Relaxing during my rookie season

Looking back to the beginning of the year, I can see that I’ve become much more relaxed in my rookie Elite season. The first two tournaments were pretty hyped up, but by the third one, it became more comfortable for me.

Once I got the hang of everything, it all became easier to manage. As I became accustomed to how the practice days are and then how you go from practice into an Elite tournament the next day — how you manage your time and plan your strategy — it got a lot easier.

I got off to a pretty good start and made the check cut in the first five events, with a 12th-place finish at Santee-Cooper. Going into the Sabine River, I was second or third in the Dakota Lithium Bassmaster Rookie of the Year standings and 11th in Progressive Bassmaster Angler of the Year points, but I stumbled at that event and slipped to fifth in ROY.

Looking back at Sabine, I can see that my mistake was trying to find something away from most of the field. I think I should have stayed with the crowd this time instead of fishing in the Neches River.

Hopefully I can move up and get back to where I was before that last Elite tournament. With the final three events taking place on northern fisheries, I’m expecting some shake up in the AOY and ROY standings, so I’ll do my best to keep myself in the mix.

The first six events were mostly largemouth focused, and there were some guys who weren’t players on those fisheries. But as we head up north, there’s a whole new group of guys who are smallmouth specialists that will shuffle things around in the points.

Personally, I feel confident heading into the Northern Swing. I’ve caught a lot of smallmouth in southern fisheries, but I’ve also spent a lot of time on northern fisheries, including Lake St. Clair, Lake Champlain and the St. Lawrence River, where our final three events will be held. My personal best smallmouth — a 6-1 — came out of Lake Champlain.

As far as comparing my southern tactics to northern smallmouth fishing, it’s not even close. Down here, it’s big line and heavy current — you power fish them a lot more with swimbaits, crankbaits and football jigs.

When we head up north, it will be a total change of tackle. There’s a lot of ways to catch smallmouth where we’re heading, but it’s hard to get away from a drop shot on these fisheries.

Lighter tackle is one of the big differences from southern fisheries, but I actually enjoy using spinning tackle; I think you can be more efficient with it. From feeling the fish, to hooking him and moving him around, I think it’s easier to do that with spinning tackle than it is with baitcasting.

On Lake Champlain, I’ll probably split my time and mix it up between largemouth and smallmouth. It will be hard to get away from LiveScoping smallmouth out deep, but there will also be some shallow largemouth that could make an impact.

In all three of these northern events, wind will be one of the biggest considerations. If it blows, you’ll have a tough time moving around, but as long as it remains calm, you just have to find the right fish to give yourself a chance to win.