Someone asked me the other day if I fish the Bassmaster Classic any differently than I do a regular season event. The answer is not really, but I go into it a lot better prepared.
Let me explain. I really don’t think a lot about a regular season event until I get there. However, I’ve been thinking about the 2023 Academy Sports + Outdoors Bassmaster Classic presented by Toyota since the day I qualified for it and have been preparing ever since.
Through experience, I’ve learned you have to be prepared mentally for this event – even though you get practice days prior to competition.
Yet it’s all different as everything happens fast at the Classic, and there are a lot of breaks between practice and competition. It takes you out of your normal element. You’re surrounded by distractions from sunup until your head hits the pillow at night.
So, for me, being mentally prepared for all of the fishing possibilities allows me to control what I can control and leads to better and quicker on-the-water decisions.
I don’t think I’ve ever been as well prepared as I am this year.
I have been watching videos online of all the tournaments held there at different times of the year, including the last time the Classic was there (I wasn’t in that one) and the regular season event held in 2021 (I finished in seventh place). I watched each event intently – not to see where others were fishing, but to learn the lake and how it reacts. I honestly avoid stuff where others caught them – after that show airs, those areas get beat up.
I’m studying the lake’s attitude, how water levels fluctuate, current flow, the effect of weather conditions and any other subtle characteristics that can be overlooked when you’re on the water.
In fact, based on my research, if I had known what I know now when we visited in 2021, I would have done even better.
I also completely unpacked the boat and repacked it carefully with stuff I may need specifically for this event.
I believe all of this will have me better prepared when the gun goes off in competition. I will feel less pressure. In years past I have found fish in practice, didn’t think they were enough to win and went looking for something else only to find what I had was pretty good.
I believe all of this preparation will have me fishing more relaxed and less likely to take unnecessary risks like I have in the past.
It’s critical because the Classic is just a different animal. It goes fast. You work hard – and it’s gone. It’s very, very important to one’s career.
But would winning it be more important to me than the Bassmaster Angler of Year title I won in 2014?
I don’t think so, but the Classic has always been very important to getting me to this point of my career.
It keeps me going; it motivates me because I’m very goal oriented. It’s the championship of championships in bass fishing. It’s one of the big reasons I came back to B.A.S.S.
Think about it; there have only been 52 Classic winners but hundreds of B.A.S.S tourney winners.
I want to be the next name on that trophy. I’m well prepared — all I can do now is let the cards fall and see what happens.
Regardless of the outcome, I’m going to enjoy every minute of it because I will know I’ve done my best.