My concern about losing the two 9-pounders in the Toho tournament was real. In the past, I'd let things outside my control cause me to lose control over the things I could or should have been able to control. I was determined not to let that happen again. And, as fate would have it, something happened the week before that helped me.
While I was doing my seminar on cranking at The Bass University in Framingham, Mass., I asked the participants if they'd like to talk about the mental side of bass fishing in the evening. They all said yes, and so we got together after supper for a good old-fashioned talk.
I reviewed some things that my coach taught me last year. They included stuff like staying positive, don't let small things bother you and don't judge your day by how the morning goes. I probably got more good out of it than they did. Those things were fresh in my mind on Saturday as I was coming down the homestretch. I worked hard on them as I thought about those two big fish. It worked. I was able to calm down and go about the business of catching as many bass as I could. I'll do exactly the same thing every time I fish from now on.
Most of my fish were caught on Lucky Craft LVR D lipless crankbaits (size 7 and 10) in black and gold. I threw both size baits on a Quantum Smoke PT Micro Guide medium-action cranking rod. My reel was a 6:3 Quantum PT Smoke reel spooled with 12-pound-test Vicious Pro Elite fluorocarbon line. I also caught a few on the old ball and chain (Carolina rig). I used 14-pound-test Vicious Pro Elite fluorocarbon top and bottom along with a 3/4-ounce Eagle Claw tungsten weight and a 3/0 TroKar hook. My bait was a junebug-colored Zoom Trick Worm. My rod and reel were both Quantum Smoke PT models.
As far as whether or not this (having already qualified for the 2012 Bassmaster Classic) will change the way I fish this year, I'd have to say not much. I've been fishing a long time and — I don't want to sound arrogant here — I've won a Toyota Tundra Bassmaster Angler of the Year title as well as more than a million dollars in prize money.
It wasn't like I didn't know how to fish. It was a matter of putting things together for a win. The only thing that might happen is that if I'm struggling late in the season, I can still go for a win. I won't have to fish conservatively to make sure I catch enough fish to earn a spot in the Classic. That's already taken care of with this win. But no, other than that, nothing much is going to change.
Finally, I want to say something about my wife, Le Ann. You know, during this whole struggle to get a win, she's been right with me. She lived and died with me every time I came close. Her pain hasn't been any less than mine. If the truth be told, I'm not the only one with the monkey off my back.