Preparing for my sophomore season

I enjoyed my rookie season, and the memory of that special time in my career will last forever. But now, I’m ready to tackle my second season on the Bassmaster Elite Series with a much more confident outlook.

With the 2024 season just weeks away, I am very excited about getting back out there and competing with the best anglers in the nation. Last year, I had a lot of unanswered questions about what to expect. One was, “How am I going to compete against those guys?”

With a third-place finish in Dakota Lithium Bassmaster Rookie of the Year and 13th in Progressive Bassmaster Angler of the Year rankings, I answered some of those questions. I’m going to continue learning and improving, but after proving to myself that I belong here, I can just focus on competing.

I stayed busy during the offseason with a good mix of business and personal priorities. I’ve participated in outdoors industry consumer events, and I’ve enjoyed a lot of time with my family.

Living on the West Coast, I was gone a lot last year, so I tried to make up for that by spending time with my wife, Bailey, and our year-old son, Jensen.

I also devoted a good amount of time to developing my sponsor relationships, as well as establishing new ones. The biggest change I’ll bring into this year’s Elite season is my boat and motor. I’ll be running a Skeeter FXR 20 with a 250 Yamaha SHO.

At this level, it’s absolutely essential to have complete confidence in your equipment, and I have no doubt that all of the brands I’ve partnered with — including Alpha Angler Rods, which came onboard the middle of last year — will help me continue to grow and improve.

I’ve said this before, but I firmly believe that my West Coast background played a big role in preparing me for what I’d face on the Elite Series. One of my strengths is my diversity, and I attribute that to the diversity of fisheries back home.

Growing up in Northern California, if you wanted to be successful, you had to be good with a drop shot and 6-pound line as well as a frog and 65-pound line. Bringing this range of skill sets — from finesse to power fishing — really helped when I was learning several new Elite Series fisheries.

Looking ahead to the new season, I’m excited because it has a lot of different looks than we’re used to seeing. Not starting in Florida and going there a little later in the year … starting in Texas with two big bass brawls.

The diversity of the schedule after that is something I’m looking forward to, and I’m going to have to call on my versatility to have a good season.

If I had to pick, I’m most excited about the smallmouth fisheries. Lake Champlain and the St. Lawrence River are so much fun, and I don’t get to do that kind of fishing much.

On the other hand, the first two events on Toledo Bend and Lake Fork will press me to stay sharp. Throughout my career, I’ve never been very consistent at the slugfests; I’ve had trouble keeping up. But hopefully, I can figure out how to keep up at these events.

Everyone’s going to catch ‘em big, and you can’t fall behind. The good thing is I now have the confidence that I can get the job done.