The season's now over. I finished nine points away from winning Toyota Bassmaster Angler of the Year, and I'd like to use this month's column to tell you how I feel.
Honestly, it's kind of a bittersweet end to the season for me. There were obviously mechanical issues during more than one event, but that's part of fishing. And when I look back on the season, I think Lake Lanier hurt me a bit – I finished 49th – as did those couple of mechanical issues, but I think I had an extremely good year. I ended up with six Top 10s in 10 Elite events.
Would I have liked to win Angler of the Year? Absolutely. In my mind, I feel like if I'd never had those mechanical issues, I would have won.
Going into the Toyota Bassmaster Angler of the Year Championship at St. Clair, the Angler of the Year title was 100% my goal. I didn't care about winning the tournament, I wanted that Angler of the Year title.
I had a great pre-fish, and I found two or three really big groups of fish out deeper. I was working together with my brother, Gussy and Feider, and we were all covering water in the pre-fish and putting our heads together, like we did most of the year. Those groups of fish Feider found – none of us even fished that spot the first day. We fished everything else we'd found. Then Feider got there late on the second day, and they were there.
Feider got off the water and came up and said, "Dude, let me have an hour on that spot tomorrow, then get over there and start catching those fish." I think the fish I found out deeper all started migrating shallower, and I owe a huge thanks to Feider, Gussy and my brother for helping me out in trying to win that Angler of the Year title.
Bassmaster Angler of the Year is super hard to win, I knew that going in, and to be honest, Lanier is when I really blew it.
I think what got me back in the race was a bunch of really good decisions after that. A lot of the places we fished drew to my strengths. Winyah Bay for example. I rolled the dice a little in practice and put all my eggs into going up the river. I knew the big ones lived there. I grinded for three full days of practice and felt really good about it. It was a good decision, and I was one lost fish away from winning. From there, it seemed like I made good decisions the rest of the season.
It's all about AOY
My goal every year is to win Angler of the Year. My philosophy is this: I fish every event to win it. I don't fish for points, or to qualify for the Bassmaster Classic. Sure, the Classic's always in the back of your mind, but if I go out and do my job and try to win every tournament, and come close to winning as much as possible, then I'm going to come close to winning Angler of the Year.
That's the title I want the most – more even than winning the Bassmaster Classic. So even though the ending was bittersweet, I'm looking forward to the schedule next year. We'll give it a shot and see if we can't win it then.
And I think Chris and I made an impact out there. We were able to get some really good exposure for our sponsors, and I feel we have a bunch more followers now – not only on the Canadian side, but on the U.S. side, too. We pull into gas stations now and people come up and start talking fishing.
I definitely think we made more of an impact this year than the last three or four combined. We owe a lot to B.A.S.S. media for doing such a great job.