I don’t like to dwell on the past, but there are many times in professional angling where lessons can be derived from past seasons. I think it’s very important to spend some time considering last year as I dive into 2016. Last year was as frustrating a season as I’ve had, although I managed to salvage what I could with a few solid finishes, which resulted in another trip to the GEICO Bassmaster Classic — it certainly didn’t begin that way.
I finished around the middle of the pack at the 2015 Classic on Lake Hartwell, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but like everybody else, I fish that event to win, not just show up. I was under the weather for the entire event, pink eye in both eyes, sinus infection — it was awful. But you push through it.
Was that a tough way to start my season? If I had a choice on how that event would have gone, I would have first preferred to be 100 percent healthy. But again, it's the Classic and you push through it.
I managed a Top 10 on the Sabine, but after that I hit a stretch where I missed several checks in a row. I’ve been very consistent about cashing checks in my career, and I take pride in that. But, I also take great pride in accumulating enough points during the season to maintain a spot in the Classic, or even a shot at AOY. But, there was a point last year when I was beginning to think I was going to come up short.
Going into the Chesapeake tournament, I was on the tail end of a few really bad tournament finishes. I was sitting in 80th place in points, or something like that, and I was of the mindset that I just wanted to end a difficult season on a positive note. My goals were simple: At the next two tournaments, I just wanted to cash a check.
I feel that as an angler, when you get in survival mode, that’s when doubt creeps in and tends to be a factor in extending bad decision making. It’s a slump, no other way to put it. I knew that if I didn’t change something at that event, the slump was going to continue.
I also knew that it was going to be a very difficult tournament for most of the field, and I knew very little about the fishery going into it. To be honest, I seem to excel when fishing a tough and unfamiliar situation — I set my pre-conceived notions aside and fish in an unbiased manner. After a difficult stretch combined with an unfamiliar fishery, I felt like it was a great opportunity to turn things around.