It probably won’t come as a surprise to most of you who know me, but the start of a new year isn’t really a “start” for me. Don’t get me wrong, I get excited looking forward to a new tournament season and new opportunities to do positive things with my fishing, my life and my faith – but I don’t really make resolutions or set specific “success goals” in January.
My attitude is pretty simple; I just want to do my best every single day. That’s true of my everyday life and my faith, and it’s definitely true of my fishing. I just don’t put a lot of thought into success goals. When you have the simple goal of just doing your best every day, you’re more likely to accomplish some success goals like winning a tournament or qualifying for a championship. To me, it seems easier to just try to do your best, because you might exceed any success goals you may have! Instead of winning one tournament, you might win two. You might win an AOY. Or you might be a positive influence on another person and didn’t even know you helped them.
You were just doing your best that day and you left the results up to God; just like I do every tournament day.
We have a few changes to consider as we get ready for the start of the 2023 Bass Pro Tour season. We’re changing from “every fish counts” to a five-fish format and there’s been a lot of talk about how we might fish differently. Speaking just for myself, the five-fish deal is only going to change the way I fish just a little bit.
What people probably don’t realize is that I’m always trying to catch the biggest fish out there. Whether I catch 50 in a day or five, I’m still trying to catch the big ones. True, I might stay on a school of spotted bass longer when I’m fishing the every-fish-counts format, but in that process, I believe there’s usually a big fish somewhere in that school.
I’ll probably be willing to leave a spot sooner, and I’ll probably break out a fewer of those bigger baits. I might not trim my stuff up as tight and will probably fish a few less Ned rigs; but my overall mindset isn’t going to change much at all.
I don’t personally believe the five-fish change will be a deal where some guys will show out more than others. The same guys who caught ‘em in the five-fish format before the Bass Pro Tour also caught ‘em in the “all you can catch” format. I’ll be surprised if you don’t see those guys – the Wheelers, Connells, Jordan Lees, etc. – up near the top of SCORETRACKER® again in 2023.
So far in my career, just doing my best every day has proven to be successful. I’ve made a bunch of Top 10s, fished in some championships, had some wins, and earned an Angler of the Year trophy. I’m 50 years old now and have a few more grey hairs and some aches and pains; but I’m healthy and know that I can continue to perform at my best – and that means staying consistent.
I haven’t won a tournament in a while, but I don’t have any excuses for that because so many factors go into winning a tournament at this level. To me, it’s important to stay consistent day after day and to advance to whatever step is offered next. Can I advance to a Knockout Round? Great, that’s my next step. Can I make a Top 10 today? Perfect, let’s try to do that.
I didn’t qualify for Heavy Hitters this year and that bums me out a little, but as an athlete you have to accept that you can’t do it all. What you can do is continue to put yourself in position to make it to the next step, and the wins will eventually come.
When I simply focus on doing the best I can on the water every day and trust the instinctive fishing skills that God has given me, I’m always OK with the results.
I feel blessed to do what I do for a living, for so many different reasons. The competition is part of it, for sure, but it’s only part of it. Most of you already know that outdoor ministry is a passion of mine, and I’m thankful that the success I’ve had through fishing has given me the platform and opportunities to be a keynote speaker at a church, or speak at a wild game dinner or fish fry. I meet a lot of great people at those events, and I get the opportunity to share my faith with groups who I probably wouldn’t have even met if not for the platform of my fishing career.
I’m going to enjoy a little more time at home with my family and then get on the road to Florida for the start of the season in February. Whenever you see me out there, now you know – I’m just doing my best and trusting the results to God. I hope you’ll be able to do the same.