My win at the 2021 Basspro.com Bassmaster Open at Grand Lake was something else. It’s still sinking in, but I can say that it was a lesson for me, and maybe all other anglers, in keeping a laser focus on what you’re doing. And when I say laser focus I mean every cast, every hour of the tournament.
I knew after practice I had something going, but it wasn’t going to be easy. It was a few bites each day with quality fish. I also knew that competing in an Open is no easy task. There were almost 200 anglers fishing — 199 to be exact — and many of them are good anglers who know how to fish tournaments. On top of that you have lots of local anglers who know the lake and have fished it for years.
So my job was to stay focused and make every cast count. That’s especially difficult when you’re only getting a few bites a day. Those long periods of time without a bite can take a toll on you mentally. Fortunately, I was able to keep my focus. I want to be careful when I say that though. I don’t want that to sound conceited. It’s just something that I was able to do, and I hope to be able to repeat it in the future.
Going to the 2021 Academy Sports + Outdoors Bassmaster Classic presented by Huk is something I’m excited about doing. I know that’s what every angler who wins an Open, and is otherwise qualified, says, but that’s because it’s true. We’re not the guys who have several Classics under our belts. It’a first-time experience for most of us, something we’ve dreamed about for years.
I came close to qualifying one other time but fell a little short. That made me want it all the more. Next March will be one of the crowning achievements of my professional career. The only thing that would have made it better would have been to make the Bassmaster Elite Series.
That didn’t happen because of my horrible performance at Pickwick. I finished 113th in the field. That destroyed any chance of making it to the top. I’d never fished Pickwick before. All I had there was two and a half days of official practice, and that didn’t give me what I needed to learn the lake. I’ve had a lot more experience on Grand.
And, on top of that I was fishing another national circuit at the time I fished Pickwick which made it a lot harder. This time that circuit was over so that wasn’t a factor. Fewer distractions make it easier to focus.
There are many people who have helped me along the way. One that I want to mention is my co-angler, Jacob Collins, and what he did on the second day. I had a specific lure that they were biting. I broke it. That was no small thing. It hurt, or could have hurt.
But Jacob came to my rescue. He had one and cheerfully gave it to me — something he didn’t have to do. I was able to catch 15 pounds with it which put me in a position to possibly win on the third day. I can’t say enough good about him or what he did.
The last person I want to mention is my wife, Jolene. I mention her last not because she is last but because she is first. If I’d have started with her, I might not have gotten to anything else. She takes care of our three kids and the house while I’m traveling and fishing. That’s every bit as hard as anything I do, in some ways a lot harder. I’m a lucky man to have her.
That’s about all I have to say. If there’s a lesson in all of this, I’d say trust in the Lord, marry a good woman, hope for a generous co-angler and stay focused.