Looking back, looking forward

During the 2022 Bassmaster Opens series my Ford F-150 truck and my Skeeter bass-boat traveled more than 11,500 miles getting to and from the nine Opens events. Between my truck and my boat, countless gallons of gasoline were consumed while competing.

With early-morning departures and a lot of late-night traveling to these events, my best friend Paws — my grandfather, Johnnie Garrett — and I were constantly discussing which Strike King lures would be best to use during practice and then during tournament days. Once those decisions were agreed on, we would then spend more time rigging 30 or so Lew’s rods and reels with those Strike King lure choices. 

Our fishing results during practice time on the lake were discussed each night, and then new choices were made for which lures and techniques to use for the tournament days. Then we pulled out our rods and reels from storage in the boat and truck and re-rigged again as needed. Our plan for each event was targeted towards getting to walk across the weigh-in stage with heavy limits that would tip the scales with jaw-dropping results. This result, unfortunately, did not always happen.  

The Bassmaster 2022 Opens started out poorly for me as I only placed in the money one time during the first four tournaments. Nothing comes easy when you are competing against 200-plus of the best bass anglers at each event. I did make a little comeback by placing in the money in all five of the remaining Open events. I ended up in 11th place in the overall Opens Angler of the Year point totals and earned $26,700 in winnings from the tour.

These results were short of my goal for 2022, but I was not too discouraged as overall I had a good year. Walking across the weigh-in stage at the last event, my mind was already thinking of 2023 and how to improve my performance. I can appreciate the feelings of the college basketball teams that were not chosen during March Madness each year, on the bubble but not making the playoffs, and in my case not qualifying for the Elite tour.

During the offseason, my real job is the John Garrett Outdoors duck hunting guide service for the Reelfoot Lake area in West Tennessee. This year I was kept amazingly busy with marketing, booking, guiding and managing three duck blinds in different areas in and around Reelfoot Lake.

Fishing the Bassmaster Opens tournament series is an expensive undertaking, so saving money for the fishing season ahead is the first priority during the offseason. I was blessed to be fully booked for the 2022/2023 duck hunting season. I realize that it is important to give back to the community, and I chose to do this by providing some junior kids duck hunts and a special duck hunt to honor a couple of military veterans, all at no cost to them. That was my way of giving back to the community and to those who served our country.

The 2023 Bassmaster Open season begins with exciting new rule changes for Elite Qualification. Basically entry to the Bassmaster Elites for the 2024 season will be based on those participants who have competed in all nine of the 2023 Opens events. These anglers will be the EQs, and the top nine EQ anglers in the final Angler of the Year points totals will be qualified for entry into the 2024 Bassmaster Elite Series. That is my goal for this year — to qualify for this top tier in professional bass fishing.

I am thrilled to share the news that Morgan and I are expecting the birth of our first child sometime in August. Now that is something to fish for! I will start the first Open event for 2023 at Lake Eufaula with my new Skeeter ZXR21 bass boat and Yamaha V Max SHO 250 outboard motor. I am once again a member of the exclusive Hypertech Reel Team with Buddy Gross and my long time mentor, Mark Menendez.

Once again, my tournament traveling and practicing partner for all nine Open events will be my best friend Paws, who will be competing as a co-angler at each event. He’ll turn 76 this year, and besides being my copilot and boat jockey, he’ll add another title as the one and only Great Grandad Paws.