Winning was a surprise

The Basspro.com Bassmaster Southern Open on Lake Norman last week was my first B.A.S.S. win. Actually, it was my first B.A.S.S. tournament, but that’s a little misleading.

At age 28 I’m not a kid, and I have a lot of tournament experience. I’ve fished the BFL tournaments for a while now and have two wins to my credit along with several Top 10 finishes. I’ve also fished the All-American, and I qualified for the Toyota Series Championship. 

And I have a partner. We fish a ton of big, fairly high-end stuff — open, independent tournaments. His name is Rodney Tapp. I’m lucky to have him. He has the bloodline to be an angler. His dad was Ronnie Tapp. WEC Zoom named the Tapp crankbait after him.  

I don’t say that to brag. I just want anglers to know that the B.A.S.S. win didn’t come out of nowhere. I have to say, though, that it was an interesting experience. It was a great event, professionally run in every respect.

Norman is about an hour and a half from my house. You could say it’s my home lake, or at least I have a lot of experience on it. That’s why I signed up for this event. I really didn’t expect to win. I was hoping for a Top 10 finish or maybe a top 20. 

The first two days everything went according to plan. The fish were where they were supposed to be, and they were biting like they should. It was easy. But the third day was something else. Nothing was happening like I thought it would. I only had three good bites all day.

I was in a panic all day. I should have known the tough bite was coming, though. I caught a flathead on a jig. That’s always been a bad sign for me. When I catch a catfish on a jig I always have a tough day. 

The only disappointing thing about it all is that I didn’t qualify for the 2022 Academy Sports + Outdoors Bassmaster Classic presented by Huk because I didn’t sign up and fish all the Southern Opens. I didn’t realize what the rules were until after I won so I’m out in the cold when it comes to fishing the Classic. That’s heartbreaking. It’s by far the biggest fishing event in the country ever. I’d love to be there competing. 

But, the rules are the rules. They’re applied fairly to everyone so I have no one to blame but myself. If I had it to do over again, I’d do things differently. But, that’s the way it is with a lot of things in my life — probably yours too.

The support of my girlfriend, Jessi, helps take some of the sting out of my disappointment. She sends me a text every morning. It’s nice to have someone care enough to do that. And I can't forget my family and friends too. Their support means the world to me.    

Now, after all the hoopla, it’s time to go back to my day job at a power plant and metal fabricating company. I’m not at the point where I can earn a good living with my rod and reel. 

The only other thing I want to say is that you should always make sure you know how things work, and to keep your head down when you’re fishing. Even when you think things are tough they just might turn out to surprise you.