Last year was the toughest year for me professionally. Not all of it was fishing related, but that didn’t make it any easier. Now, however, I’m relaxed and in the best place I’ve been in a long time.
It’s no secret that I wasn’t real happy at the other organization. I didn’t think that the things that were said at the time were happening, or at least the things I thought were said would happen. At the same time we were all dealing with COVID, and at the same time I was dealing with a difficult business ownership situation that had nothing to do with fishing.
The business ownership situation worked itself out this spring. I no longer have to deal with it. That’s a lot off of my mind.
The overall COVID effect on fishing was interesting. I noticed that B.A.S.S. was able to fish all of their events. That was no small feat. The medical situation was changing all the time. They had to adapt, move tournaments around and reschedule things. Nevertheless, they got it done. Every tournament on the schedule was fished. Frankly, I was impressed.
There’s more to that than just fishing. Sponsors pay us to promote and sell product. You can’t do that when you’re at home in your living room. You have to show anglers what products will do, why they work. You do that by fishing with them. And, to be frank, I figured if we didn’t start fishing more big events the fees they pay would start to go down.
And so I made the switch to B.A.S.S., and I didn’t use any sort of exemption to get here. I fished my way back in through the Bassmaster Opens. I’m proud of that. No matter what you say about me fishing the Bassmaster Elite Series you can’t say I don’t belong. I earned my place.
I’ve been asked many times what it’s like to be back, specifically how’s the competition. I think some anglers and fans think that the competition has been watered down. Nothing could be farther from the truth. The names have changed, but nothing else. In fact, it’s maybe a little tougher than it was back in the day. The modern bass angler is a really good bass angler. Most of the guys know how to compete with the clock running.
If you doubt that, look at the weights. They’re as heavy as ever. There are no easy days, no deadwood, no gimmes.
Another thing to look at is the Bassmaster Angler of the Year race. I finished eighth this year with a point total of 658. I don’t have any detailed statistical information, but I’ve been doing this for 20 years. I have a pretty good handle on things, and it seems to me that in some past years I’d have finished higher with that many points. The Elite Series is as competitive, or more competitive, that it ever was, and I don’t see that changing — except maybe it’ll get tougher.
I’m happy to be back. I made the right decision. I’ve made 15 Bassmaster Classics. Next year will be my 16th. I’m as excited about that as I was back in 2003 when I fished my first one on the Louisiana Delta.
I’ll admit that in the back of my mind I think this year could have been a little better. It would have been nice to win one. But overall I’m happy with everything, and I’m grateful for what I have. I’m in a good place, relaxed and back where I belong.