Fishing all the Opens

In 2020, I qualified for the Bassmaster Elite Series through the Bassmaster Central Opens, but that wasn’t the end of my Opens competition. This year, in addition to the nine Elite tournaments, I’m fishing the entire Opens schedule — three divisions, three events each.

I made this decision for three main reasons. First, I want to gain as much experience as I can on different types of water bodies. The Elite Series takes us to a diverse array of fisheries, and many of the Open events will offer insights that will help in various parts of the country.  

On the practical side, fishing the Opens is an insurance policy. Once you make the Elites, it’s not like you’re on the trail forever — same thing with the Bassmaster Classic. Sometimes a season doesn’t go so well and fishing the Opens gives you a chance to, not only win another event and qualify for the Classic, but also to requalify for the Elites.

Also, this gives me nine more events to promote my sponsors. With a total of 18 events, it really makes this a full-time job, and I appreciate the platform that B.A.S.S. provides.

Now, all this sounds good — and it is — but I can say without any hesitation that the Opens level competition is absolutely the toughest anywhere. From the size of the fields, to the level of competition, to the diversity of ages and backgrounds, if you can compete in the Bassmaster Opens you can compete anywhere.

Getting back to the experience part, I have tons of time on the water, but most of it is back home on Toledo Bend and Sam Rayburn. I really value the fact that the Opens give me time on many different waters.

The most important element here is learning how to quickly and efficiently break down these diverse fisheries. The last thing you want to do is end up wandering aimlessly, and that time on the water definitely accelerates your learning.

I think it’s very important for a tournament angler to amass as much actual competition time as possible, because you simply cannot replicate the intensity of a tournament week. Fun fishing can definitely contribute to your learning, but when the clock is ticking, you learn to process information and make decisions at a more rapid pace.

With that being said, my wife, Randi, and I have found that the Opens tend to have a little more relaxed vibe. It’s still intense, but practice isn’t all crammed into three days like it is with the Elites. The overall pace of an Open event feels a little more comfortable.

That’s important to us because we’ve maintained a lot of great friendships that we made during my years before the Elites. Traveling throughout the Opens schedule allows us to spend time with those folks, catch up in the evenings, have cookouts and just enjoy being with people we only see a few times a year.

All things considered, we’re delighted to have a calendar full of Bassmaster events. Randi and I travel the country together with our RV, so camping around folks we know and enjoying so many beautiful towns is something I’d recommend to anyone considering it.

And for Opens anglers who are working hard to qualify for the Elites, the biggest thing I’d say is just stay in it. The mental side of fishing is incredibly important, and the experiences you gain through this intense level of competition will help you build the foundation for what you’ll need to compete on the Elite Series.

The way I describe it is: Be too dumb to quit. Don’t give up. Understand that it’s a process and keep working to improve yourself.

You don’t learn that sitting at home looking at it on the internet. You need time on the water, and the Bassmaster Opens are a great way to do that.