I fished the Bassmaster Opens series for several years. I can remember, when I first took the leap to fish them, I would save all my vacation leave at work for the events. Before jumping into the Opens, I took several years fishing every weekend and entering as many tournaments as possible. I lived about an hour from Toledo Bend Lake and most days I felt like my Toyota Tundra could make the drive from memory without me in the vehicle.
I fished, I graphed, I lost, I won, I learned. During that time, I was a teacher and coach and my lunch breaks were consumed with reading every fishing website, magazine or article I could find. I specifically remember reading about fellow Falcon Rods pro Jason Christie back then, especially since he was a former teacher/coach. Little did he know that his dream had an influence on me all the way in Louisiana. It’s kind of ironic that in 2021 he and I were two of the 13 anglers who qualified for the Bassmaster Elite Series.
Here’s my advice for anglers fishing the Opens in 2021:
Be willing to take a punch. My first couple years fishing the Opens were bad. I knew they probably would be because I had a lot to learn. I did not grow up on a lake and did not ride in my first bass boat until I was 18. But, I knew I was willing to have the humility to get my butt kicked so I could learn the skills and whatever else I needed to learn. There are more tough days than wins at all levels. The days you are grinding with all you have just to keep pace make the great finishes and the wins worth it.
There were a couple of years I got really close to qualifying for the Elite Series. I learned that this strong field in the Opens is not for the faint of heart. In 2019 I finished in the top 10. That wasn't good enough so I continued on and in 2020, along with fishing the FLW Pro Circuit, I was able to finish in the top five of the Bassmaster Central Opens and receive my invitation the Elites. My path to the Elite Series may be different than some, just as your path will be, and that’s what makes it special. I chose to trust the process and the journey that I personally had to take.
I’ll leave you with a thought that got me through the gauntlet of last year. I made a goal each day of competition to do all that I possibly could to keep the dream alive. Choose to be too determined to quit. Remember, a bad day on the water is simply that, a bad day. Your best event could be the next one. The Opens, just like the Bassmaster Elite Series, is a marathon not a single race.