I said I wasn’t going to do it. I swore to myself I wouldn’t get caught up in it. For my entire drive from California to Tulsa, I promised myself I would fish my first Bassmaster Classic without falling victim to the rookie trap where you essentially get so overwhelmed by the hype and pageantry of the event itself you lose focus of what you came there to do.
All I can say is, nothing in life prepares you for your first Classic. It’s like a 24-7 bass fishing rock concert for a week. I couldn’t get over how many people came to see us – and that was before the tournament even began! B.A.S.S. rolls out the red carpet in every way for the anglers and their families. The food, the hotel, the parking, the boat security, the service crews – you name it – we were catered to at all times.
As for my fishing plan at the Classic, my goal was to stay loose and stay on the move: don’t get locked into anything, especially an area. No matter how good an area seemed, I didn’t want to lock down too much that first tournament day.
But on that first morning, when I saw the thousands of people that came to the launch – I’m not going to lie – I freaked. Once my boat hit the water, that big bravado of staying on the move and not getting married to an area went out the window. I started, thinking, “Dude, you might want to make sure you actually have something to weigh in today.”
Man, I can’t tell you how powerful that force is at your first Classic: that overwhelming feeling of, “Look at all those people, you don’t want to zero in front of them do you?”
It’s like peer pressure times 1,000! And I’ll be the first to admit: I caved. I ran straight to the first place I thought I could get a bite, and I didn’t move. I was fishing scared in the first degree and I’m not even going to act like I wasn’t – I wanted something to weigh in so bad.
But in all honesty, this is something that has sort of plagued me all season. I get too mired down in certain areas trying to fish “safe” and quite simply it comes from fishing scared. I fished too many tournaments scared this year, driven mostly by a fear of falling in the points. And at the Classic, after I swore I wouldn’t fish scared, I fell into that trap again.
I caught three fish per day the first two days of the Classic. Somehow I made it to Day 3 – 25th place – the last spot.
I’m glad to say that on that final day of the Classic, I finally “had it out” with my “safety side.” At 25th place I had nowhere else to fall, and I finally no longer cared about failing. I picked up a crankbait and started running all new water. When my “safety side” said stay, I picked up the trolling motor and ran to another spot I had never fished. I was covering new water like I love to do, and by the end of the day I had caught more fish than I did during all of practice and competition combined – nearly 19 pounds. Okay, so it wasn’t 29 pounds – hats off to Edwin, by the way, for such an amazing performance that final day – but it was my best day of the week and it helped me finally kick my “fishing scared” to the curb.