No time to chill

Even though the next Bassmaster Elite Series tournament on the St. Lawrence River is several weeks away, I won’t have time to sit around twiddling my thumbs. There’s much to do between now and then.

Tackle preparation will be high on my priority list. I need to put away all of my deep, power-fishing stuff I used to catch largemouth from ledges at Lake Fork and Guntersville. I’ll dust off my spinning gear for the northern swing and make sure I have plenty of drop shot weights and finesse baits for some smallmouth action.

I’ll be doing a lot of flying in July. My wife and I are flying to Orlando for ICAST. The show lasts only three days, but they are three extremely important days if you’re an Elite Series pro. While company representatives meet with retail outlets and fill orders, I’ll be catering to the media. That includes interviews for articles and radio programming and lots of product videos. That’s pretty much a pro angler’s role there.

I’ll stay a few extra days to make sure the media folks get everything they need. ICAST also provides an opportunity for me to meet with everybody who sponsors me. This is critical from a networking and relationship standpoint. Spending face-to-face time with my sponsors is really important.

Over the past year I’ve been working with other Yo-Zuri pros to help the company develop some awesome new baits. I’m really excited about the 3DB Series Pencil 125 walking bait. It’s 5 inches long, weighs 1 ounce and has three treble hooks. It’s a larger version of one of my favorite baits, the 3D Series Pencil 100, which comes with two trebles. I’ll have the prism shad color tied on when I’m casting for smallies up north. It has a translucent body and an internal prism that flashes when you walk the bait. It really puts the hurt on smallmouth bass that swim in clear water.

Yo-Zuri is also introducing a 3DB Series 1.5 square bill crankbait that’s a downsized version of their other square bills. The bait’s flat sides give it more of an erratic hunting action, yet it still deflects nicely off cover.

Yo-Zuri’s Rattl’n Vibe lipless crankbait is one of their most popular baits. This year they’re introducing a larger 3/4-ounce Rattl’n Vibe that will be perfect for fishing that deeper grass.

After ICAST, we fly back home to Tennessee, and I will hitch up my boat and drive to New York. I will fish on Lake St. Francis, which is very similar to the St. Lawrence River. It will give me an opportunity to knock the rust off my smallmouth game and get dialed in with finesse tactics.

After fishing for five days on Lake St. Francis, I will leave my truck and boat in Waddington, N.Y., and fly back to Tennessee to hang out with my wife and celebrate my 33rd birthday with family and friends.

One week later, I will fly to Minnesota to help with Blackfish Gear’s annual open bass tournament on Lake Minnetonka, the Blackfish Classic. I just signed a sponsorship deal with this Minnesota based apparel company. They specialize in rain, cold and warm weather gear. I’ll stay in Minnesota for a few days after the tournament to fish and film on Lake Minnetonka and Lake Mille Lacs.

From Minnesota, I’ll be flying back home for a week before I fly up to Detroit to fish Lake St. Clair with my bro, Chad Pipkens, before the lake goes off limits for the Toyota Bassmaster Angler of the Year Championship. Chad is one of the better smallmouth anglers on the Elite Series. I hope some of his smallmouth magic rubs off on me.

From there Chad and I will drive up to Waddington, N.Y., for our next Elite tournament. I can’t wait for these exciting next several weeks flying all over the place and jacking some giant smallies!

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