So, your plan to become a professional bass fisherman is leading you from local and regional tournament competition to the national scene and competing on the Bassmaster Open tournament series, with an end goal of getting an invitation to the top level Bassmaster Elite Series. After more than 10,000 miles traveled in 2021, hundreds of late-night driving hours and countless hours practicing and competing on the water in nine Bassmaster Open tournaments, my same dream came down to a just few ounces of weight, or just one more keeper bass.
I ended the 2021 Bassmaster Open tournament season with a 15th-place finish at the Bassmaster Open at Grand Lake. My weight tied with Billy McCaghren Jr. for 14th place after the second day weigh-in, but since Billy had a larger one-day weight than I did for either of the first two tournament days, he was awarded 14th place by the tiebreaker, and I was awarded 15th place and thus lost one Angler of the Year point. For the year, I ended up in fifth place for Angler of the Year totals and in fifth place in the Central Division.
I did not qualify for the 2022 Bassmaster Classic or for the 2022 Bassmaster Elite series but I was only one AOY point away from getting an invitation to the Elites for next year from my fifth-place finish in the Central Division as I had the tie breaker in my favor. Just to show how much a single keeper bass can impact your career in one of these tournaments, look at the two examples below for tournaments where I failed to weigh in a limit of five bass on either the first or second tournament day.
Example 1: During the Central Division Open tournament at Pickwick Lake, I had located several good schools of bass and had great weights for the first and second tournament days. I qualified as one of the top 10 anglers to compete on the third and final tournament day. During that final day, I lost three bass at the boat that each weighed 4 pounds or better, and I even touched one of them briefly. I had a limit for the last day weigh-in, but it was my smallest limit of the tournament. Even though I ended up in third place at Pickwick Lake, any one of those three bass I lost that day, when added to my catch, would have elevated my weight enough to win the tournament and gain two AOY points in the Central Division. I only needed 1 pound, 8 ounces to win the tournament. That is why it is called fishing and not catching.
Example 2: Issues with a blown powerhead on my outboard during the first Central Division Open tournament day at Lewis Smith Lake in Alabama forced me to have my co-angler take my bag of bass into another competitor’s boat and proceed to the weigh-in without me. I had a good limit weighing about 12 pounds, so it was worth the effort. Matt Lee was kind enough to loan me his bass rig to use for the second tournament day. Due to lack of sleep that night while moving tackle, rods, reels, and accessories from my disabled boat to Matt’s boat and getting familiar with how his boat was rigged, I was not on top of my game during the second tournament day. I was able to weigh in only two small keeper bass. Competing from a strange boat was a weird feeling all that day, and I suffered a lot of short strikes and bass just missing my topwater lure. A fog delay on the second day also limited my early morning opportunities, and I had an earlier check-in time that day. One more keeper bass or 1 more pound of weight on the second day would have added another five AOY points to my total. I ended up in 42nd place and only 4 ounces from getting a check for more than $3,300.
I know these instances sound like I am making excuses, but the reality is I was just that close to qualifying for the Elites. So close and yet so far away. Overall, I had a good year on the 2021 Bassmaster Opens tour and placed in the money in four of the nine tournaments with a total of $28,895 in tournament prize money. I learned a lot during the past year, especially how to use the new forward-looking sonar effectively.
Most importantly, I am grateful to my family, friends and sponsors who have continued to encourage and support me in this rollercoaster profession I have chosen. A shout out to my mentor Mark Menendez for reminding me how to count to five, to my grandfather for always having my back and for being a reliable source of wisdom and advice and to my wife, Morgan.
I am looking forward to the 2022 Bassmaster Open tournaments, and I will apply everything I have learned during this past season to having better practices and tournaments, and I know good things are on the horizon.