These are the breaks

Orlando, I missed you.

This marks the first time I’ve been home in six weeks. Man, it feels great to see, my wife, my son, my brother-in-law, my dog and especially my mom and dad. On the drive home from Ross Barnett, where I’m still being haunted by a 7-pounder that lunged out of my hands at the boat (that was a $10,000 fish), I started thinking about the way this season is starting to unfold.

It’s been a weird one. Two of the guys who have won, Dustin Connell and Jacob Wheeler, are Bassmaster Elite Series rookies. My son, Cody, says that’s good news for me. If luck holds, I can win one, too. Two of the other guys who won, Timmy Horton and John Murray, are long-time veterans that don’t always get their deserved share of the limelight. All of those guys deserved to win. Don’t get me wrong. It’s just a weird season in the sense that they aren’t the usual names you expect to see on the podium. And that’s not counting Jordan Lee’s incredible win at the GEICO Bassmaster Classic.

Excitement hasn’t been in short supply this year, but outside of Okeechobee, I haven’t been fishing up to the standards I’m accustomed too. I want to be in contention to win every tournament, and it just hasn’t happened so far. What has happened, though, is a learning process.

Last month, I talked about how many hours go into an Elite Series tournament before you ever cast a line in competition. This month, let me tell you a few more lessons I’ve learned in the last few weeks: 

Lesson one, don’t ask anything about the fish — One of the biggest advantages I had at Ross Barnett was a little local knowledge of how to run the lake. I went out with a buddy in pre-fishing, and he showed me how to run certain areas. You know, how to avoid the stumps and (thankfully) how to avoid the wind that ultimately created a lot of cool pictures and a lot of broken parts on The Rez. Because of that, I was able to fish more effectively and more safely than I might have otherwise been able to do.

Lesson two, trust your gut — But, I tell you what, I wish I hadn’t asked about the fish. That’s no knock on my buddy—it’s just more of a nod to the second lesson, trusting your own instincts. At one point, Bobby Lane and I had keyed in on the same spot of fish. Bobby beat me to the spot and ended up catching 20 pounds on it on Day 1. That’s fine, who am I to mess with Bobby Lane? At another point, I probably should have run a little further up the river than I did. I should have trusted my gut. If I had, I would have been fishing where the VanDam family and Dustin Connell were.

Even still, if I had just landed that one 7-pounder that I had at the boat, I would have cashed a check at Ross Barnett. It would have been my second of the year, which ain't too bad for an old California kid like me. But, them’s the breaks, as they say.

After some much-needed recovery time at home—mostly spent coordinating orders of our new, super popular HPT rods at Enigma Fishing— I suit back up and head to Sam Rayburn. I’m bound to learn a few more lessons in Texas. Then again, I might just teach a few, too.