A solid performance, finally

Last week’s tournament on Dardanelle was a good one for me, although I’m not exactly sure why.

Last week’s tournament on Dardanelle was a good one for me, although I’m not exactly sure why. Maybe I learned a little something but I wouldn’t call it earth shaking by any means.

This has been my toughest start ever as a professional angler. (I said that last year, too.) I’ve not finished as low as I did at Toledo Bend in a decade or so, and certainly not in an Elite Series event. I did come close, though, in 2009 with a 96th place finish. It was on Dardanelle, believe it or not.

And, to the best of my knowledge, I’ve never moved up in an event like I did last week.

The strange thing about this year is that I haven’t really been doing anything different. I’m preparing exactly like I always do, practicing exactly like I always do and fishing like I always do. Things just haven’t come together for me.

Last week I had two places that I thought might hold the winning fish. One place, way up in the river, I felt really confident about. The other, way down in the lower lake, I didn’t feel so confident about.

On Thursday morning, I ran to the upper river spot. It didn’t work out. I wasn’t catching them. Late in the day I made the long run down to the lower lake area, even though I only had about a half hour to fish there. That was a good decision. I didn’t catch many fish — I was in 80th place after the weigh-in — but I did learn some things that let me move up each day from then on.

If I learned anything, or if I think I figured something out about my horrible season, it’s that I need to make adjustments quicker and maybe move more often. I didn’t think that was a problem before but it might have been. Sticking too long with a nonproductive pattern or staying on a spot too long will kill you in almost any high-level tournament. You just can’t do it.

I finished the tournament in 6th place. That really matters because it gives me options for the rest of the season when it comes to qualifying for the 2015 Classic.

Going into last week, I figured I had to have a really good finish to have any chance at making the Classic through the Toyota Bassmaster Angler of the Year system. I knew that anything less than a Top 10 and I’d be in the same position I was in last year — having to win an Open or an Elite event in order to qualify.

Now, however, I have a shot at making it through the AOY. Granted, it’ll be a struggle and require that I finish the season with all Top 20 finishes but it is doable.

That’s enough for now. I need to get back on the road. (It’s Sunday night.) I’m going to drop my truck and boat at a friend’s house in Tennessee, catch a plane ride home and spend five days with the family. Then, on Friday we’ll all head out in the RV to Chickamauga for the next Elite tournament.

Mike Iaconelli’s column appears weekly on Bassmaster.com. You can also find him on Facebook and Twitter or visit his website, MikeIaconelli.com.