Overwhelmed and exhausted

Even after the big win, Bryan Schmitt has to put his head down and just keep fishing.

Wow, this has overwhelmed me. Championship Sunday was a roll the dice day that worked out for me. And then it was off to prefish the 2021 Farmers Insurance Bassmaster Elite at St. Lawrence River. I fished all day today (Monday) and I’m headed back to the house. Once I get this column done I’ll try to get some sleep and then do it all over again. I’m exhausted. I wouldn’t have it any other way, though.

Winning a Bassmaster Elite Series event is something every angler dreams about. It’s unbelievable. I’m blown out of my mind. Maybe after this last tournament I’ll have time to think it all through, but for now I’m just going to put my head down and keep fishing. 

The thing about winning the Guaranteed Rate Bassmaster Elite at Lake Champlain is that it’s such an honor and a thrill. When you stop to think about it you realize that a lot of good anglers never win one. This win, coming so early in my career, really takes a lot of pressure off of me. It’s a weight off my shoulders. But, like you hear all the time — I’ve won one so now I want to win another one.

This has been a 20-year journey for me. I’m 40 years old now. Back when I was 20 I went to work as a mate on a charter boat with a company called Loosen Up. It’s on the Chesapeake Bay. After a while I became a captain. And then, recently, I bought my own boat, but I still work through Loosen Up. My boat’s name is Miss Ashleigh. You’ll know why in a minute. 

I still take charters out when I’m not traveling and fishing with B.A.S.S. It’s a busy schedule but I like it, and it helps stabilize our family finances. The two of them together work out real well for us.

At the same time I was working with Loosen Up, I was working my way up through the ranks of professional bass fishing. In the past I fished with FLW and had a lot of success. I knew, though, that if I wanted to go to the very top I’d have to fish with B.A.S.S. That’s what I did, and I couldn’t be happier.

Over the years Lake Champlain has been good to me. I have two B.A.S.S. professional wins in my career, both of them — an Open in 2016 and an Elite this year — on her waters.   

It’s a funny thing about some lakes. It’s like you and the lake just click. That’s the way it was with Champlain. The first time I fished it I felt comfortable. It’s not like it’s my home lake or anything either. It’s about eight hours from where we live.

I had a gut feeling that last day that my largemouth were gone. That’s why I said I rolled the dice for smallmouth. I didn’t think I had enough weight at the end of the day so I did a Hail Mary and went to my largemouth spots. Sure enough, they were gone. I don’t know exactly why but I feel like I’m in tune with Champlain. I just feel what’s happening. It’s weird.     

The only thing I wish was different, it would have been nice to have my wife, Ashleigh, and my kids, Dylan and Olivia, with me on the stage. Dylan is 7 years old and Olivia is 16 months old. Dylan, especially, would have gotten a kick out of it. 

Not being there was a family decision. We decided — Ashleigh and me together — to keep the kids at home in their own house with their mother rather than travel around the country from place to place. I know there’s two sides to that but that’s what we decided was best for us as a family, and we don’t regret our decision. 

But it still hurts though. I wanted them there, and it was killing Ashleigh not to be there.

I’m going to close this thing down now. It’s time to go to bed, get some rest and try to find the big smallmouth on the St. Lawrence River tomorrow. I have fish to catch later this week.