I love opening the Bassmaster Elite Season in Florida. I really do.
From a nostalgia perspective, the first major tournament I ever fished away from home was in Florida during the month of January.
And, of course, it goes without saying it’s the warmest place to fish in the nation this time of year.
Don’t get me wrong – I don’t mind fishing in a “snow bowl,” but it sure is easier on us physically to get ready to fish competitively and not be bundled up in heavy rainsuits or snow clothes.
Fishing in good weather puts us in a better place mentally too. Now, once we get past that first event, it doesn’t matter.
I spent two weeks in the Sunshine State prior to the Okeechobee event, fishing non-tournament lakes which helped me acclimate to the temperature. It was fun fishing different places around the state and knowing a big bite is possible on the next cast. It not only helped me get into the groove of fishing daily, but I was able reconnect with different tackle and multiple presentations.
I realize Florida fishing can be different, and it scares some anglers. Not me; I like the weather and the big fish potential. I’d hate to kick off the season on a lake with bad weather and small fish.
There was a day when I liked tough tournaments, but not anymore. I like big fish slugfests!
Getting a good start mentally is so important. Our season is a long, hard grind against a very hungry and aggressive group of Elites so you can’t afford to get behind the eight ball.
I didn’t have a great tournament. but I finished 35th, but if I don’t finish in the Top 10 I’m never happy. It wasn’t a great start to the year, but it wasn’t a bad one considering the quality of our field this season.
Trust me, this season is going to a challenge. There were lots of rookies in the top 50 last monght at Okeechobee. The new guys coming in are very talented, so we’ve have increased the size of quality anglers who are going to be tough to beat.
Starting in Florida has other benefits as well. While weather around much of the country was less favorable, angling fans got to watch us catch big fish on Bassmaster LIVE and Fox Sports 1. I’m sure that jacked up many anglers and sent them off to their favorite tackle shop to stock up on tackle even though they couldn’t put their boats in the water.
That’s good for the industry and gets everyone thinking about spring fishing, regardless of where they live.