Coming off the Forrest Wood Cup championship and a recent top-10 finish at the Bassmaster Southern Open down in Florida, I felt I was shooting for a win at the first FLW Tour event at Lake Guntersville. But those Alabama bass sure did have other plans.
Many folks say the season after winning the Cup is the most challenging for a pro. Although I don’t doubt my angling abilities for a second, I did experience some of this pressure at Lake Guntersville. Something seemed a little off from the start.
Running out of time, I needed to make some bass bite. Everyone else was throwing red Rat-L-Traps, but I didn’t think that was right for me, so I worked a jerkbait. When I hooked a fat 5-pounder I decided to run with the jerkbait. Unfortunately, my jerkbait success ran dry, and confidence alone couldn’t help.
From the cold weather to those frozen fish, I’m a Florida boy who just fell out of his comfort zone, and I ended up finishing 135th. I have always been a trial-and-error guy, so I know not to take this first stop at Lake Guntersville as anything more than a motivating kick in the butt.
I usually stay in town the last night after the final weigh-ins, but this time was different. Following the final weigh-in, I left immediately to get home around 5:30 the next morning. Before I did anything, including sleep, I planned my next move.
Mentally, regrouping is an important part of a pro angler’s life, especially mine. The more I dwell, the worse my mind-set will be moving forward. I simply recall what went wrong to help me adjust my performance, but I never carry any negative thoughts into the next stop. I pride myself on maintaining this mind-set because it keeps me positive to set my sights on success at the next event.
Another staple in my life that helps me heal mentally is custom rod building. I find that building takes my mind off what I did wrong and allows me to improve my equipment and mind-set moving forward.
Each location along the FLW Tour brings a different environment, and each environment has fish that are diverse in their behavior. For me, custom rod building has always been the best way to adjust my fishing performance according to the scenario and keep the competitive edge in my corner.
I always carry my custom rods, and for this week’s Tour stop No. 2 at Lake Travis, I’m ready to get the job done right from the start. During practice, I looked to two of my best monster catchers: my 7-foot, 6-inch Casting-Pitchin’ Rod and my 7-foot, 9-inch Signature Flippin’-Punchin’ Rod.
I love using these rods for the fast-action tip and added leverage of its 7-6 length. These two factors combine for an excellent hookset that guarantees that monster fish stay pinned. Buttoning up the big ones is half the battle. The rod also has the heavy mid-butt power to easily wrestle ’em in, whether I’m casting into light brush or pitchin’ to smaller bushes along the bank.
My flipping and punchin rod has a unique balance between mod-fast action and extra-heavy power that works really well. From flippin’ and punchin’ to jiggin’ and wormin,’ I trust my rod to hook lurking fish in heavy cover and then yank ’em back to my boat.
My custom rod is awesome and happens to be my go-to flippin’ stick. As a Florida boy, you know I love to flip, so that says an awful lot about this rod’s performance. Light enough to use all day, yet durable enough to dominate them big bass.
Lake Guntersville was only my first step this year, and although I learned a lot from it, I know there is plenty of fishing left to do on the 2017 FLW Tour. Since then, my focus has been locked on my fishing. Using Lake Guntersville as pure motivation to improve my performance, I have fished every day leading up to this week’s tournament at Lake Travis in Jonestown, Texas.
Just like I’m no stranger to the Forrest Wood Cup, I’m also no stranger to the incredible challenge of making it there. By depending on my clear mind-set and method of custom rod building, I feel confident and prepared for this week’s tournament at Lake Travis.