We just finished an Elite tournament at the Potomac River that was one of the most grueling events I’ve ever fished in my career. Remember, I spent several years living in south Texas, so I’ve experienced some scorching weather, but this might’ve been the worst I’ve ever encountered. Most of the time there’s a little relief from the heat in the morning, but in Maryland I’d wake up at 4:30 in the morning and I’d be sweating within a matter of minutes. It wouldn’t stop until 8 or so at night when I’d finally get into the air conditioning and take a shower.
I spent a lot of time fishing a Strike King Pure Poison vibrating jig, and as I’d crank the handle on my reel I could feel the sweat pouring down my face and my body. It was actually a slight relief when I switched to my flipping stick and fished a little bit slower. The sweat still came, but it didn’t rush out of me like a faucet.
I was pleased to make another cut to Sunday and eventually end up in sixth place, especially because my practice wasn’t exceptional. I picked up a few little clues on each of the three days, but I didn’t quite know if I could put it all together by tournament time, and I certainly didn’t know if other anglers would be in the same areas.
I caught them – nearly 60 pounds of bass over the four days -- but so did all of the other top five anglers in the AOY standings. Jacob Powroznik finished 35th, Greg Hackney finished 13th, Randall Tharp finished seventh and AOY leader Gerald Swindle kept his foot on the gas with a 10th place finish. I have a burning desire to win the AOY title, but the way Swindle is fishing I may have to wait at least another year. In fact, it’s silly to think that any of those guys will stumble at La Crosse or Mille Lacs.
I only gained a few points at the Potomac, and now I’m 37 behind Gerald. While that’s disappointing, if I can’t close the gap, I’m not going to say that I lost AOY, simply because I never led it. With a Classic berth at Conroe sealed up, that frees me to take some risks and potentially make great things happen. I know that’s a concept that gets tossed around a lot, to the point where it sometimes loses its meaning, but we got a good reminder of how it can really happen on the last day at the Potomac.
While he was being interviewed at the dock, Jason Christie said something along the lines of no matter what happened, there was no way that he could finish worse than 12th. He had everything to gain and nothing to lose, and he went out and caught a tournament best limit of 23-1. Justin Lucas put together an amazing performance over four days, but honestly I didn’t think a catch like Christie’s was possible on the weekend. That’s why he’s the “King of Day 4.” We can all learn from him.
I am going to try to channel some of Jason’s attitude over the remainder of the season. If there’s a reasonable gamble to take that might give me a better chance of winning, I’m going to chase it. For example, at La Crosse I might be more willing to lock down and run the risk that something goes mechanically wrong or that I get locked out by a barge and end up being late to weigh in. Or maybe I’ll run into a gnarly backwater, the kind that eats lower units for lunch. That wouldn’t be wise if I was still looking for a spot in the Classic, but that’s not the position I’m in.
If you look at many of the great performances in our sport, they come in the biggest events, like the Bassmaster Classic or the Toyota Texas Bass Classic, where the anglers can let it all hang out. That type of attitude brings out the best in the best competitors. Look back to what Edwin Evers did on Day 3 of this year’s Classic on Grand, when he went to completely different water and crushed a big bag that nobody saw coming. Things like that usually only happen when there are no points on the line. That’s the position that I’m in right now with two events left to go, and I like the way that feels.