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Consistently inside every cut

It’s funny in fishing because you have anglers who are volatile; they are either toward the top, or they will have a bomb. And honestly, those anglers at the end of their career, end up with more trophies. I’ve always been the type to try to be as even-keel as possible. I want to be consistent, aim to make every cut and cash a check at every tournament.

With that, I have had to learn, and it might have taken me all the way until this past season, how to go into that killer’s mindset when I have the opportunity to win. There is a big difference in my mindset and the decisions I make on the water, whether I am fishing to win or fishing to cash a check.

Starting off the morning right

It doesn’t matter if it is a tough fishery or a great fishery. If I find an area in practice where I can go and catch a limit in the first 15 to 20 minutes of the tournament, that’s probably where I am going to start. They may not be the biggest fish, but I have always felt good about having five fish in my livewell.

It doesn’t matter if I am on one of the best fisheries in the world, if my limit only weighs 10 pounds, hey, I still have five. You could ultimately say that I’m a numbers guy; I like throwing baits that get a lot of bites so I can try to get my limit quickly.

Facing adversity

One of the most important things I’ve learned about tournament fishing is, no matter how bad my Day 1 was, there’s still another day. No matter how bad it’s looking, as long as there’s still time on that clock, it’s still possible to make it happen. There were a few days last season where I had to make some pretty spectacular comebacks to make the cut. One tournament in particular was Lake Fork, where after Day 1, I was sitting in 64th place.

With the cut line being 47th, I knew I had to step it up a little bit. On Day 2, on my very last cast of the day, I caught a 4-pound, 15-ounce largemouth on a jig out from underneath a boat dock. That fish helped barely put me inside the cut line, squeaking into 45th. An eight-hour day of fishing can be a very long day, especially when the fish aren’t necessarily cooperating. Keeping my mind focused on the minute details of every cast, every pitch and everything happening around me is what paid off for me at the end of the day with that last key bite.

Staying mentally sharp on days that are filled with very few key bites can be the difference between fishing another day or going home. It’s hard to explain the strategy when coming from behind. It’s more of a mindset thing; I had to just “strap my boots up” and believe I would get it done. If you fail, you fail, but all year it seemed to keep working out because of my consistent belief in myself, especially when facing adversity.

Looking back on the 2022, making every cut and taking second in Bassmaster Angler of the Year is just about as consistent as a season can get. However, as good of a year as it was, taking second in AOY will only fuel the fire even more. Going into next year, I am not going to mess with my style or system because it seems to be working pretty well, but I will need to carry that same consistency, mindset and confidence to try to top the 2022 season.