Before I talk about my own performance at Lake Conroe, I want to congratulate Jordan Lee. I’ve gotten to know him a little bit through our mutual associations with Strike King and Tackle Addict, and he’s a true asset to the sport. Even before he won the GEICO Bassmaster Classic presented by DICK’S Sporting Goods, it was evident that he was one of the brightest shining stars around, and I’m sure it won’t be long until he’s in the winner’s circle again.
I also need to give a lot of credit to the fans and the city of Houston. They rolled out the red carpet for us in every respect, and it was obvious that they were pleased to have us there. Ahead of time some of us were worried about how the spectator boat traffic would be and in hindsight I can say that 99 percent of them were ultra-respectful. I only saw one non-competitor fishing over the course of the two days. Texans know bass fishing, and they love and respect the sport. While I was certainly disappointed that I didn’t make the cut to Day 3, I got a chance to represent my sponsors at the Expo and meet many of the fans who make this incredible career possible.
Now to my performance…
I ended up 35th, which would be a disappointment in any Classic, but particularly on a lake where I’ve had so much success. Now that I’ve had some time to think about it, I’m not going to make any excuses. I still love Lake Conroe, and I’d be happy to fish there again. It just didn’t work out this time. In fact, if I had it to do over again, I’d approach it the same way.
I spent most of my tournament fishing the way that it was won, in the same types of areas where Jordan caught his big bag. I was just off. As I’ve said many times before, there’s a fine line between a great finish and a terrible one. Jordan won without catching a limit on two of the three days. If he’d missed one of those bites, or made his cast 10 feet to the right of where he did, we might be looking at Steve Kennedy as the new champ. If your rotation gets off by 10 or 15 minutes, that’s the difference between a big bag and a goose egg. I feel like I just never dialed it completely in.
The fine line between first and last is even more pronounced in the Bassmaster Classic. During the regular season, when you’re fishing for points, you make certain decisions that you might not make in a winner-take-all event. Again, I hope it doesn’t sound like I’m making excuses. That’s not my intent. I feel like I could’ve gone back out on the lake on Monday or Tuesday, fished the same areas with the same lures, and pounded out a 20-, 25- or even a 30-pound bag. Jordan was on his game and took advantage of the windows that he was offered. In the past, I’ve benefitted from those windows – including a couple of times on Conroe – but they didn’t open up for me this time.
I try to take each tournament as a standalone event, without any regard to the concept of momentum. In fact, throughout my whole career often my worst finishes were right before or right after some of my best. I have an opportunity to press the reset button this week at Toledo Bend, and I can’t think of a better place to do it. It’s another lake that has been good to me, and the current warm weather we’re experiencing will open up opportunities for guys with a history on the lake. Ninety five percent of the field may be operating “inside the box,” but I feel like those 5 percent of us with a longer track record on Toledo have the opportunity to think a little bit “outside the box.”
I know that I said above that sometimes we approach regular season events differently than we do a championship like the Classic, but I feel like this is one where I have an opportunity to win, and I’m eager to take some chances going forward. In fact, I’m excited about the rest of the schedule, including Ross Barnett, Rayburn, Dardanelle and of course the northern swing.
Jordan is living a well-earned dream right now, one that I’ve coveted for a long time. I’d like to think that I have a few good years left in me, and I’m still hopeful and confident that one day all of this hard work will result in an Angler of the Year title and a Classic trophy….or maybe a few of each. I don’t care where I win them, but I’ll be thrilled if I get another shot at Conroe.