The calm before the storm

This week I’m making the three-day drive across the country to kick off the 2016 Bassmaster Elite fishing season at the GEICO Bassmaster Classic. Ever since I started my professional fishing career in 2005, this drive from California to the East has become a pre-season ritual.

I have sort of a love-hate relationship with this pilgrimage to the East each year. On one hand, the drive is so monotonous. When your GPS says 2,200 more miles to go, you don’t really consider knocking down a couple hundred miles much of an accomplishment – it’s like watching a clock.

On the other hand, the journey is sort of therapeutic, serving as a quiet transition time between the offseason and the start of a new fishing season, sort of like the calm before the storm. It gives me a lot of time to think about my upcoming season and plot my fishing strategies for the first few events of the year. As the miles click by, I can really focus on fishing again.

During the offseason, I honestly do not fish a great deal. Since I’m gone so much during the year, I try to spend a lot of time with family and friends. This past offseason, the only time I was on the water was to do a few photo shoots with Daiwa, film a show with Mark Zona and break in my boat. Also, I did ride around Grand Lake for a few days before the cut-off for the Classic. Every year I say I’m going to spend more time fishing in the offseason to stay sharp and I never do.

One part of my game I did focus on quite a bit during the offseason was organization. In years past, just before I made my yearly pilgrimage, I basically threw nine months worth of tackle into the back of my truck, forced the tailgate and camper top closed and took off. As the storm of a new season hit with the first few events, the cargo area of my truck quickly became an equipment and tackle disaster area – I couldn’t even open my tailgate because everything would come pouring out. If I needed to get tackle from the interior, I essentially had to belly crawl over my tailgate into this typhoon of tackle just to get a couple of crankbaits. In short, my tackle organization hampered my tackle prep considerably.

This offseason I put an end to that by overhauling every aspect of my tackle organization. I ordered 14 boxes of tackle boxes from Plano. Not 14 tackle boxes – 14 boxes of tackle boxes! And I spent a couple of weeks transferring every single piece of tackle – right down to split rings – into those new tackle boxes. Then I added a decked drawering system to the bed of my truck. In addition, I had a cargo glide installed on top of the decked system. So now everything I need to access in the bed of my truck slides out – no more belly crawling!

I am now far more organized than I have ever been before and that’s going to help me immensely in weathering the first few events over the next month.

As for the Classic and upcoming Elite Series schedule, I really have not put much thought into those events yet. But I have 2,000 more miles to figure it out while I tick off the miles in the calm before the storm.