Back to the hardware store

When you look at the Bassmaster Elite Series, we all spend our offseason a little differently. For me, it’s back to the 5 1/2-day work weeks at our family hardware store.

This schedule only leaves me with Saturday afternoons and Sundays to fish, but that’s actually a good thing because it gives me a break from the demanding grind of an Elite season. After several weeks on the road and a whole lot of highway miles, it’s nice to be away from the fishing scene for a while and get myself rested and refocused for next season.

That’s not to say I completely ignore fishing. I do get the itch now and then, so I’ll spend some time on the ponds at my family’s farm. I’ll also fish a few local derbies with my dad, but they’re much more low-key than Elite events.

I do enjoy deer hunting on the family property, and even though I missed one recently, it’s a very relaxing time for me. When I get done hunting, I’ll usually stay around and work on the farm so it’s a full day that really helps me unwind.

I’ll typically stay in this mode until about Thanksgiving. That’s when I start refocusing on tournament fishing.

That’s when it really starts hitting me that things have to get rolling. I’ll start watching tournament videos and studying lake maps.

I’ve camped during Elite events for the past few years, and setting up all the logistics requires a lot of effort. I’ve learned not to procrastinate, so I already have all my planning done for 2022.

I have all my campsites booked, and that’s a big relief because many of the places we go don’t have a lot of sites available. For me, it’s important to have a fully functional place to camp, but also one that allows me to relax in the evenings and get the rest I need to maintain the pace of an Elite Series week. 

Of course, sewer and water hook ups are important, but I also want to be close to the fishery. Taking that a step further, proximity to the takeoff site is a big consideration because you don’t want to be facing an hour drive each morning.

The one thing I always look for is a quiet location. It’s nice to have friends close, but when you’re fishing 15 hours a day, you don’t want to be stuck in party central.

When you can get the right campsites, this is a really enjoyable way to travel. You can sleep in your own bed every night and cook a good meal after a day of fishing.

I’ve stayed in rental houses a couple of times, but I always felt like I wasted a lot of the food items I bought. Also, every morning, there was this feeling I was walking out and leaving something.

When I camp, I feel like I’m much more efficient with my time and resources. Also, I have a routine and a place I put everything, so I don’t worry so much about leaving anything. 

That kind of peace of mind is essential for the focus I need on the Elite Series. Next year’s schedule includes a few places I’ve never been, but overall, it looks like we’re going to have a great year with events that will require some big weights to do well.

I’m anxious to get after it next year, and it’s good to know I’ll have comfortable living arrangements on the road. That always helps keep me relaxed and focused — hopefully, that will pay off with one of those blue trophies next year.

It sure would be nice to carry one home. I could store in the camper, but I might strap it on the hood of my truck and drive it home.