No Classic regrets

Roller coaster — that’s how I’d describe the experience of finishing second at the Bassmaster Classic.

I made it known before the Classic that I was going to win. That’s easy to say because we all do that, but I spent a lot of time preparing and a lot of time fishing locally before the event.

I was gaining a lot of confidence because a lot of the lakes near my home were setting up the same way that Grand Lake was setting up. I was committed to the way I was fishing in the Classic because I felt like it gave me a chance to win — and it did.

Everything worked perfectly except for Edwin busting that big bag on the last day. I don’t have an answer for that.

I didn’t lose a fish. I don’t think I missed a fish. I just got beat.

And that’s the key. I know that after leading for two days, I didn’t lose the Classic — he won the Classic.

Edwin is a close friend of mine, and I know how badly he wanted this. If I couldn’t win it, I’m glad that he did. He deserves this. He’s fished 15 Classics, and he’s a heck of a good fisherman.

I could see it in his eyes that it bothered him that it was me that he came back and beat. One of the first things I told him was “Dude, we’re friends, but we’re competitors, so don’t feel bad. This is your day. You beat everybody so you need to go out there and live it up.”

I let him know that I was happy for him. I congratulated him and his whole family.

As far as what I did, some people might think that I should’ve made a change going into the third day, and I did, once I realized I needed a big bag.

I was actually considering a change beginning the second day because, even though I was leading the first day, I felt like what I was doing was going away. It was a grind.

After the first day, I was heading to the weigh-in thinking, “I’m going to be in the Top 10 and tomorrow I’ll make a change.” But I get back and I’m leading by 3 pounds and I’m thinking “Man, it is a grind out there. Maybe I am doing the right thing.”

The second day was a grind again, but I weighed in one of the biggest stringers. I was thinking “This is it. It’s just tough fishing. I just have to put my head down and grind.”

That’s what I did on the third day, but I switched in the morning trying to catch big ones. I caught every fish I weighed on a 1-ounce Booyah Spinnerbait with a YUM Pulse swimbait trailer.

The only difference was where I fished. The first and second days and the first couple hours of Day 3, I targeted feeding flats. On the third day, when I knew I needed a big bag, I started running some deeper prespawn staging areas and hoping I’d run into a group of big females.

That just never happened.

Even though, after 9:30 on the third day I didn’t catch a bass, that’s one decision I don’t regret. I didn’t catch any big ones, but at least I went for it.

One of the things I said before the Classic is I want to lay in my bed, put my head on the pillow and know that I fished to win and I gave it all I could. That’s what happened. I fished to win, I had a good game plan, I just got beat.

If I could fish those three days all over, I really wouldn’t change. I feel the game plan was good, my areas were good. There’s really nothing that I could change.

Maybe that’s why I honestly haven’t given much thought to the idea of coming in second. Once I knew that Edwin had a big bag and I was going to get beat, I was already starting to mentally prepare for the first Bassmaster Elite Series event on the St. John’s River next week.

Everyone might think I’m at home locked in a closet, but that’s just not the case. I’m good to go, and I’m excited about starting the new Elite season next week.

There’s no question, I didn’t end up where I wanted to be. But I feel like this Classic helped me grow as an angler because I dealt with a lot. I dealt with the pressure of the event being local for me; I dealt with a huge gallery of spectator boats every day; I dealt with that roller coaster ride that can make you doubt what you’re doing.

Not only in fishing, but in athletics, somebody’s going to lose, and what makes some people successful is how you handle coming in second. You can sit there and pout, or you can stand up and say, “We’re going to take care of business next time.”

This experience is like a teaser. To be so close, for some people, it might leave a sour taste in their mouth. For me, it just makes that fire burn hotter.

I’m getting excited about next week because I have to have a good season to have the opportunity to be in the Classic next year. You can’t win the Classic if you’re not in it.

I have to do the things I need to do to get in it first. Hopefully, I can carry the momentum of a strong Classic performance into the new Elite season.

I guess you can say that professional fishing, in general can be a roller coaster ride. You have to expect some downs, but the important thing is to get yourself moving back up.

That’s what I’m gonna do.