A fifth-place finish at the Guaranteed Rate Bassmaster Elite at Tennessee River felt good after being away for two years, but I don’t want to make any assumptions. This sport is very humbling, and I could go to the next six events and not get paid.
That being said, I’m starting to feel like I’m back in the mindset that I was in a couple of years ago. It takes time to do that, but I feel it’s happening and that’s encouraging.
I fished some local events in January and February that helped get me going, but they were team events. Now, it feels good to be fully underway in the Elite season with a solid finish under my belt.
At the first 2021 event on the St. Johns, I really thought I was gonna catch ‘em. I had an area that I thought would produce the right fish, but it didn’t happen and I finished 63rd.
On the Tennessee River, I hoped to make something out of what I found, and I did. I guess you could say I’m starting to knock the rust off a little bit.
During that event, I focused on the area I fished during the 2019 Classic. About 10 miles from takeoff ended up being the hot area, with several of the Top-10 anglers in a 3- or 4-mile stretch.
I think a lot of guys hadn’t been there, but they watched the Classic in 2019 when most everything happened downstream. For me, I was most comfortable in that area I’d fished during the Classic because that’s where the dirtiest water was.
I caught a lot of my fish on crankbaits, but on Day 3 I lost a big one and found that many fish I caught weren’t hooked well. When this continued on Day 4, I put away the crankbaits, picked up a spinnerbait and rode that the rest of the way.
Overall, I’d say that getting my mind back to where it was a couple of years ago on the Elites gives me the perspective I need to have a strong season. Part of that is recognizing the ups and downs of tournament fishing.
Obviously, I would like to have had a better finish on the St. Johns, but a Top 10 on the Tennessee River kind of neutralizes that first event and hopefully gets the ship turned around.
The biggest encouragement for me is my rise in the Bassmaster Angler of the Year points. I have to continue improving, but keeping myself in good shape for a Bassmaster Classic spot is my top priority — that’s why I’m here.
My number one goal is to qualify for the 2022 Classic. If there are trophies that happen along the way, that’s awesome, but my goal is to make the Classic every year. I don’t want to sit out another Classic until I retire.
That’s what pushes me every day. I’ve finished second and third in past Classics, and to be so close, it aggravates me. I’ve had chances to do some great things. If circumstances had gone my way those couple of weeks, then I’d have a different career.
But the other way to look at it is this: I’ve been so close. I’ve had some heartbreaking experiences at the Classic, and it’s just going to make it that much better when I do win one.