This past year was my fourth on the Bassmaster Elite Series. And I know you probably hear this a lot, but the Elite Series forces you to learn at every single event. When I think back on the year, I learned a lot of different things – about bass and about bass fishing – but when I think about it, the are definitely two major lessons I learned. Here they are.
Lesson 1: Find people to trust
This year on tour I realized that you have to know who you can trust. Over the course of the season I learned there were two or three guys who would tell me the truth. I may not ask them specifics about exactly what they're doing, but at least I can trust that what they're telling me isn't false, and that alone is valuable.
When you know someone's telling you the truth, it can put you on the right track sometimes, but the main benefit is during practice. Our time is so limited, that if somebody tells you a little something about how he's catching them, you might go spend three or four hours trying to make that work. If he's not telling the truth, you've wasted a lot of practice time. But if one of my friends tells me a little bit, I know it's the truth 100 percent, and I'm confident I can go and invest some of my practice time to try to pursue that pattern.
Really, I've come to realize lately that a lot of what I'm hearing isn't always the truth.
It takes a while to find some guys you can trust. It's not necessarily a character thing. Some guys just can't share what they're doing – it's not in them. It's just the way they are. They're good guys. It's just not in their competitive nature to share info. The guys I trust are the opposite. They see value in mutual relationships and feel they're going to get something out of the relationship by being open and honest. And it makes a big difference.
Lesson 2: Trim the pre-practice
The second major thing I came to realize this year was that I don't necessarily need all the extra pre-practice I used to think I needed.
Before, if there was a lake on the schedule that I'd never been to, and I had time to go spend a week there before the off-limits period, I'd usually make the extra trip just to scout the lake. It got to where I was doing that even for lakes I'd been to. But a lot of my best finishes this year were events where I just showed up, got on the current pattern and made the best of it. I'm a lot more confident now in just going with the flow and winging it.
That was the case at the Toyota Bassmaster Angler of the Year Championship at Lake Chatuge. It was a brushpile tournament, and usually for that type of pattern, it's beneficial to visit early and graph a lot of brush. I'd never seen the lake prior to practice, but I ended up getting on the right pattern in practice, and I finished sixth in that tournament.
The St. Lawrence was another example, where I finished 19th. That showed me you don't have to have a great practice – you just need to figure out an area, find a bait that's good and that can be enough to make a good tournament.
Winging it, and finding people I can trust made a huge difference for me this year, and I'm really excited about what this knowledge can do for me in 2019 and beyond.