In sports, they say you aren’t supposed to look ahead beyond your next opponent. It was true when I played high school football, and there’s a lot of good reasons for that in the bass tournament world, too.
When you look ahead beyond your next game or event, you can take your head away from where it needs to be and lose focus. Sometimes, though, it’s hard to avoid.
In high school, there was the tendency to look past what we thought would be an easy win and turn our attention to a big rival that was still a week or two away. In bass fishing, I have a Cup event coming up very soon, but I think I’m ready for that one, so I’ve started to give some attention to next year’s REDCREST.
It’s scheduled for late March — five months away — on Grand Lake O’ the Cherokees here in my home state of Oklahoma.
As you may know, I have history on Grand Lake. Not only have I fished there a lot through the years, but I won the Bassmaster Classic in 2016 on Grand, so I have some very fond memories of the place. REDCREST is our most important event on the Bass Pro Tour — our biggest championship. I was lucky enough to win the first REDCREST a few years ago, and I want to win it again … here at home.
Is five months too early to look ahead to Grand Lake? Not when it’s the biggest championship in our sport!
Is it too early to shift focus from other tournaments that come sooner? Not when there’s $300,000 on the line!
I’m looking ahead to REDCREST — just a little — and I’m okay with that.
Apart from the accomplishment, the trophy, and the money, I feel I can afford to look ahead because the 2021 season is almost behind us now. Most of my pecans have been harvested, too. With those things done, it’s time to identify and take a hard look at my next goals, and that includes REDCREST. In fact, if I don’t get a little ahead on the championship, it makes me nervous.
Looking ahead like this gives me a confidence and calmness that I wouldn’t have otherwise. What drives me crazy is not the distraction of looking ahead but having last-minute things to do and then rushing to get them done. If you ever see me filling up the truck with gas or packing right before I leave for a trip, you can be sure I’m not happy about it.
I’ll probably spend at least a few minutes and maybe even a few hours thinking about REDCREST every day between now and the championship in late March.
How will I know I’m ready to compete? It’s really a feeling or a level of confidence for me. It doesn’t have a lot to do with physical things, like tackle preparation. Believe it or not, I don’t enjoy the tackle prep part. It can be really tedious.
But I like the other parts of preparing for a tournament — thinking about my on-the-water options, studying the results of past events, map study, game-planning my practice hours, and narrowing things down for competition days. I enjoy all that, and every minute I get to spend on those things can pay off big.
I hear some anglers say that they prepare for a championship tournament — like REDCREST or the Bassmaster Classic — just the same as they do for any other tournament. Maybe that works for them. Maybe their regular practice routine is that thorough. All I can tell you is that I definitely prepare differently and more thoroughly for REDCREST than other events.
If I didn’t, it would drive me nuts!
Of course, because I’ve got a lot of experience and history on Grand Lake, my preparation will be a little different than it would be for a body of water I’ve never seen before. In some ways, preparing for a familiar body of water is harder than preparing for one I’ve never seen.
If it’s a new lake, I won’t have any on-the-water experience crowding my thoughts with a good catch here or a bad day there. My goal would be to see as much of the lake as possible during practice.
But on Grand, I have to resist the urge to try to do too much. There’s just no way I could visit all the places where I’ve caught fish in the past, so I have to concentrate my efforts to narrow things down and make them manageable.
On the first day of competition, I can’t afford to have 15 rods on my deck and a plan to stop at 50 spots. I want three or four rods on the deck and a couple of good patterns in mind.
And if that’s what you see in my boat on the first day, you’ll know that all this early preparation has given me the confidence I need to be a threat on Grand and have a real shot at that second trophy.