A different level of competition

When I review my first Bassmaster Elite Season season, I can say that the biggest thing for me was just learning to mentally adapt to a new type of schedule and a new level of competition.

Coming up through the Bassmaster Opens, I can say everyone at that level is just as competitive and many are just as good as a lot of Elite anglers. However, learning to mentally stay in it after fishing a lot less then traveling for essentially nine months out of the year was a big adjustment.

Traveling is nothing new to me and neither are the long drives the Elite Series requires. Through my Opens competition, I’ve been traveling the last couple years. It wasn’t too much of an adjustment.

Also, long drives were nothing new to me. I snow plow in the winter for my family’s construction business, so being behind the wheel of a truck for 15 to 20 hours is about the time it takes to get from one lake to another.

Ultimately, I just needed to experience a full Elite season to truly understand what it’s like to compete at this level. The hardest part for me was definitely the back-to-back events at the beginning and end of the season. I had never fished 14 days straight with practice and competition days. In the past, the longest I fished was maybe eight days straight.

It’s very demanding, but you have to not tire yourself out. If it’s a matter of getting an extra 30 minutes of sleep in the morning, that’s what you do.

I will say that following healthy routines has been a big help. I eat pretty good on the road — mostly chicken, salad and rice for dinner. On the boat, I don’t do much snacking; I mostly eat fruit or healthy wraps. That helps me maintain my stamina.

Another thing that has helped me manage the demanding Elite lifestyle is the new friendships I’ve made. I traveled with Elite veteran Jamie Hartman this year, and I also got know fellow rookie Matty Wong. Matty and I will room together in 2023.

The best advice I got from one of the more experienced Elites was to shake off the bad events. At the Lake Oahe event, where I had my worst finish, my cabin was next to John Crews. He came up and told me, “You’re better than that. Just shake it off, and get ready for the next one.”

As far as memorable moments, that would have to be the second day of the Elite on Santee Cooper Lakes. I had a really terrible Day 1 with 8 pounds, but I rebounded really, really big on Day 2 with 26 to launch myself into Day 3. I finished in 26th place — my best event of the season.

It was one of those moments you remember, reflect back on and realize you can’t get that down on yourself for one bad day. It is tough when you have a bad day, but if you can rebound with a really big effort, you’ll always have a chance to fish the third day.

Looking ahead to the new season, I’m excited about it. One of the more calming things going into 2023 is the solid business relationships I’ve established with sponsors. At the beginning of the year, I didn’t know anyone, but now the interaction has grown, so I have a better idea of what to expect and what’s expected of me.

With this foundation, plus the experience of my rookie season under my belt, I’m eager to get to work on the new Bassmaster Elite season.