I had to catch ‘em

Wow! I know you’ve heard it before but this Toyota Bassmaster Angler of the Year is a dream come true. 

It doesn’t matter if it’s your local club, a larger team trail at your local lake or if it’s on the Bassmaster Elite Series, every competitor wants to be the points champion at the end of the season. I just won the 2019 Toyota Bassmaster Angler of the Year race. It’s the highlight of my career. 

Before I go any farther, though, let me say that I had a wonderful career at FLW. I fished 11 years with them and qualified for 10 Forrest Wood Cup championships while winning a few tournaments. I also won their Rookie Angler of the Year back in 2008. I’m proud of those accomplishments. 

One thing that escaped me, though, was winning an AOY. I had several seasons in which I was at or near the top of the points standings and then had a bad tournament or two towards the end of the year. That takes you out of the running in a hurry.

That’s why I knew I had to catch ‘em. I’d learned about being close the hard way. You have to put ‘em in the livewell until the last minute of the last day. 

Fishing a Bassmaster Classic has been my goal for years. Over the years I’ve fished several Opens for a shot at a Classic berth. I’ve dreamed of fishing — and winning — one since I was a little kid. And so, when B.A.S.S. offered me a slot in the Elite Series I accepted it.

After my very first Elite Series tournament on the St. Johns River I knew I was at the right place. B.A.S.S. puts on the greatest show on earth in this sport. The crowds are amazing. I saw fans on top of buildings across the road waving signs and cheering during the weigh-in.

I now have an AOY title under my belt and will compete in the 50th Bassmaster Classic. That’s something that can never be taken away from me. It really doesn’t get any better than that for a professional bass angler. It’s success at the highest level.  

But with that success comes responsibilities. I know that, and I intend to meet them. I hope to receive more invitations to speak at public events. And, I will continue to act as a boat captain for local high school teams when I’m available. 

The future of our sport means a lot to me. Showing dedication to the sport and integrity as well as teaching techniques and seasonal patterns goes a long way. Doing things the right way and working hard to achieve a goal is something that’s permanent.

My efforts always go towards trying to win, but I’m not a hero or zero kind of angler. I don’t win a lot of tournaments, but I try to stay as consistent as possible. I want to convey that to the fans. I have my favorite ways of catching bass but most of all I just love catching them. 

Another thing I want to emphasize is that true professionals compete within the rules and the ethics of bass fishing. I want to make sure the fans know that when you do things the right way success will come to you. 

Now that I’ve had my say I respectfully suggest you go out and catch a few yourself, and that you take a kid with you when you go.