My midseason assessment

With the first five Bassmaster Elite Series tournaments in the books, I figured it was time for a midseason assessment of how I’m doing. I’m currently in 41st place in the Toyota Bassmaster Angler of the Year standings, one place shy of qualifying for the Bassmaster Classic.

I’m not happy with where I’m sitting, but there’s plenty of time to climb up the ladder. There are four more Elite qualifying events left this season, plus the Angler of the Year Championship.

I’ve had two decent tournaments. I finished 15th at Winyah Bay and 12th at Lake Hartwell. The other three events could have been worse, but they surely needed to be better. I finished 50th at the St. Johns River, 64th at Lake Lanier and 57th at Lake Fork.

It’s hard to overstate the importance of the AOY points. They are life and death in this sport. If you don’t earn enough points to consistently qualify for the Bassmaster Classic, you won’t last long as an Elite Series pro.

I have to learn to make better adjustments when I’m not having a good tournament so I can finish in the 30s and 40s and not in the 50s or 60s or worse. When things aren’t going your way, the focus becomes all about surviving in the point standings. Gaining an extra 10 points by making good decisions during a bad tournament will keep you on the water over the long haul.

Lanier was one of those tournaments where I didn’t make the right adjustments. Given the cool, early spring water, I knew the spotted bass in deeper water would be more consistent. I fished shallow with crankbaits, which is one of my strong suits. A lot of times shallow bass early in the spring are here one day and gone the next. I should have spent more time looking for bass in deep water.

I was catching bass at Lake Fork by fishing topwater baits over points. It was a productive pattern and a lot of guys caught bass doing that. My downfall is that I didn’t find enough places to fish during practice.

I need to do a better job when we get to Guntersville. The bass there will be on ledges, and they’ll go for things like crankbaits, swimbaits and big worms. If you can find them, they’re not hard to catch.

My goal will be to find six to eight schools of bass that I can rotate through during the day. Another reason for locating several schools is that some of the other guys are likely to find some of the same fish I do.

If Guntersville’s bass get funky and won’t go for my big ledge baits, I’ll slow down and bring out a drop shot or a shaky head. A lot of people overlook finesse baits when fishing ledges for big bass. That kind of adjustment is the type of thing that can get you those 10 extra AOY points.

I only finished 60th last year at the St. Lawrence River, but I learned a lot about drifting with the current while fishing a drop shot in deep water. That event also gave me a better idea of where to fish to catch the bigger smallmouth. I’m looking forward to having a better tournament there this year.

Cayuga Lake follows the St. Lawrence tournament. I’ve never been to Cayuga. I know it has a lot of smallmouth and largemouth. I’m going to keep an open mind and go there with no preconceived notions. I’ll be sure to find a backup plan after I find something I’m comfortable with.

Fort Gibson has been rescheduled for mid September. That’s a tough time of year to catch bass anywhere in the country. I believe there will be shallow fish to be caught, which is right in my wheelhouse. Wherever I am on the AOY points ladder by then, I believe I can step up a few rungs there.