Back to the basics

I had a really good start to the 2022 Bassmaster Elite Series season with a win at the St. Johns River in Palatka, Fla. The rest of the year, not so much. I don’t want to go into all of the dirty details, but it wasn’t the kind of year I would have wanted following winning my second big blue trophy.

When you’re in the middle of a season where everything is going wrong, it’s hard to see what’s going on. You try to make the right adjustments, but there’s often not enough clarity to see the whole picture. Now that the season is over, and I’ve had the chance to examine it all, I’ve come to an understanding that I know is going to help me in the future.

I was making things too complicated and spent a lot of time chasing unique patterns looking for glory. What I really needed to do was work on the things that I know will get bites everywhere in the country.

What I need to do is get back to the basics.

Here’s what I mean … I’m in the tackle business, and part of being the owner of Missile Baits is staying current on new tackle trends in order to develop new products. The same is said for being a professional angler — you have to be aware of new things and be familiar with them to remain competitive. As an angler, hitting on new trends early can often mean having a run of high finishes and even wins.

All of that is great once it’s going right, but if you are struggling, it doesn’t look too good.

What I realized is I spent a lot of this season chasing obscure Neko rig bites or big swimbait or glide bait bites that showed glimmers of success but didn’t produce the results I needed to stay consistent.

What I needed to do more and will do in the future is lean more on the things that have produced results year-round and built consistent results year after year — the basics.

I need to spend more time with a Texas rig, a drop-shot rig, a bladed jig, a casting jig or a squarebill in my hands. Those are the things that have helped me maintain quality finishes with a fair share of high finishes throughout my career.

Two tournaments showed me a lot this year. Lake Fork and Chickamauga Lake were events that I was on good fish, but I tried to force things. Had I made the adjustment to something more basic, I would probably finish in the upper third of the field.

At Chickamauga, I found some spawning fish, but there weren’t enough to sustain the glide bait bite or the crankbait and sightfishing approaches I chose. If I went to a jig or something else, I get more bites and do better.

At Fork, I looked at the time of the year and thought offshore, spawning gizzard shad, and my mind went to big swimbaits. That didn’t work out. If I flip a D Bomb or a Flip Out Jig with a Chunky D on it to wood and docks, I’d do better than I did.

These are the kinds of decisions that I have to start making again. If I was limiting myself to five or six rods loaded with proven tournament bass catchers, I would have had a better year in 2022.

I am going to work on sticking with my strengths and trying to find the obvious bites before experimenting. It should help me finish stronger in the future.