Preparation and execution

Toyota All-Star Week is a lot of fun for several different reasons. It's a unique event with an unusual format, and it requires a different approach than our Elite Series tournaments.

The first way the approach is different is mentally — there's less pressure here than at a regular tournament. You don't have to worry if you completely strike out. Since there are no points at stake, fifth place is really no better than last since you miss the cut either way. To that degree, it's a little like the Bassmaster Classic. We're out here fishing to win.

Of course, to win you have to make the first cut to four anglers, and for that fourth place is just as good as first. After the field is reduced to four, our weights are zeroed and we start again on White Lake in a one-day championship tournament.

After Day 1 on Muskegon Lake, I'm fortunate to find myself in first place with a very small lead. My catch was anchored by the big bass of the day. That was mixed blessing — I'll take all the lunkers I can get, but it's difficult to catch one every day to repeat that weight.

Coming into this tournament, I did what I could to study the waters since I'd never seen either of them before. I prepped my boat, my tackle and my mind based on what I could learn from the internet. It's a fantastic tool, of course, but it only goes so far. It will never replace time on the water.

The trick after two days is to be part of that top four mix. It's nice that you don't feel that you have to win that segment, but there's certainly the danger of feeling comfortable and letting off. I can't and won't let that happen. I may have the lead after the first day, but it's very close and can change in a big hurry.

Because the top four move on, I'll fish the first two days a little like I would other multi-day tournaments. I want to make sure I post good catches both days. There's no need to swing for the fences or take crazy chances until the championship round. That's when some gambling might pay big dividends. For now, I want to be steady and qualify for the next round. After that, we'll see.

Cliff's Note:

You can't win if you're not there. Don't take yourself out of the race before you have a chance to run it.

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