Adapting to change

Our Bassmaster Elite Series schedule is a little different this year because, for the past several seasons, the Elites have started in Florida. This year, we start with back-to-back events in Louisiana and Texas.

I know this is a break from what has typically occurred, but it doesn’t bother or affect me in any shape or form. This is only my second Elite season, and I’ve only experienced that Florida start in my rookie year, so it’s really not much of a change for me.

I like going to Florida because it’s a lot warmer, but I’ve started seasons on other trails in the Louisiana/East Texas area, so I don’t mind. I’m looking forward to it.

In fact, these first two events are closer to my style of fishing. I live in Arkansas, and we have a lot of deeper timber lakes with not a lot of grass. We don’t see that a lot in Florida, where it’s more about shallow, grass fisheries.

To be able to start the season by fishing a true prespawn scenario in habitat that I’m very familiar with is going to be fun. That’s where I have more confidence.

For our first Elite event of the year on Toledo Bend, I have fished multiple tournaments on the fishery. But I don’t have what I’d call a lot of experience. Since we’re close enough now to have a good idea of what the weather will do, I can say it will be 100% a prespawn event.

Most of the fish will still be out deep, staging in those prespawn areas. There won’t be any fish pushing up to spawn, so I don’t see the shallow game playing in this event.

In a way, this event on Toledo Bend will be similar to the 2023 Bassmaster Elite on Lake Seminole, where I won my first blue trophy. The only difference is I was able to narrow down a specific area of standing timber in Spring Creek, but Toledo Bend has timber all over the lake.

It’ll probably fish very close to the way Seminole did, but this tournament will be more of a “needle in a haystack” scenario.

A week after Toledo Bend, the next event at Lake Fork will probably fish similarly, so I won’t need to change much — except maybe upsizing my tackle.

Both of these are big-fish lakes — especially Fork. I love going places where we have the opportunity to catch a lot of big fish, so it’s going to be a fun two weeks. I just can’t let the thought of giant bags get me off track.

I don’t think about winning a Century Club belt; I just look for the best stuff I can and focus on catching the biggest fish I can. The way I fish those lakes, I just try to get five big bites a day. It’s more of a grind. You may not get a lot of bites a day, but if you get five, you can really do something special.

Going into this year, I have a lot of confidence and momentum after winning Bassmaster Rookie of the Year and two Elite events in 2023, but I’m not going to dwell on that. I have a new season ahead of me, and I have to fish each event to win.

I’m not going to say I don’t think about it. I have more people watching me now, my fanbase has grown and I want to do well for my sponsors, so there’s a little more pressure. But I’m not letting last year’s success affect the way I approach the new season.

I just want to keep that fire I had last year. Good or bad, I don’t dwell on the past; I just focus on what’s ahead.