I’ve had a phenomenal couple of weeks, going from catching giant smallmouth bass, both shallow and deep, to shooting doves with family and friends.
I am still in awe of the size of the smallmouth bass we caught on the St. Lawrence River. I felt pretty good when I checked in with 22 pounds on the first day of the tournament. When I won there in 2015 I had 21 pounds, 3 ounces, on Day 1 and was in fifth place. My biggest bag in that event was 22-9.
So when I finished in 31st place with 22-0 on Day 1 this year, I thought, “Holy smokes!” I knew it was going to be a slugfest when, during practice, I caught my biggest smallmouth bass ever. It weighed 6.54 pounds. But I didn’t have any idea that almost everyone was catching fish like that.
That put some added pressure on me. I came into the tournament ranked 42nd in Toyota Bassmaster Angler of the Year points. I needed to move up if I was going to have a good shot at qualifying for the 2019 Bassmaster Classic. My plan was to fish both shallow and deep. It worked out, though not as well as I might have hoped.
It’s just so enticing to go shallow for big smallmouth in that clear water on the St. Lawrence River. I lost what would probably have been a new personal record smallmouth on Day 3 of the tournament – twice. I saw it in about 2 feet of water, and I hooked it on my first cast with a Megabass Hazedong Shad on a drop shot. The fish was on for just a few seconds before it broke my line. To be honest, I probably hadn’t retied after catching my last fish.
All that was left on my deck was another drop shot rig with a 3/4-ounce weight and 8-pound test line. I made another cast and hooked the fish again. It just skyrocketed out of the water, about 3 or 4 feet in the air, and threw the bait. One of the coolest things in the world is seeing and hooking those aggressive bass in shallow water. To me, bass fishing doesn’t get any better than that, even though you’re going to lose some of those battles.
By finishing 30th, I moved up to 35th place in the points going into the Toyota Bassmaster Angler of the Year Championship. I’ve never had to go into the AOY Championship with a Classic qualification on the line. I’m looking forward to the challenge at Lake Chatuge.