Recapping 2023 and looking forward to 2024

I’ve taken some time to think about the 2023 season, and I have to say it was a good year for me — but a weird year. I think a lot of that had to do with winning every year for the past three years. I never felt like I had the opportunity to win this year.

Overall, I’m happy with most of this season. I made six of the cuts, I qualified for the Bassmaster Classic and I ended up in the top third of the Progressive Bassmaster Angler of the Year points.

I feel like I fished really smart, really free; I just had a couple of really bad tournaments. I kind of got catfished at Santee Cooper Lake and Lay Lake. That was disappointing because if I do well at either of those, I’m right in the middle of the top 10 in the AOY race.

If I’m grading myself, I’d give my season like an 80 — a low B. I had a lot of good moments, but once you’ve won, you want to do it over and over.

That’s what I want. I want trophies, but this year just didn’t work out that way. I’m not mad about it. But like I said, it was just a weird year.

The high point for me was actually the first four events, including the Classic. I was most comfortable early in the season. I made a top 20 at Okeechobee, a top 30 at Seminole and then top 20s at the Classic and Lake Murray.

I was kickin’ and gettin’ at those four events and fishing my strengths. Truthfully, I did that all year, I just ran into some bad luck at Santee Cooper and Lay Lake.

On the upside, doing well at Lake Murray was rewarding because I had limited experience fishing blueback herring lakes. Doing well enough to finish 13th there was a solid learning experience, because I saw how similar it is to Lake Fork when the gizzard shad are spawning.

I learned a lot about how to fish these lakes, compared to the way I fish on Fork. So that gave me a lot of confidence in knowing that I can successfully compete on a herring lake.

Looking ahead to 2024, the recently-released Elite schedule starts off with three events that are within six hours of my house — the first two are about three hours from my house.

I haven’t spent a lot of time on the 2024 season opener at Toledo Bend Reservoir, but I think it will fish a lot like Sam Rayburn or Fork — timber and big bass. Then, with the Classic on Grand Lake, I haven’t spent a lot of time out there, but I think that one will fit my style, so I’ll figure it out.

From there, it’s going to be interesting to fish two Florida events later than we usually do. After that, I’m eager to get back to Murray and pick up where I left off.

I’ve never been to Wheeler Lake or Smith Lake, but we’ll end up at Lake Champlain and the St. Lawrence River, two places where I’m becoming more comfortable. Closing out the year with northern smallmouth events is always a lot of fun, and hopefully I’ll be able to bring good momentum from the southern tournaments into these last two events.

I’m already looking forward to getting after it next year. We have a good schedule with lots of opportunity, so I’ll be looking for my next trophy.