Big fish, a trip to Poland and a Texas wedding

Anyone who knows me at all knows my goal is to fish professionally on the Bassmaster Elite Series.

I’m not there yet. But during the past few weeks, I think I’ve taken some steps in the right direction, both on and off the water.

It started during the Bass Pro Shops Southern Open No. 2 on Chickamauga Lake — and it didn’t start quickly. 

I finished Day 1 in 96th place with 11 pounds, 1 ounce — and at 1:30 on Day 2, I didn’t have a fish in the boat. But then some wild things started to happen.

I pulled into a little area that I knew would eventually be filled with big spawning females because I had seen several small males and one big female swimming around in there in practice.

What had pulled up in there overnight was mind blowing.

In less than two hours, I caught a 10-pounder and a 9-pounder and lost another one that was about 7. They just pulled up and started spawning, and I caught them all sight fishing. I was in the exact right place at the exact right time.

I went from 96th on Day 1 to seventh on Day 2. I couldn’t see them on Day 3 because the conditions changed, but I was proud to leave with a 12th-place finish.

I don’t know where that put me in the Southern Open standings — and that’s the absolute truth. I haven’t even looked at the standings because I had such a bad opening event on the Harris Chain of Lakes in Florida. 

But it was an important moment for my career because it reminded me that you’re never out of it. It doesn’t matter what happens in practice or on the first day.

You just keep fishing.

Another interesting thing that happened to me recently was flying to Poland — that’s right, Poland — the day after Chickamauga.

I’ve signed on with a company called Salmo — a company that is already very well-known and well-respected up north and in Europe for a great line of pike and walleye lures.

Now, they’re looking to break into the southern bass fishing market, and they want an up-and-coming young bass angler to help them along the way. They’re banking on me to be that guy — and I have no intentions of letting them down. 

That was a really, really neat trip – even though it was kind of weird going to Poland for fishing. When I got there, it was mind blowing.

I’ve never seen a company that can produce as many baits as they do, putting that much time and effort into every single bait. Every one of them is hand-painted, and hand-tested before they are packaged.

I’m going to be working very closely with them to produce more lures specifically for the bass market. I’ve already got some prototypes, and we did some filming recently and smoked the bass on the prototypes.

It’s so exciting that I’ll be able to see my hand in a lot of the designs they come out with.

They’re thinking big. They want to storm the southern bass market with deeper crankbaits that will get down into that 18-, 20- and 25-foot zone. They also want to produce square bills and topwaters – stuff that we use on an everyday basis. 

They plan to unveil several things at ICAST this year, including a topwater bait that I think is going be game-changing. 

On a final note, I’d like to say congratulations to Alton Jones Jr. and Kelsey Mazzon — or I guess as they’re known now, “Mr. and Mrs. Alton Jones Jr.”

I’ve been friends with them since they started dating two years ago and figured out pretty quick that they were perfect for each other.

I was honored to be a groomsman in their wedding a few weeks ago.

Finally, I would also like to congratulate Brandon Palaniuk on his performance at the recent Toyota Bassmaster Texas Fest tournament.

Now for me, it’s time to focus on the Sabine River!

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