This is the week that matters

The Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Northern Open on Cayuga Lake is over. I had a better finish there. That’s got me pumped up for the final Elite Series tournament on Oneida Lake later this week. It’ll be a challenge because I have so much riding on the outcome, but hey, that’s what this business is all about. This is the week that matters.

I decided to fish Cayuga almost as a warm-up to Oneida. You know, it was a chance to get back on the water and get my juices flowing. I have a lot of history there. Back when I was a kid, I got my start on that lake. I used to fish B.A.S.S. Federation stuff there and a lot of events in another circuit.

The last time I was there was back in 1997; and I had a good finish. Whenever I think about fishing Cayuga Lake, I smile. Nothing that happened last week will change my thinking. That’s important. It keeps your mental attitude in the right place.

Yesterday I had a media deal for Toyota and then today I’ll be on the water trying to figure out what the fish are doing on Oneida. This is an important event to me. I’m in 31st place in the Toyota Tundra Bassmaster Angler of the Year standings. Becky and I did the math, and here’s how we think it’ll shake out for the Classic.

If I finish 40th or better, I’ll be in. If I finish 50th or so, it’ll depend on what the other guys do. If I end up 60th or worse, I’ll be out. Those numbers aren’t cut in stone but they’re a pretty good guideline. None of that will change my fishing, though. I’ll launch on Thursday morning with the idea of winning.

Going into a professional event, you can’t afford to be conservative. You have to believe you can catch the winning fish. But sometimes reality sets in. If you have a subpar first day, you have to rethink things.

If I’m above 40th place after the weigh-in on Thursday afternoon, I’m not going to throw away everything I have just to go for a win. You have to think that holding on will get you a Classic spot.

On the other hand, if I’m down in 60th or 70th place — I can hardly let myself think about that — there’s nothing to lose by throwing out my game plan and trying for a huge sack. If you’re not going to make the Classic otherwise, you have nothing to lose. There’s no prize for coming close, or for almost making it.

The toughest decision will be if I’m right on the bubble around 50th place. Then I’ll have to decide what to do. My guess right now is that I’ll fish what I have but at the same time try to expand on it a little bit. That’s always subject to change, however, depending on what I think I can do and what I think the other guys can do.

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