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Getting down to business

After winning the 2022 Bassmaster Rookie of the Year and also winning an event my first year on the Elites, I came into 2023 with what I think are reasonable expectations. I told myself if I do half of what I did last year and keep myself in contention to make the Bassmaster Classic that would be a good year.

I know everybody talks about the sophomore slump, but I wanted to avoid that by, at least, being consistent this year. The way I intend to do that is to play conservative when I have to throughout the season.

So far this year, I’ve had one pretty good finish and one that was not the greatest finish. That’s not what I would have wanted, but it’s good enough to keep me in the Classic.

When I get into a tournament where I’m not catching a lot of fish or I kind of know how things are going to end up, I may have to catch fish that I don’t want to catch to keep myself up in the standings and avoid a big bomb. Even if my worst finish is in the 70s, in the grand scheme of things, that’s not the worst thing, when there’s more than 100 anglers.

I think any external pressure this season will come when we go up north. There’s going to be a lot of eyes on me because of my win on the St. Lawrence River last year.

That’s probably more from people who don’t really know me personally, who saw me do well last year and expect me to do well after what I did. In reality, that was my first year of full-time fishing professionally, so the next year is never going to be the same.

I can say that the biggest thing I learned last year was, when I’m fishing new places, if I find one 3-mile area where I can just live the entire tournament, I seemed to have very high success rates.

Finding those key areas allowed me to put my time in fishing, not driving. I learned to keep my head down and not worry about having to be in all these different areas.

In seven of the events last year, I had that 3-mile area, and the results speak for themselves. In the two events where I didn’t have those areas, I was down in the standings.

I already had one of those disappointing events this season, but whenever that happens I don’t let it get to me. Between the Elites and local tournaments, I fish 20 events a year. The fact is, not every one is going to be good. It’s the game we play, and you’re going to have some bad ones. You have to put it behind you and look forward to the next one.

As I look ahead to my first Bassmaster Classic, this is the tournament I’ve dreamed about since I’ve been following bass fishing. It’s the biggest event of my career, but I’ll have a lot of family and friends there, so I’m not going to let it stress me out. I’m just going to enjoy it.

I’ve heard some things about Classic week and all the additional media and events. I’m sure it’s going to be like no other event I’ve fished, but I got a little taste of the media deal after winning last year the St. Lawrence.

I’ll probably face even more of this at the Classic, so I’ll handle it as well as I can. When I’m on the water, I’ll block it out and not let it distract me. I’ll leave it all at the dock.

What I anticipate the most is the morning of blastoff on Day 1. With all the people on the docks and the fans cheering, that will be the coolest part. Whether I make the final day or not, those first five minutes of driving, after you take off and everyone’s cheering and Dave Mercer calls your name, will be the best.

After that, it’ll be time to get down to business.