The win is awesome, but slow and steady wins the (AOY) race

It was awesome! That's about all I can say about it. A lot has been written about my learning to fish on West Point, but there’s more to it than that. About all my dad did when we were growing up was tournament fish. It was his thing. We (the kids) went with him. It was our thing.

But we didn’t just fish West Point. We fished all around. Over the years we started to know just about everyone in the area. A lot of them were there for this tournament including my mom and dad, my sister, one of my brothers and several of my old friends. To win in front of them was nice.

I’ve been asked if this will affect my fishing. The answer is no. The automatic Classic slot is nice, but I was in good shape for that before the win. My real focus right now is to win the Toyota Tundra Bassmaster Angler of the Year title. That’s been my goal all year.

To win AOY you have to shoot for that spot between 15 and 20. What I mean is that the AOY title isn’t about wins. It’s about eight strong finishes. You need a couple of good events, and all of them should be above 20th place.

I’m doing OK in that regard. I have three really strong finishes out of five events. That’s better than I expected I’d do when the year started. If it hadn’t been for Pickwick and my poor decision making, I’d be in even better shape.

I was on fish but decided to go for the bigger ones. It didn’t work. I was light and missed the first cut. I paid a heavy price for that decision with my 59th place finish. I’m going to do my best to see that I never do that again.

I know what caused it, too. I was all excited about winning down there and lost sight of my goal. Instead of catching keepers and giving myself another day to figure things out, I decided to go for the big weight. That was a serious mistake.

Going for the gold sounds good when you’re talking about it, but in the real world it doesn’t always work. If I’m presented with a similar situation, I’ll try to catch keepers, not giants. Winning the AOY is about consistency, not finishing first. I’ll take a finish above 20 in any tournament — I think. I hope it’s not too late.

Going back to the old way of earning the AOY title makes that strategy even more important. This year, the winner will be crowned at the end of the regular season. There’s no advantage to just qualifying, you can’t make up ground in the postseason. You have to have the most points after eight events. That’s the way it should be in my opinion.

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