Dalton Tumblin’s best photos of 2023

B.A.S.S. photographer Dalton Tumblin covered the Elites, Opens and the Classic in 2023. Here are his favorite pictures and their backstories.

Introducing my “best of 2023” season gallery from the tournament season. These photos are my favorite shots, while also ranking as unforgettable snippets of my season. In this gallery I will provide narration of the moments when I took each photo, including why and how I composed each shot. This water-level shot begins the photo tour at Lake Okeechobee, first stop of the season.
Before we get into the fish catching, I had to throw in a shot of the helicopter, boat and scenery all in one image. It was a unique photo that summed up being in the right place at the right time at our first Bassmaster Elite Series event at Lake Okeechobee.
Steve Kennedy putting this fish in the boat marked the first giant largemouth of the season for my camera. Kennedy put on a strong run at Okeechobee, and it’s always a good time to follow him on the water. To say the least, it was a fun tournament and a fantastic kickoff to my season.
The next week we closed out the month of February with an Elite tournament at Lake Seminole in Georgia. I followed Mike Iaconelli, who had a strong run with a Top 10 finish. This photo was captured as he put fish number five in the boat, and as a result, the catch moved him into the lead in the BassTrakk standings. As we all know, Ike likes to show his excitement, which is represented well in the next photo.
Another moment of being in the right place, at the right time, and definitely with the right guy. Iaconelli went Ike, breaking out into this headstand after putting the fifth fish in the livewell. This whole sequence was pure excitement and will forever live as one of the most Ike-conic photos in my collection.
To make things even better, Iaconelli let me come aboard his boat shortly after the gymnastic act. It was a really cool experience getting to shoot photos and make small talk with one of the greats.
Being on Lake Seminole is a nature lover’s (and photographer’s) dream. One of the job’s perks is being up close to wildlife. Many of the wild bird shots we capture are often favorites that rank up there with fish catches. It’s an inside joke among the photographers to add a wildlife shot to a gallery, only because our boss dislikes “bird photos.” So, this was my moment to retaliate. 
I’m also including some content from the St. Croix Bassmaster Opens, as they make up a large portion of my work throughout the year. Photos like this deserve a spot, not because of the backstory, but something of which to be proud. 
It’s always an exciting time to work the Bassmaster Classic presented by Toyota. In 2023 it was on the Tennessee River in Knoxville. On this practice day, Chad Pipkens accidentally hooked a good fish with other anglers in the vicinity to see the catch. Photos like this sum up the practice day mood, which is always fairly laid back.
A torrential rain fell during Classic practice. Cameras and rain don’t mix, making it stressful for photographers. The upside is rain also creates some of the coolest shots, as you see here. 
This shot from the Classic of Bryan Schmitt making a cast is one of my all-time favorites. The timing, the line and the composition just came together perfectly. Considering we are limited to where we can be positioned in relation to the angler, it’s always a good feeling when we’re lucky enough to line up shots like this one.
This final sequence of Classic shots are my favorites of that epic week. The image you see here is Jeff Gustafson entering the stage seconds before his Classic crowning moment.
I decided to climb underneath the stage and peek my camera through the floor for the crowning moment.
I’m almost certain this was not allowed per arena rules, but it was exhilarating and worth it. So, enjoy this series of shots capturing Gussy’s Classic win from a totally different angle. 
Moving on from the Classic, we headed to Lake Murray, S.C. I added this image merely because John Cox is one of my all-time favorites. Covering him on the water is always a good time, especially when he’s catching them shallow like he does best. 
Murray was also the start of Brandon Cobb’s strong Progressive Bassmaster Angler of the Year run. He had a phenomenal year, and I spent a lot of time covering him on the water. Murray was one for the books as far as big fish catches with Cobb. 
Covering the Lake Murray Elite champ Drew Benton was also a highlight of that week. Capturing the winner putting giants like this in the boat will never get old. 
To kick off another week in my home state of South Carolina, we next went to Santee Cooper. Here’s another of my favorite wildlife shots of the year.
One of the best things about Santee Cooper, apart from giant largemouth, is the scenery. As I stated previously, not all my favorite shots are of fish catches. Photos like this are often the highlight of my day. 
Like the wildlife, the scenery ranks up there with fish catches. I couldn’t resist the chance to photograph this blue-collar fellow tucked into the cypress fishing for crappie. The conversation with this guy was nothing less than hysterical, which was enough to earn a spot in this gallery.
The next couple of images are my favorite shots from Santee Cooper.
Big bass, gorgeous scenery and even some rain made for some of my favorite action shots of the year.
A character, nonetheless. Being on the water with Bryan New includes some of the funniest moments I’ve experienced following the Elite pros. New is always having a good time, but he can catch ’em at the same time. Here are a few of my favorites of New at Lay Lake during our May derby. 
