The last regular season event of the year was on Lake Lewisville in Texas. If anyone looked at the BASS Opens results and standings, you could tell that it was a tough event and tough lake to fish. Many guys--professional and aspiring professionals--were humbled by this event, as fishing is one of the most humbling sports there is.
Going into practice I was expecting to get on the traditional fall pattern, which is throwing spinnerbaits, chatterbaits, small crankbaits/ squarebills in hopes of catching the fish running their seasonal fall/winter-type migration routes towards the backs of the creeks. I had been watching the weather leading up to the event and although cool weather was forecasted, it had warmed up the week and half prior to the tournament. When I got to Texas and started the first day of practice, the wind was blowing 25-30 mph with gusts up to 40 mph. So, to never have been on the lake before, the wind limited the way I could practice. Halfway through the first day of practice, I could tell that Lake Lewisville was just a different lake. There wasn’t any cover in the water and the lake was two feet down,so there wasn't much to visually target.
I had to begin looking at the banks for rock and wood structures that came off the bank that I thought might run under the water a bit. The first day of practice I was able to land 3 keeper bites--and that gave me some hope moving into the second practice day that I could build on what I had learned. On day two I tried to run some of what I learned from Day 1, but I only had a few short bites, no keeper bites. Discouraging--but two days left of practice. Third day, the wind was dying down and I had hoped I could move around better--moved offshore some but still was only able to catch short fish. My confidence for the event was slowly fading. I went into this final Bass Open 7th in points in hopes of qualifying for the Elite Series and thought all I needed was a top 20 finish. But 3 days into practice, I still was trying to figure out how to catch a bag of keeper fish. Tuesday I tried to fish a different pattern and fish deep and caught fish but just one keeper. On Tuesday night, I decided to forgo the half day of Wednesday practice and get my tackle ready--and fish from my gut on Thursday, the first day of the tournament.
Thursday came, went with my gut and what I thought I needed to do, the wind blew 30 mph and it made the fishing difficult. Come weigh in time, I had zero. About as humbling as fishing can be; a zero in a major tournament after you've worked all year long to get in position to qualify for the Elites, which has been a dream of mine since I was a little boy. The whole day on Thursday I felt the dream slowly slipping away. I’m thankful I had my family there that week and at the end of the day; it always makes me happy to see my family there at the ramp at the end of the day, whether I have a livewell full of fish or it’s empty. I knew that night going into the last day of the tournament that I was going to have to “swing for the fences.” I started Friday on new water that I had not fished in practice, and on Friday morning the first fish I caught was a 6.5 lber which was a good start to the day! I stayed in that area the entire day on Friday and ground out 3 more keepers, for a total of 12.11 lbs. I moved from, essentially, last in the throunament to 51st.
As the old saying--or maybe it’s what Mike Iaconelli screams all the time, “Never give up!” And I feel like that’s what I did--I fought to the end even with a zero on Thursday. I just put my head down going into Friday and did the best I could do and finished with almost 13 lbs. Even as challenging as the tournament was, I only fell to 8th in points and I still have an outside chance at making the Elites. I think that's a valuable lesson,putting your head down,working hard to give your best, and never giving up,and things can still work out. It's a waiting game,there is still one Open left for the Eastern Opens. If Kenta Kimura has a good event at Lay Lake,and moves up from 7th in points in the overall AOY for the Opens to the Top 5, I will get an invite to the Elites for 2021. So, we are keeping our fingers crossed for that and if not, we will be fishing the MLF Big 5 Tackle Warehouse Pro Circuit (formerly FLW Pro tour) and the Opens again. So either way, we have a lot to look forward to and as I write this blog, I’m on my way to the Cumberland River for the Toyota Series Championship where there is much on the line. Adverse conditions ahead--no surprise there with so much adversity in 2020 and we’ve had to weather a good bit of that. We are going into Cumberland with some hope and excitement!