I was determined and focused that the last Bassmaster Northern Open tournament in 2021 was not going to derail my pursuit of a Bassmaster Opens Anger of the Year title and a position in the Bassmaster Elite Series for 2022. Leaving home early with my grandfather, Johnny Garrett (or Paws to me), would allow enough practice time on the St Lawrence River to locate productive locations and patterns. That practice time would lead to a 24th-place finish which would bring me closer to qualifying for 2022 Bassmaster Elite competition.
During practice, Paws and I were able to catch one or more smallmouth that weighed more than 6 pounds each day. We saw a lot of smallmouth bass on my Humminbird electronics in the deeper waters but could not get them to bite consistently. These bass were around 3 pounds, but mixed in where a few larger smallmouth bass. Using a KVD Dream Shot on a drop-shot rig worked well during practice on the larger deep bass.
During the tournament days, I could not catch the size of smallmouth that I did during practice in the deeper areas with the same technique. I had to change my strategy for the balance of the first tournament day focusing on shallower areas and using Strike King Tour Grade Spinnerbaits with tandem willow leaf blades. I had great results with one spinnerbait in a sunfish color and the second spinnerbait in white. I used Seaguar Abrazx fluorocarbon line in the 17-pound size on my Lew’s rod and reel combinations. This strategy worked well for me during the first tournament day as I was able to land several smallmouth bass in the 5-pound range and ended with a first-day tournament weight of 23 pounds and 6 ounces and in 14th place.
That left me primed and ready for the second day of the tournament. With over 180-pro anglers in the field, drawing boat number 65 on the first day allowed me to focus on areas that were not crowded. But on the second day, the field is reversed, putting me in the bottom third of the pack to take off. Still, I was very optimistic about my draw as it would give me a little more time on the water with the later check-in time. I had decided where to start Day 2 but arrived there only to find three competitor boats fishing the area. That pushed me to go to my plan B which was to find another starting spot with similar characteristics.
I was able to get a limit quickly on the second day and start culling. I was catching a lot of smallmouth bass just under 4 pounds during the second tournament day but could not get the big bite. I ended the day with a weigh-in total of 18 pounds and 8 ounces and in 24th place for the tournament. My total weight of 41 pounds and 14 ounces did not qualify me for the final championship day.
Only the Top 10 anglers advanced, but I did win a payout of $3,067, and more importantly, earned 177 more points towards the Angler of the Year totals. I now have 911 total points and am currently in fifth place in AOY standings. The top three in AOY totals and the top three in each of the divisions — North, South and Central — will each get a coveted invitation to compete in the 2022 Bassmaster Elite series, and that is my primary goal for 2021.
There are still three remaining Bassmaster Open tournaments — Lake Norman, North Carolina; Lewis Smith Lake, Alabama; and Grand Lake, Oklahoma. More points are to be earned in both the South and Central divisions.
With just a few days between tournaments, I will be doing maintenance on my Skeeter boat and Yamaha outboard, laundry, tackle prep, and lake planning. I will head out as soon as possible for each event to get in as much practice time on the lake as I can. I am excited about the possibilities before me as these next three tournaments will determine my next professional bass fishing career moves.