The ups and downs of life as a professional bass angler can be crazy, to say the least. Finding the mental stability between each event is key to bouncing back, especially after those few tough events where I’m stuck watching on the final day.
Cumberland wasn’t exactly kind to me. In practice, I felt like the conditions were setting up great. But once it was time for takeoff, a sudden weather change shook up the water and my game plan. Besides the weather, my own mind games certainly didn’t help my performance, either.
Back in Florida, I cleared my head by doing what I love most – catching really big fish with some of my oldest friends. Restoring clarity to my mind and building confidence in my fishing, I felt great about my preparation for the B.A.S.S. Southern Open at Lake Chickamauga and the next FLW Tour stop at Beaver Lake.
Even though I hadn’t fished Chickamauga in a few years, I had a feeling the spring season would set up the weather and water perfectly for my style of sight-fishing. I was ready to crush ’em and catch everything in sight, but murky water definitely threw me off, along with the rest of the anglers.
Many gave up and moved on from bed-fishing, but I guess you can say my head is a bit harder than most. I kept at it by focusing my attention on any bedding bass I could find, and my determination was soon rewarded. After three days, I caught three limits, finished in first and punched my first ticket to the Bassmaster Classic.
Despite the significance of this win, my celebration was brief knowing I had plenty more fishing to do with Beaver Lake just around the corner. My momentum from winning sure did get me fired up as I rolled into Arkansas, but my recent past at Beaver Lake also helped. Beaver Lake used to be a lot lower on my list of favorites, however, in the last few years I’ve had some better finishes that really changed how I viewed the fishery.
Although practice went well and the fishing conditions set up as I’d hoped, increasing rain caused the water levels to rise drastically from previous years, which complicated some key aspects of my performance. Unlike my home state of Florida where water spreads out as it rises, the water in Arkansas keeps climbing up the steep banks surrounding the lake.
The rising water made finding the original shoreline difficult as deeper water swallowed up trees, brush and everything in between. Luckily, I beefed up my rod choice to my Flippin’-Punchin’ Rod and my 7-foot, 6-inch Casting-Pitchin’ Rod. I built these rods because they gave me more backbone and power to pull big fish from the deeper areas created near the shore.
These custom rods give me more backbone and power to pull big fish from the deeper areas created near the shore. Customizing my performance with rod building is an incredible way to not only clear my mind, but also to learn and adjust from the many experiences I’ve had over the years on the FLW Tour.
This strategy adjustment worked, but unfortunately I found myself in a case of too little, too late. With that said, I’ll take the top-10 finish, Angler of the Year points and boost in momentum every day of the week.
Coming off a win at Chickamauga and a top-10 finish at Beaver Lake, I look forward to fishing the Mississippi River in La Crosse, Wis. Everyone keeps saying I’m gonna kill ’em, but only time will tell.
Until then, I’ll spend my time building rods, fishing and doing my best to prepare for more success along the way.