Great opportunities ahead

I’m beginning 2021 probably the most excited I’ve ever been. Entering my first year as a Bassmaster Elite Series angler, I’m looking forward to a lot of great opportunities ahead of me. 

I’m also more relaxed because I don’t feel the pressure that I had on me last year as I worked through a long season of Bassmaster Opens to qualify for the Elites. I’m ready to go have some fun, put my head down and figure out how to win some tournaments.

This will definitely be a different year, in terms of schedules, venues and tournament format. For one thing, Elite fields will be significantly smaller than the Opens, so I’m looking forward to fishing events with fewer boats on the water.

Another change will be the 2 1/2-day practice period. That’s a little more constrained than I’m used to, so that’s something I’ll have to learn how to manage efficiently.

This format means you have to cram a lot into a relatively short period, so there is a little more planning involved. I’ll have to make sure I practice properly and stay very organized so I’m not up late at night rigging tackle.

Everybody that’s traveled with me knows that I’m the last one in bed at night; I’m constantly rigging something and tinkering around. Having that tighter practice period and then going right into the tournament is going to be a little different for me, but I’m confident that I can adjust. 

One of the things I’m most looking forward to is the incredible media coverage that the Elite Series will receive. Having the live coverage on FOX Sports, as well as the Bassmaster LIVE coverage online, will be awesome.

I’m also excited about the possibility of doing some in-studio work with the Bassmaster LIVE team, as well as having the opportunity to appear in Bassmaster Magazine and B.A.S.S. Times. I’ve been getting my subscriptions my entire life, and I cannot wait to open up these publications and see a picture of me doing something — hopefully, holding up a trophy. 

To earn that honor, I’ll have to bring my best to every event. I am definitely looking forward to some new fisheries, but I’m particularly eager to fish Lake Champlain. I have a lot of experience on this lake, and having won there in the past, I’ll bring a lot of confidence into this event.

On the other hand, the Sabine River event is one that will definitely require a lot of thought and planning. That’s not a pattern fishery; it’s a location fishery. So, I’ll have to do my homework and spend a lot of time on satellite maps to find that right little canal or bayou that’s holding a good population of fish.

Obviously, I’m happy that our first event will be on the St. Johns River. Anytime we can start a season in Florida, it takes the edge off. That said, this fishery is about 4 1/2 hours from my home in South Florida, so I’ve only fished it a few times in tournaments.

But at the end of the day, the St. Johns is grass, it’s pads, it’s Florida fishing. So it’s good to start the year off in a familiar fishery.

I’m obviously wanting to come out of the gate strong. The past few weeks, I’ve thought of all these little things, like what’s the first fish I’ll put in the livewell. 

But I’m looking at the big picture. My goal is to win an Elite event and make the 2022 Bassmaster Classic. 

I can’t get too high or too low. I have nine chances to do something special, so I need 18 good days on the water to reach each event’s Championship Sunday, and I’ll be just fine.