Like most southerners, I had been looking forward to the Elite Series’ northern swing, and now that we’re halfway through and we have a little break until the next event on Lake St. Clair, I can give myself a midpoint evaluation.
I have to say that I’m happy to have finished 19th on the St. Lawrence River and Lake Champlain, considering that my practice did not go very well for either of those events. I didn’t find big schools of fish so I never felt like I was in position to win.
On the St. Lawrence, I kind of missed the boat because I fished deep when a lot of those guys fished shallow. Even though I was one of the few guys that did decent by fishing deep, the better bags came shallow.
I focused on that 30- to 45-foot range because I caught a big bag there on the first day of practice and that kind of lured me in. By the end of practice, I was committed to fishing deep, but I just got off on the wrong foot.
At Champlain, I believe I found the fish to do well, but I just didn’t know what kind of fish I had found until the third day. I had three 5-pounders and two other good ones on that last day, but I feel like I should have done better there.
Overall, I feel like I’m where I need to be in the Toyota Bassmaster Angler of the Year points. Obviously, you want to be leading it, but I’m not out of it.
As I look ahead to the final regular-season Elite event and the AOY Championship, I’m also looking back at a few key moments, good and bad, from the two recent events. Here are my top three:
The first day of the St. Lawrence tournament, I’m running back with an hour left and I have 15 pounds. I stop on a spot I’d found in practice and catch a 5-10 that jumped me up to 19 and change. That was significant.
On the last day at the St. Lawrence, I was concentrating on the 30- to 40-foot range, but at noon, I didn’t have a good stringer. There was a lot of boat traffic that day, so I moved out to 45 feet, saw a big fish, dropped to it and it was a 4-pounder. That was another significant fish that turned what could have been a 40th place finish into a 19th place.
Now, you gotta take the highs with the lows, and the last day of Champlain gave me a double shot of disappointment. I had about a 5-pounder that just came off before I could get her close to the boat. If I hadn’t seen the fish, I would have thought it was a mudfish by the way she came up flopping and rolling, but it was definitely a bass.
Then, with 30 minutes left, I got a 5- to 6-pounder to the top of a mat, but before I could get to her, she flopped off. Those two hurt, but overall, I’m okay with how I finished.
The good thing is I’m pretty much secure for the Classic and that really eliminates the pressure going into the final two events. Next up, Lake St. Clair, is a lake I like to fish; I’ve won there before so I’ll carry a lot of confidence into that event.
Brandon Palaniuk probably feels the same way about this one and the AOY Championship on Mille Lacs. Brandon is in the driver’s seat for the AOY, and he has a good chance to finish it out, especially since we’re going to a couple of great smallmouth fisheries.
I don’t ever want to wish bad luck on anyone, but anything can happen in these last two tournaments. If Brandon has a bad event, that could make it interesting.
I don’t think we’ve ever had a true shoot-out in the AOY, so I think it would that would be interesting for the fans. I know we would enjoy that competition.