It has been over two months now since Josh Bertrand finished second to Brent Chapman in a Fish-Off at the first Bass Pro Shops Central Open and narrowly missed qualifying for the Bassmaster Classic. In the face of that near miss, Bertrand has remained remarkably positive.
“I have had a lot of people ask me, ‘That must have been such a bummer to finish in second and be that close.’” Bertrand said. “They are definitely right, but it was still a great deal. I was lucky to do that well in the first one and I hope to continue that momentum for the rest of the year. I’ve been pretty happy about it.”
The lessons he learned at Lewisville Lake went beyond the fishing. Interacting with all of the Elite Series anglers provided him with a better understanding of what that kind of lifestyle entails.
“The biggest lesson I learned was watching how the professionals handled themselves,” Bertrand said. “James Niggemeyer was along one of the same stretches I was on in the tournament. Even though we didn’t say a lot to each other, he almost drew an imaginary line and didn’t cross it. I did the same. Even though it would have been easy to cross over when the other person was down on the other end, we shared the stretch all day without even saying much.”
Bertrand hopes to one day make it to the Elite Series. Watching the way all the anglers interacted with each other and the fans reaffirmed his belief that he is making the right decision.
“Afterwards, there were so many great anglers in the Top 10, and they were so friendly,” Bertrand said. “They were quick to congratulate each other and come up to talk to me. They were so nice to everyone that came to see the weigh-in. Just to see how they handle themselves was big.”
Like many aspiring anglers, the 23-year-old Arizona resident has dreams of one day walking across bass fishing’s biggest stage.
“The Classic is definitely the biggest thing,” Bertrand said. “It’s been my dream since I was a little kid. The good thing is I still have more shots. My No. 1 goal is to qualify for the Elites. As hard as it can be to do well in the Opens, it will be even harder in the Elites. Those guys are so competitive; this is a nice warm up for that. I know it will be even tougher when I make it to that level.”
For the last four days, Bertrand has been getting ready for his next shot. He will fish this week’s Bass Pro Shops Central Open on Table Rock, a place he has never been before.
Normally, Table Rock would fish similar to the deep, clear lakes he fishes back home out west. This week, however, conditions are drastically different. An algae bloom has caused the water to dirty significantly across the lake.
“Conditions don’t seem normal right now, but no one is having trouble catching fish,” Bertrand said. “It’s getting the big one that will be tough. The water is a lot dirtier than it usually is, and it’s been so warm –I’ve seen between 63- and 68-degree water temperatures. The fish are way ahead of where they usually are this time of year.”
That being said, with a field that features the likes of Central U.S. anglers Brent Chapman, Mike McClelland and Mark Tucker, competition will be fierce for that next Classic berth.
“I know there are a lot of great fishermen that have had a lot of experience on Table Rock so there will be a lot of big bags,” Bertrand said. “Lewisville was a tournament where if you were lucky enough to catch a few fish, you did well. Here there will be a lot of fish and a lot of big bags. I hope to get enough of the right bites each day to do well.”
As for what it will take to bring home a top finish, Bertrand has found Table Rock has something for everyone.
“There will be a wide variety of successful techniques; that’s going to be the interesting part of this tournament,” Bertrand said. “I think some guys will be able to bed fish. Some will catch them cranking, flipping and out deep. They are all viable techniques. You can win out here on any part of the lake with any one of 10 baits. It just depends on what is producing the biggest fish.”
At Lewisville, many people saw Bertrand throwing an umbrella rig, a lure that has skyrocketed in popularity in the past six months.
Will that play a role this week?
“I think the Alabama Rig will play a role,” Bertrand said. “But the water, like Lewisville, is not exceptionally clear. When you are throwing swimbaits, it helps if the water is clearer. Unless it clears up, I don’t think it will dominate like it has in some tournaments.”
As the tournament approaches, Bertrand is refining his approach to such a big lake.
“It’s such a big lake; I’m going to try not to get too spread out,” Bertrand said. “I’m going to try to keep it simple and find out which direction the fish are going. It doesn’t matter what you catch in practice. It would be nice to have a good idea of what they will be doing in the tournament. They can move so much from day to day this time of year.”
Keep up with the aspiring professional angler on Facebook as “Josh Bertrand” as he takes his next shot at the Classic and Elite Series. Or check out his guide service, where he takes clients out on lakes all over central Arizona at www.thearizonafishingguides.com.