Looking back at 2022

When I look back at the 2022 Bassmaster Elite Series season, I have to say that, without winning an event, it was definitely my best year. It was my most consistent year, and I’m very pleased with that.

I also have to say that I look back at 2022 as a missed opportunity year. Even though it was my best year, I had more opportunities than I’ve ever had to have a truly memorable year.

In the past when I’ve had bad events, I was totally away from the bite. It was such a massive learning curve. I learned so much by having a really bad event.

This year, I was always around fish. I was around winning areas or Top 10 areas, and then I just missed opportunities. My finishes still weren’t super bad; I was still hovering around that cutline.

That’s where I saw the growth. In fact, this is probably the year my fishing experience has seen the most growth.

One example of that was Day 2 at Lake Fork. I was outside of the cut, and I made a really good gut decision to go and do what I know. When I made that decision, I caught 25 pounds on a big jig and jumped into the cut. That was a turning point in my year.

Probably the worst of my missed opportunities was a glidebait fish falling off at Lake Chickamauga. That was nearly a career event where I could have won an Elite event start-to-finish on a glidebait. I was two lost fish away from winning that event.

Even with those missed opportunities, I was still able to qualify for my first Bassmaster Classic. After it was official, I had someone ask me, “How does it feel?”

I said, “It feels like when I won the Elite on Tenkiiller (2019). It’s an indescribable feeling just because of the journey and how long it’s taken.” Thinking back to when I was a kid in another country, looking at the Classic on TV, and now knowing that I’m going to be fishing it is a surreal feeling.

This year was particularly special because Kayla and I had our daughter with us. Rivah was born in January, and she never missed an Elite tournament. She made it to the first event in Florida, and she’s been on the road with us ever since.

Traveling with an infant was a new experience for us, but the joys of having her there outweigh the challenges. When you come back in after a long day of practice or a tournament day, Kayla and Rivah are there in their jerseys. It’s all the tiny things that make this whole life experience great.

Looking ahead to my first Classic, it gives me goosebumps just thinking about having my daughter there. But for Kayla, as well, she’s been on the ride with me the whole time. She’ll finally get to go to Night of Champions and experience the behind-the-scenes elements. She’ll get to see all of these things that I’ve dreamed of because she’s worked just as hard as me to get there.

This qualification is a little bit for everyone. My family and Kayla’s family are going to be there, and they’ll get to see what this whole thing has been about. They’ll get to see what my dream has been for all these years.