Tharp: Don't count me out yet

Is he mad? How’s he handling it? Is he OK? What’s going on?

These are all questions my wife has been trying to answer lately. I’m not sure why they have been directed to her when the questions are clearly about me, but she’s been asked by fans, friends and some of the other Elite pros how I’m handling the results of the 2015 Bassmaster Elite Series season. Even my own father calls Sara to see how I am instead of calling me directly. I guess they are afraid of what I might say…or maybe they think that what I have is contagious. Well, this is my best attempt to let you know the answer to the questions you were afraid to ask.

I finished the season in 76th place in the Toyota Bassmaster Angler of the Year (AOY) standings. That’s a tough pill to swallow after finishing 13th in my “rookie” Elite season of 2014. In six seasons on the FLW Tour and one season on the Elite Series, I have qualified for and fished five Forrest Wood Cups and three Bassmaster Classics. Unless I win the last Southern Open, it appears that streak will end this year.

Despite my struggles, I can assure each of you that I don’t have to be put on suicide watch or anything. Honestly, if there was one word that describes how I feel at this exact moment it is “relieved.” I am relieved that the downward spiral of a season I have had is over. I am relieved that I will not make another bad decision this year and cost me and my family any more money. I am relieved that I will be at home soon. I am relieved that I will have plenty of time to get things in order before next year.

Relieved…….

The question that I get asked the most by fans is, “Man, how mad were you when you lost that fish?” This question is referring to the big one I lost in the tree on the final day of the 2013 Guntersville Classic when I was feeling the tournament slip through my fingers. Obviously, I was disappointed, and I think the footage that B.A.S.S. aired showed that disappointment time and time again. I was not mad at that moment, and I am not mad now because I had a bad year. It’s more about different kinds of disappointment. At Guntersville I was disappointed that the fish came off, while now I am just disappointed…in myself.  

I have frequently compared tournament fishing to golf. These are by far my two favorite sports that I have ever played or competed in. They are both individual sports. You don’t have anyone to blame but yourself if you fail and when you succeed you get all of the glory. In both sports the best don’t win very often. In tournament fishing as well as golf, momentum is everything. If you question this, take Edwin Evers’ and Aaron Martens’ seasons and compare them to Jordan Spieth’s and Jason Day’s year on the PGA Tour. Unfortunately my season has had the same momentum as that of Tiger Woods – both of ours were going the wrong way.

I have been at this now for eight years and seven of those were pretty good. I can’t change what happened this year. There are no mulligans in golf or in fishing. I am not going to dwell on it because it’s a waste of my time. What I can do is think about what’s ahead for me and put 100 percent of my focus on exactly that.            

What B.A.S.S. didn’t show in the Classic footage is that I stood back up and fished my ass off the final three hours of the day figuring out how to put a decent bag of fish together when everything was falling apart. I will get this figured out as well.

I called Justin Lucas today and ran a little smack about next year. He’s currently in third in the AOY race and has had a tremendous season, so I haven’t been able to go there all that often this year. Judging by his response he has been missing that from me. That’s why I know I will be OK. I still have a fire and drive not only to compete but to excel. I am jealous that I will not be there competing against him or my other buddies next week at the AOY Championship. On the other hand, I think Justin might be slightly jealous that I am going to get a head start preparing for next year.

I want to congratulate all 50 anglers who earned their spots in the AOY Championship and also congratulate Aaron on his third AOY title. Aaron is pushing us all to the next level. Well done, man. You deserve it.

One last thing that I have been thinking about is Kevin Short. I have competed against Kevin for the last two seasons on the Elites. I followed his career long before that. I am thankful that I got to compete against him briefly as well as got to know him a bit. He has earned something more valuable than any title or trophy. He has earned our respect. I will miss competing against you, Kevin.