Keep my fishing simple

To start the season with a 20th-place finish at Lake Okeechobee and 25th at Seminole, I’m pretty happy with those results. I had never been to either of those lakes, other than to ride around in pre-practice, so I tried to not shoot for the stars and just find something consistent.

I kept my fishing really simple, in terms of baits and techniques. I broke down big areas of water into little bitty areas. I do really good when I can break a big piece down to a small area and stay in it all day.

I like to give myself five or six different options in a small area to fish. That’s what I did at both Lake Okeechobee and Seminole. I had to change lures and techniques every day to make it work, but that’s how I envisioned it, so I’m really happy with it so far.

What helped in both events is that I had a big bite every day. I caught a 6-pounder every day at Okeechobee, and I caught a 6-pounder every day but the third day at Seminole. I had it on, but I lost it.

You really can’t overstate the importance of those quality fish, and for me, getting one or more big bites a day carried my momentum to both finishes.

Leaving Florida with two good finishes obviously reflects well in the Bassmaster Angler of the Year standings, but I’m really not paying much attention to the points. For one thing, we’re only two events in so there’s a lot of time remaining.

You don’t really pay attention to it until the latter end of the season, and throughout the year, I’ll mostly pay attention to the Bassmaster Classic cut. I want to win, but I also want to make sure I make it to the Classic each year.

Overall, my takeaway for both Florida events was how my plan of just being consistent and open-minded worked out well. At both events, I had a particular bait change every day. Whether it was sun, wind or water temperature, watching for little details and making a subtle change helped me catch a key fish.

Both of these events helped me build some great momentum to carry into the Classic, and I’ll be turning my attention to preparations for this event very soon.

The Classic is a totally different animal than a regular season event. It includes a lot more elements outside the fishing competition and that can create a lot of distraction during tournament week.

Classic week is a demanding time, so you have to have everything lined up before you get there. You have to be rigged and ready, so you don’t have any wasted time.

I placed eighth in my first Classic in 2020 and 11th in 2022. Last year, I should have made a bait change because the water cleaned up in my area, but I’m guilty of being very hard headed. If I’ve done well with something, it’s hard to put it down.

This has always been a challenge for me, but at Lake Okeechobee and Lake Seminole, I proved to myself that I can make those changes.