You might expect that this week’s Toyota Bassmaster Angler of the Year Championship has dominated my thoughts since I won the final regular-season Elite Series event on Lake St. Clair, but it hasn’t. Truth is, I’ve had plenty to keep my mind occupied.
For example, one of the coolest parts of my sponsorships is the opportunity to work on new products for the following year. Well, I did that during a full day of testing and evaluation with my bait sponsors YUM and Booyah.
We worked hard and got a lot done because my sponsors know that deer season is right around the corner. I try to be responsive to my sponsors’ needs throughout the year, but they understand how important this fall recreation is to me, so we try to get whatever’s needed before I head to the woods.
I did get a jump start on deer season by taking a day trip to Kansas. We left early in the morning, worked on our stands and drove back that night. We cleared out the new growth near some of our stands, made sure the squirrels hadn’t chewed through our tie straps, we got rid of any wasp nests, put up cameras and repositioned a couple of the stands.
I spent an entire day working on my boat. I made sure every screw was double tight, all my tackle was in order and every piece of equipment I may need was in good shape. Every tournament is important, but I can’t afford to miss any opportunities this week due to mechanical issues.
The biggest thing I did between St. Clair and this week was the kids fishing derby I host, in conjunction with the Cherokee Nation’s National Holiday over Labor Day weekend. This is a big event that attracts thousands of people from all over for softball, volleyball and golf tournaments, a car show and a morning of fishing on a local pond. Jimmy Houston comes out and helps, and whether they’re 3 years old or 70 years old, he knows how to entertain people.
It’s getting bigger and bigger, and this year was really laid back and comfortable. The weather was nice, everything went smoothly and the kids had a great time. We had 600 kids and they all went home with a brand-new Lew’s rod-and-reel combo, a t-shirt and a tackle box.
We’ve been doing this event for several years now and some of these kids show up to fish with the rods they’ve gotten in previous years. You really see what you’re trying to accomplish when you watch these kids turn into fishermen.
There are some kids that have two or three, but there are other kids who you know that was their first fishing pole. Every story is a little bit different and every one makes you realize how important it is to encourage the kids.
The night before the event, I got a couple of Facebook requests for me to bring the St. Clair trophy. I took it and that was the hit of the event. For the kids to see the trophy up close and to take a picture with it was something they really enjoyed.
All of these things helped keep me occupied because there was nothing I could do about this week. I’m just not the kind of guy to sit and look at map and all that kind of stuff for hours and hours. I’m not saying that’s not helpful; I just don’t do it.
Instead of stressing myself before I could even go to Mille Lacs, I just did my best to keep my mind busy with things that helped me relax. But as soon as I left home, it was all business.
I arrived in Minnesota pretty calm. I know things are going to get crazy once the tournament starts, but I don’t have any reason to stress. I’m in the Classic, I got a win and I’ve had my most successful Elite season, as far as points.
I’m just going to try as hard as I can to find the biggest school of fish that I can. Hopefully the tournament goes well and, at the end of it, somebody’s going to win. If it’s me, great, if it’s somebody else, that’s fine too.
For whatever reason, I’m just laid back. Maybe those good feeling from a successful kids tournament hitched a ride to Minnesota with me.