Heading north for practice

I recently headed north to start practicing for the Northern Bassmaster Open on Oneida Lake and then head directly to the St. Lawrence River for the next Bassmaster Elite Series event. This is definitely a transition time for me, particularly in the Elite season, and I have to say, I’m really looking forward to it.

This is only the third year I’ve been able to come up north and chase smallmouth bass. I’ll be honest; it’s exciting. I have the same feeling on this trip as I had in January when I was heading to Florida to start the Elite season.

While we’re up here, we’ll be around the spawn again. I think most of the smallmouth will be postspawn, but it really feels like a reset to the season. I think some of that is my lack of history in fishing up here. I have this thirst for knowledge; I’m excited to get on the water and see what I can learn.

I’m still trying to piece together how to tackle these smallmouth, so having another shot at filing in some of the gaps and deepening my understanding of these fish is something I’ve been eagerly anticipating. It’s like a rejuvenation period.

I personally love breaking down new water, so when you add in the smallmouth element, I know I’m going to enjoy the trip. I can’t say that I’d necessarily pick smallmouth or largemouth as my favorite, but I will say I’m happy to be up north at this time of the year because of the mood of the fish and the air temperatures.

Throughout the years, I haven’t done this — I haven’t left the South where it’s so hot and the fish are in summertime patterns to head up north. Here all the trees are green, all the grass is green and the whole ecosystem is in a different phase. It feels like April in my home state of Louisiana.

Up north, the birds are active, the shad are active, the bluegill are active — it just feels like the whole ecosystem is alive. Meanwhile, it’s 100 degrees back home.

The pleasant northern weather definitely makes fish more comfortable, but even if that were not the case, these smallmouth would still make it worth the trip. It’s hard to describe what it’s like when you hook a 4- or 5-pound smallmouth on a spinning rod.

It’s something that everyone should experience. I wish I would have done it 15 years ago. They’re so strong and relentless — they just don’t quit.

Of course, along with the fun of catching these smallmouth, the Northern Swing offers a chance to make some important movement in the standings. It’s also going to be crucial to finish the year strong so I can qualify for the Bassmaster Classic.

At this point in the season, we’re down to three tournaments left, but I break the season into thirds. The first third was not my best, and as a competitor, you want to do what you’re capable of, and I didn’t do that.

During the second third, I got it trending in the right direction, and I had a few good events. All I’m trying to do in these last three events is make three Top 10s. I’ve never made an Elite Top 10, so that’s a big goal. But if I’m able to accomplish that, it’s going to put me right where I need to be with everything else.

When you set a goal, if you don’t say it out loud — if you don’t believe it — there’s a 0% chance it will ever come true.