Aiming for the Classic cut

Summertime in Oklahoma is hot — very hot. But at least I have about a month break from putting in long days on the water.

I did three straight weeks of that in June, and I’m not gonna lie, it was weighing on me. With the Open at Lake Eufaula in Oklahoma sandwiched between the Elite events at Wheeler Lake and Smith Lake, I had three tournaments back-to-back-to-back. They were all 90-plus degrees with high humidity.

It was starting to wear on me because, when you get hot, it’s hard to make yourself eat and drink enough water. That Tuesday morning before Smith, I was in the bathroom throwing up because I had gotten too hot.

I know we have to be careful about our health, but when you’re out there, you’re so focused on what you’re doing. It’s hard to make yourself stop and do things like drink some water or Gatorade.

We had a little wind in practice, and it was enough to keep you dry. You never thought you were sweating that much, but it was taking it out of you just as fast as you could put it in.

Thankfully, the most physically demanding days are behind me now. A lot of the local tournaments I fish in Oklahoma are done, and I’m not fishing any more Opens. I only fished Div. 2 because of Lake Eufaula.

During the break before the Elites start again in August, I’ll be hauling hay, working cows and helping my girlfriend with her bounce house business. I’ll also work around the house and do some of the things I‘ve neglected for six months.

The biggest thing I enjoy about our breaks is spending time with family. I’m very family oriented, and the worst thing about tournament fishing is the time away from the folks who are most important to you.

So, I might rent a cabin on Lake Texoma or Lake Eufaula and just relax. I might not even pick up a rod while I’m there, but I will take some time this summer to fish with my dad. We don’t get a chance to do that much anymore, so I like to take every opportunity I can get.

All of this is going to be important to clear my head and get ready for the Northern Swing. This year, these last two events will probably be more crucial than any time in my career, in terms of making the Bassmaster Classic.

In May, a top 30 finish at Lake Murray got me back on track after a string of bad finishes. I stumbled at Wheeler, but placing 15th in the Open at Eufaula gave me a big shot of momentum that carried into the Elite at Smith, where I placed 17th.

Getting a couple good ones back-to-back then having a month off could be big for the Northern Swing. I like going up there, and I’ve continually gained confidence in those fisheries every year.

I’m currently sitting six spots out of the Bassmaster Classic cut for next year, but with two Elite tournaments remaining, getting back on the right side of that cutline is entirely doable. Before the Smith Lake tournament, I told my cameraman, Aaron, if I can make the next three Top 50 cuts I’ll make Classic.

I got that first one at Smith. Now I need to do well at Lake Champlain and the St. Lawrence River.

I’d love to win Angler of the Year, but making the Classic is all I care about from the first tournament. I’ll keep that goal all the way through the last one, and if I can perform at the level I know I’m capable of, I’ll achieve my objective.