After nine months on the road, it felt great to cap off my best Bassmaster Elite Series year so far with a wire-to-wire win at the Toyota Bassmaster Angler of the Year Championship on St. Clair. It’s a lake that has special meaning to me because it was the site of the final Open the year I qualified for the Elite Series, but I’ve also had a love-hate relationship with the place over the years.
This win felt different than when I won the same event at Mille Lacs in 2016. At that one I was a local and lots of people expected me to do well, but this time around there were so many Michigan and Canadian hammers in the field that I wasn’t necessarily high on everyone’s radar. My only regret is the same one I had at Mille Lacs: It wasn’t a four-day event. Those Century Belts are badass, and I don’t think anyone’s gotten one entirely with smallmouth yet. I’d like to be the first.
The win caps it off, but this whole season was nothing but positivity. I only missed the Saturday cut once, and that was at Winyah Bay where I barely missed it in 38th. Despite what you may have heard or read from other sources, the competition didn’t get any easier in 2019. We got an injection of a lot of young, hungry guys into the field. They work their asses off and add energy, but they don’t make it any easier to get a check. And the scary thing is they’re all on the upward curve of their careers. No one is coasting. It’ll only get tougher from here.
The other thing that this victory means for me is that it probably cements me into doing this for the next 20 or more years. The sponsor support from companies like Daiwa and Rapala has been there since day one, and I’ve picked up other solid partners along the way. All of them make the dream work.
It’s been made more enjoyable by the fact that I’ve traveled with the Johnstons and Gussy and Chris Groh all year long. It’s a real treat. We all get along and help each other out. Without that kind of a road crew it can get lonely out there. Also, sharing information and ideas makes us all better fishermen. Four of us are fishing the Guntersville Classic and if things go according to plan in 2021 all five of us will make it.
You may have heard me say on stage that my two goals for the offseason are to get my wife pregnant and to kill some greenheads.
That’s true, but it’s not exactly the right order. I’m pretty sure I’ll kill some ducks before we accomplish the other one. I follow the Chinese calendar closely, and after consulting it we’ve realized that the best chance for having a boy comes during the third week of November. I love my daughter very much and wouldn’t trade her for anything, but we’re only really equipped to have two kids, and I know if we have a second daughter we’ll end up having a third. The goal is to control the controllable variables and that’s what we’re doing.
Driving home with the blue trophy I got the satisfaction of a job well done, and now I’m able to anticipate a brief time off to enjoy the fall before we start to prepare for Guntersville and the next steps.
Thanks for reading this column this year. I hope it has given you some valuable information and a few laughs along the way.