Sitting in the stands

Now that the Bassmaster Elite Series is over for the year I’m able to kind of sit back and truly be a fan of the sport. During the season I’m so involved with my own tournaments I don’t have time to look around and see what other anglers are doing.

I’ve been learning a great deal by watching the final Bassmaster Open tournaments of the year on Bassmaster LIVE. It’s likely that many of the anglers that compete in the Opens have been watching me and the other Elite pros on LIVE. Now I can turn the tables on them.

You can’t beat LIVE for gleaning every detail about new techniques, how the anglers present their baits, how they pace themselves and their mindset. As an Elite Series angler, I also watch LIVE to scout new talent and to see who I might be competing against in future tournaments.

There are so many talented anglers fishing the Opens right now it’s mind-blowing. Dozens of anglers are intensely jockeying to get those few Elite Series invitations. A lot of names I’ve never heard of are starting to show up. The young kid who won the Open on Chesapeake Bay, JT Thompkins, is one of them. That kid catches them!

At the other extreme are former Elite Series pros who are trying to come back by qualifying through the Opens. It’s interesting to watch them go head-to-head against the young upstarts.

I remember how nervous and excited I was when I fished the Opens before I became an Elite angler. These younger anglers are hungry and fearless, as I was then. Some of them will rely on a select few techniques and ride them all the way to the Elite Series. Without extensive knowledge of the fisheries, they shoot from the hip and rely on their electronics and nervous energy.

That aggressive nature is what it takes to succeed. A lot of Elite veterans, myself included, lose some of that as we gain more knowledge. That wisdom lets us slow down a little bit. But hungry energy is what makes these young anglers dangerous and threatening to a lot of the Elite pros on tour.

The most intimidating thing is how the younger guys are so in tune with their electronics, especially forward-looking sonar. Because many of them have grown up playing video games, they’re very comfortable and capable with this kind of technology. They’re taking full advantage of it. Some of them have six graphs on their boats.

Older pros who grew up fishing with a flippin’ rod and 2D sonar are wondering what these kids know that they don’t. Growing up in California, I’ve always been heavily into the latest in electronics. But watching how good these kids are with it tells me that I’d better work on my electronics game. These guys are out for blood.

Generally speaking, the younger crowd is more comfortable fishing deep than shallow. By watching them on LIVE, I can study the techniques they use and the decisions they make. Every time I watch them, I realize that I have to stay at it and continue to learn. If I don’t, these kids will be eating my lunch when they qualify for the Elite Series.