Now that it’s the middle of January, I’ve had some time to think about and reflect on 2019. Overall, it was a good year. Actually, it was a GREAT year. I had some great success tournament fishing, and I got to marry my best friend, Tammy.
There were certainly some bumps in the road, but that’s how fishing goes. It’s an up-and-down sport, and the only way to level out the low spots and stay ahead is to be confident and fish smart, which is what I want to talk about here – my journey in 2019 and what I learned.
I started off the FLW Tour season strong on Sam Rayburn. I had a terrible practice, but come tournament time I put some things together that landed me only 8 ounces short of a check. While it was tough to miss out by that margin, I knew it was a decent start to the points race.
Then came the Kissimmee Chain event, which is one I’ll remember forever. From watching the big one wake my Reaction Innovations Trixie Shark (learn more about fishing one at this link) to watching the winning fish come off at the boat, that event taught me a lot about resilience and emphasized what I’ve always believed, which is to fish to your strengths. I did exactly that and almost won the whole thing. I can confidently say I would do everything the same if I could do it all over.
The next several tournaments were pretty good. I cut a check at two of them and came pretty darned close at the others. Fast-forward to the last event of the year, and my No. 1 nemesis: Lake Champlain.
I was 26th in points going into the tournament and only had to make the top 105 to earn my way into the FLW Cup. So I was feeling pretty good about my chances. Fishing deep for smallmouth bass isn’t my strong suit. Because of that, in the past I’ve ALWAYS made the run down to Ticonderoga. And every single time, I’ve bombed. Every. Single. Time. But in the past, I always told myself to fish to my strengths, and Ticonderoga is where the largemouth bass are.
For some reason, this year I second-guessed myself. I’d heard from someone that it was tough down on Ti (which I knew it always was), and that with the wind it was going to be a miserable one-hour run down there and back. Initially, I didn’t let this sway me. I was going to go, but then for some reason I changed my mind. I decided to play it a bit safe and stay up north and fish.
In tournament fishing, you can beat yourself up for days with the “what if” scenarios that cause you to second-guess your gut. Well, in this case, I guessed wrong. I finished the Lake Champlain event in 145th place. It knocked me all the way down to 60th in points and out of Cup contention.
In my 15 years on the circuit, if I’ve learned anything, it’s NOT to second-guess myself. You make your best-educated and informed decision, fish to your strengths, and accept the consequences. I didn’t do that at Champlain. You probably already know the tournament was won down in Ticonderoga. As a matter of fact, the majority of the top 10 came out of Ti. I’m not gonna lie, it hurt my heart a bit to watch weigh-in as my dreams of fishing the Cup vanished every time someone new came in ahead of me.
The experience certainly solidified a few things for me. Listen to your gut. I almost never let someone else talk me out of fishing to my strengths, but I did that week. Also, always stay humble. Even though I dropped out of qualification for the Cup, I represented myself and my sponsors well, and the feedback I received from all over the country after Champlain was overwhelmingly positive. I heard from folks I hadn’t spoken to in years. I heard from so many that the way I handled defeat touched them and taught them a lesson. No less than 10 people approached me at ICAST to tell me how my social media post about the experience affected them, and that they were proud of me. And that, friends, is what I’ll take away from this experience into the new year.
Now, I’m looking forward to doing some great things, fishing to my strengths and trusting my gut as we get the 2020 FLW Pro Circuit season started. If I do that, then I know all the right things will happen.