Offseason activities and staying sharp

As much as I love the competition and excitement of a Bassmaster Elite Series season, it’s exhausting. That’s why the offseason is so important for resting our bodies and minds and getting ready for next year.

For me, the offseason has started the same way for the past 10 years. A bunch of buddies and I rent a house on the South Carolina coast and spend a month out there just relaxing and taking it easy.

We’ll catch some shrimp with cast nets, we’ll fish if we want to and if we don’t, it’s still a nice atmosphere. This year was the first time my 4-year-old son Troy got to go with me, and that really made this a special time. 

I rigged a live shrimp under a cork for Troy and he caught his first redfish near Beaufort. He also caught a stingray, and he thought that was a big deal.

You know, I’ve enjoyed this trip for several years now, but watching Troy experience some of the things I’ve come to love really took me back to my earliest memories of vacations on the coast. I mean, he got such a kick out of catching blue crabs on a string baited with a chicken neck and then watching me catch shrimp in the cast net.

My son was only with us for a weekend, and he spent a lot of his time on the beach with my buddy’s daughters. They played in the sand, swam and chased ghost crabs. I just let him enjoy himself however he wanted to because that’s what these offseason trips are all about — relaxation.

To tell you the truth, I would stay at the beach for months if I could. It’s not only about the ocean; it’s the solitude. We stay at Harbor Island and there’s hardly anybody there besides us. We may see five people outside of our group the entire time we’re there, and that’s just the kind of peace and quiet I need after a busy year on the road.

After my coastal trip each year, I’ll do a good bit of deer hunting. Sitting in a tree and waiting for something to come walking by is a lot different than chasing a bass down the lake all day long. But all fishermen are competitive, so even though it’s relaxing, you still want to do good. So I never get too comfortable.

The other thing is that, even during the offseason, business never stops. There’s always sponsor work to do, media people to interact with by text or email and logistical planning for the following season.

By November, we’re trying to iron out all the details for the following year, and come December, we’re getting boats and trucks wrapped. Because it goes by so quickly, I try to make sure I’m enjoying every moment of the offseason.

Along with my hunting, I’ll start getting back into fishing later in the fall. I’ll do some striper fishing; I’ll do some perch fishing. I’ll fish with daddy some, I’ll fish with Troy some and I’ll even take my girlfriend McKenzie when they’re biting — she doesn’t like so much when you have to fish for them.

I don't go as hard as I would during a tournament, but this offseason fishing is really important because it gets me back in the routine. If you come out cold at the start of a new season, and you really haven’t been fishing, man, a couple weeks of fishing seven days a week will kill you. So you have to get your body adjusted to getting up early and staying out long hours. That’s what gets you ready for tournament season.

This year, in particular, I’ll have to put in a lot of work here at home practicing for the Classic on Lake Murray. When you have the chance to put in as much time as you can and it’s only 30 minutes from the house, you have to capitalize on that.

This will change my offseason a little bit, but you know what — it’s definitely worth it.