Clausen: Coming full circle

As I finish my final preparations to start the 2016 season on the Bassmaster Elite Series, it’s easy to think back on the past two decades and feel like I’m at a new beginning. It’s been 15 years since I graduated from Eastern Washington University and moved to Northern California to try to make it as a bass pro, and 10 years since I won the 2006 Bassmaster Classic on Lake Toho.

It’s funny how things can come full circle.

I’ve floated around all over the country in that time, but I’m back fishing B.A.S.S., I got married shortly after New Year’s, and everything feels new. Change is good, and I’m excited about the coming season.

I have to admit, I worked harder and put more pressure on myself qualifying for the Elites than I’ve done since I started this whole bass-pro lifestyle way back in 2001. At the end of the 2014 season, I had decided to put in a concentrated effort to qualify for the Elites, so I registered to fish every one of the 2015 Bass Pro Shops Opens.

Yep, every one. All nine of them. I was all in.

I live in Spokane, Wash., so you can only imagine what my travel schedule looked like, hopping from the Pacific Northwest to the six FLW Tour events I fished, and then from there to three Open divisions scattered around the country (or wherever I’d stored my boat). I was constantly stressed out making airline connections to make it to the event, constantly waking up in a different hotel, constantly losing the battle to keep up with laundry and emails.

I’d go into every tournament morning thinking to myself, "Man, I really need to make this work out." I can’t say it was the most enjoyable season, but, here I am. Finally.

Looking ahead to a diverse schedule

I barely know anything about most of the fisheries on the 2016 Elite Schedule. Actually, I’ve been to three of them: I won an FLW Tour event on the Potomac River, I’m somewhat familiar with Wheeler Lake, and I fished Toledo Bend one time back in 2001. What do I know about the St. John’s River, where we open the 2016 season? Well, I know that I have a hotel reserved in Palatka, Fla., and that’s it. I’ve never even laid eyes on any of the other fisheries, and I’m really excited about that.