The 2017 Bassmaster Elite Series just began, marking my third season on the Elite Series.
On paper, my first two Elite seasons may look pretty good. I’ve made two Bassmaster Classics and made three top 10s in Elite competition.
But something is missing from my Elite experience, and it’s starting to bother me a little bit. It would be easy to say that not winning an Elite Series is getting under my skin a little bit, but that’s not really it. What’s really bugging is that I have not even been able to put myself in a position to win.
As crazy as this sounds, having the potential to win a tournament is a greater feeling than winning the tournament itself. Yes, winning is great. And, yes, winning on the Elite Series is a huge accomplishment in a pro’s career. But I contend that the feeling of actually winning a tournament is not as potent as that special feeling of being in the position to win a tournament. To me that’s the thrill of tournament fishing, and I have not experienced it at all on the Elites.
I do have a second and a third place finish in the Elites but the truth is, I was never in a position to win either one of those tournaments.
I finished third to Justin Lucas at the Potomac, but he had such a big lead over me, it was not a realistic shot at winning. Same thing at the AOY Championship: I finished second to Seth Feider and he had such a huge lead going out that final day that I never got that intense “potential to win” feeling.
When I say being in a position to win I mean coming out of Day 3 with a legitimate chance to win. It’s knowing that after three days, I have made all the right decisions and right moves to be in realistic reach of the brass ring. It’s knowing that on the start of Championship Sunday, I am just one or two good decisions away from a win. That reading just one new wrinkle in the conditions could open up the winning window. Realizing that one off-the-wall cast or last minute gut move could result in that one decent bite that puts me over the top. For me the potential to win drives me more than winning itself.
When I was at FLW, I put myself in a position to win far more times than I ever actually won. That’s the reality of this sport: No one can win them all, but as a professional angler there is still a lot of self satisfaction in putting yourself in a position to win – it’s proof that I am doing my job correctly.
I can tell you exactly the last time I was in a position to win – it was the Texas Toyota Bass Classic in May of 2015. I ended up winning that event, but since then there’s been a drought of that special feeling of throttling down out of takeoff on the final morning with the potential to win hanging in the air.
And all I can say is I am ready to feel that again in 2017.