Ready to get rollin’

A week before we started practicing for the season-opener on Lake Okeechobee I was already waking up at 4 a.m. I didn’t have a lot going on yet, but I guess it was just the anticipation of a new Bassmaster Elite Series season.

It’s hard for me to express; I’m so pumped up to get this season started. The anticipation takes you back to the days before we all became pro fishermen, and we fished team tournaments and club tournaments. I’m just excited to have a fresh beginning and to get it going.

The weather looks really good for the tournament, so that’s encouraging. Also, looking at the results of a recent event, it seems like Lake Okeechobee is fishing better than everyone anticipated.

I came down here to prefish before the lake went off limits in January, and it was challenging. That was my first time on Okeechobee, so I wanted to see the lake, but the cold, dirty water is always a tough thing to figure out. Fortunately, the way the weather is shaping up, I think this is going to be a pretty good event.

As far as beginning a new season on one of the nation’s most famous lakes, this is a rewarding experience. Having made it as a pro angler a little later in life than most, I have this bucket list and our first two Elite venues — Okeechobee and Lake Seminole — are on that list.

There’s so much tradition and history on these lakes. In particular, Lake Okeechobee’s reputation is one of the industry’s benchmarks. For most pros, if you wanted to be good through the years, you had to be able to do it early in the year on Lake Okeechobee.

To me, it is crazy cool to think of all the stories and all the lore behind this lake. I live on a lake much like this — Toledo Bend — and it’s always nice to go to a place where literally your next cast could yield the most dynamic, craziest thing in your life. You could catch your biggest bass ever.

I think it would be untrue to suggest we don’t all think about the excitement of kicking off a new season on such a famous lake, but you have to work on managing those emotions. There’s so much to be done in anticipation of the season, you have a job to do and you really have to make yourself focus in on that.

It’s not easy to do because we are human. We love bass fishing, we love fishing tournaments and we get fired up.

For me, I’d rather admit that I’m excited to start a new season, but the biggest thing is just keeping an eye on the prize. It’s the first tournament of the year, you can’t win Bassmaster Angler of the Year and you can’t make the Bassmaster Classic in the first tournament, but you can hurt yourself badly in all of these goals.

So, it’s truly important to get off to a good solid start, make good decisions and get yourself in position to have a good week.

One thing I’m excited about is my new hard bait sponsor, Luck-E-Strike. This company recently acquired V&M Baits, a company I’ve been with for several years. These two companies coming together gave me an opportunity to start a relationship with a company that’s been around for a long time.

I look at sponsor relationships like family, and to have people want to give me the opportunity to work with them, I’m very grateful for someone to take a chance on me and let me represent their company. That means a lot to me.