopped on my way to celebrate mom’s birthday. We had a party with everyone there. It was a great time. It made my whole day. I’m telling you that no matter how high you go in your profession or how much material success you have it doesn’t compare to your family.

When I said “everyone,” I should have mentioned that dad’s fishing a tournament today. I’m excited to see how he does. He was in 10th place yesterday so that makes him competitive. That’s about all dad needs to get it done. He’s a good bass angler. I owe most of my professional success to the things he taught me when I was a kid.

Next week we’ll talk a little about dad, go over the Okeechobee tournament and I’ll give you my thoughts on what it’s been like to fish as the Classic champion.