The wheels are up, and my 2020 season is well on its way.
With an 18th-place finish at Sam Rayburn, my sophomore season on the Tackle Warehouse Pro Circuit is off to a good start.
The Rayburn event was perhaps one of the most challenging events of my entire life, with adversity both on and off the water, but due to my perseverance I was able to salvage what could have been a true “bomb.”
Despite the solid start to the year, and the confidence that comes with overcoming adversity, I know very well how a good start to a season can either create positive momentum, or open the door to complacency, which often can result in a loss of motivation and focus.
With the Harris Chain event kicking off this week, I am determined to keep that focus and motivation.
Harris: history and inexperience
Let me start off by saying I LOVE the Florida swing!
Each spring, we visit at least one fishery in the Sunshine State, and since I went to college at University of Central Florida and cut my teeth on many of these waterways, I feel I understand Florida fishing at a fundamental level. I’m no Florida “guru,” but I would say my instincts are pretty sharp in these natural grass-filled lakes, and I just truly enjoy fishing them.
Fisheries like Lake Okeechobee and the Kissimmee Chain are places I have spent thousands of hours targeting bass.
Fishing Florida lakes is like riding a bike: You’ll always be able to pick it back up once you’ve learned it. However, one challenge that is unique to Florida’s grassy lakes is that, when it comes to specific locations, running history is one of the best ways to get your feelings hurt.
Natural lakes are constantly changing, and a shoreline or bay that had perfect habitat for years can be void of the ingredients that fish relate to the next year. In contrast, rocky lakes generally tend to change relatively little over the years, and a productive hump, point or ledge might remain productive for more than a decade.
In recent years, the Kissimmee Chain has taught me this in spades. Areas where I had caught them have let me down when the money is on the line, because I focused on my past, as opposed to the present.
OK, so let’s get back to the Harris Chain. Though I have fished a fair number of events on this chain of lakes, it is a chain where I never really got stuck fishing one lake in particular. So, although I have history there, it’s the kind of history that is based on what techniques work and what type of habitat fish tend to relate to, which is a good thing.
I don’t like it when I’m going into a tournament with too many pre-conceived notions as to locations, so this balance of inexperience and history, I think, is going to help me remain creative and allow me to be spontaneous and fish with my gut, rather than my past.
Out or in?
The biggest question that I have been asking myself over and over again when I start to strategize about the Harris Chain is: Should I concentrate my efforts offshore or up shallow?
The conditions are setting up to allow for both strategies to play a big role, with many fish likely to be spawning on the shallow grass flats and many fish remaining, or transitioning back to, offshore grass and shell beds.
I’m a big proponent of fishing your strengths, but in recent years I have become pretty proficient out deep, and I feel I can compete in both depth zones. Fortunately, I will have three solid days of practice to make my decision.
In the end, my best strategy is to have as little strategy or plans going into this event as possible. Instead, I need to just focus on the current conditions and put the pieces together on the water, and not get too bogged down with my pre-tournament assumptions.
The Harris Chain is sure to be an exciting event, and it is shaping up to be a slugfest. As far as I’m concerned, despite having an 18th-place finish in the books this season, I’ve got an uphill battle ahead of me, and I intend on working hard, fishing smart and making my mark in Leesburg this week.
Oh, and by the way, I will be editing full breakdowns of each event this year on my SonarFishing YouTube channel. I call the series “FLW Pro Circuit PATTERNS.” The first episode on Sam Rayburn is live on my channel, and you can watch it here.