I also covered the winner, Will Davis Jr., at Lay Lake. This particular image was memorable due to the journey it took to get the shot. Davis entered a long creek that was barely big enough to fit his boat in at the entrance. Considering the circumstances, I couldn’t follow him with my camera boat. Therefore, I hopped onto dry land and trekked about 200 yards through the woods and private property before finally finding him. As I approached from the bank, he picked this fish off a bed. It was a Bassmaster LIVE highlight catch of the day and definitely a highlight shot of my season. 
Now, for my favorite photo sequence of the entire year. Brock Mosley battled for his first Elite win after previously finishing in second place five times. With this catch Mosely sealed the deal.
Fishing was tough on the Sabine River, and the bass are generally on the small side. Mosley was leading and the pressure was on.
All of those second-place finishes and all the pressure left his body in pure emotion as he landed this Sabine River giant. I love how the photos turned out, and thinking about being there in this moment still gives me instant chills. It was by far one of the most intense moments in my career, and I was lucky enough to capture it. 
I also got to cover my good pal Matty Wong, who also had a great run at the Sabine River. Wong’s first Top 10 Elite finish and these victory moments were more than enough to earn a spot in my best of gallery.
Switching back over to the Opens, following Trey McKinney throughout the season was a highlight.
He’s a super impressive young gun with a great understanding of tournament fishing.
At 18 years old, he earned his spot in the Elites for 2024, which was unbelievable to witness and exciting to capture. 
Another Opens highlight was Jody White’s smallmouth throwdown on the St. Lawrence River.
This was among the top of the list for my best galleries of the year. The lighting was great, the fishing was outstanding and White came out with the victory.
And as always, the sight-seeing at these events never gets old. The St. Lawrence River can often be intimidating when considering wind and conditions. It doesn’t help when these cargo ships sneak up behind us every so often. You think you’d hear them coming, but with wind in your ears and water crashing, that isn’t always the case. 
Moving back to the Elites — here comes the smallmouth throw down portion of the year known as the Northern Swing. The photographs always end up at the top of my list each year. The fishing is phenomenal, and smallmouth acrobatics make for some stellar shots. Coming up are a few of my favorite smallmouth shots of the year.
Here’s my version of the moment also viewed on Bassmaster LIVE when everyone held their breath as a giant smallmouth leaped out of Takumi Ito’s hands. He was having a strong run per usual during the Northern Swing, and this instance had us all on the edge of out seats. Capturing it was truly a wild moment.
A close call, but it’s all smiles when Taku gets the smallmouth in the boat. Being around Taku while on or off the water will put anyone in a great mood.
Another Taku shot just because! The shots I got of him are some of my bests of the 2023 Northern Swing.
I also followed Luke Palmer, who had a phenomenal year and a great Northern Swing. Palmer is a good friend, which always makes for a fun time when we get to work together on the water. Watching him do well is awesome; witnessing it and getting to capture it on camera — even better!
Here are a few more photos of Taku from the Lake St. Clair event. I was proud of so many of these images of my Japanese friend. It made it hard work to consolidate down to this short list. 
It’s always a fun moment when the Bassmaster LIVE camera man gets pumped up with the rest of us.
The next Elite stop was Lake Champlain, on the border of New York and Vermont. I followed the winner, Kyoya Fujita, who crushed smallmouth for four straight days. It was awesome to watch. Fujita is already interesting enough in his lure selection and fishing approach. Capturing him putting it all together for a win was nothing less than a great week in my book.
Taking a quick detour from the fish action, here is another one of my favorite image categories — rough water. It’s no fun to be in, but it makes for some killer photos. Here are a few of my favorites from this year. 
It was the last stop of the Northern Swing, and the Elite Series season, at the St. Lawrence River and Lake Ontario.
By far the favorite stop of the swing. Patrick Walters and I fished on the University of South Carolina fishing team at the same time, developing a friendship before his Elite debut.
Getting to watch a friend and former Gamecock move up to the big leagues and have quick success has been nothing less than fun to watch. 
Getting to team back up with him on the water and capture him winning at the St Lawrence was priceless.
We finish up the season in October with the final Opens event on the Harris Chain in Florida. 
I closed my season getting to watch JT Thompkins finish his outstanding year winning the overall Bassmaster Opens EQ points race and sealing his spot on the Elite Series for 2024.
Thompkins is another young gun who has been incredible to watch throughout the 2023 season.
And there you have it. My best of photos from my on-the-water galleries in 2023. I’ll top it off back home in South Carolina with a cool scene from Green Pond Landing, which is always a sight to see during takeoff time. I am incredibly blessed to have this job, and beyond grateful to have the privilege of capturing these incredible moments. I hope I was able to put you in the moment as much as possible throughout this gallery, and I hope you enjoy these shots as much as I do.