GRAE BUCK: Embracing the pressure of the Bass Pro Tour - Major League Fishing

GRAE BUCK: Embracing the pressure of the Bass Pro Tour

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Mercury pro Grae Buck is looking to gain some ground in the points after finishing 59th at Toledo Bend. Angler: Grae Buck.
February 16, 2024 • Grae Buck • Bass Pro Tour

Now that B&W Trailer Hitches Stage One presented by Power-Pole is in the rearview mirror, I’m ready to return to the water and improve my finish. I finished 59th at Toledo Bend, which put some pressure on me for the rest of the season. I can’t stumble again, or I’ll miss out on REDCREST. Plus, it’s going to get more and more challenging to stay on the Bass Pro Tour in the coming years. I’ll have my work cut out for the rest of the year if I want to stay here for the long haul.

Getting to the Bass Pro Tour was a dream come true because I’ve always wanted to fish at the sport’s top level. That was my goal last year because I had been so close; I fished solely focused on points and ensuring I caught a limit every day. In 2022, I missed out on qualifying by seven points because of one day when I didn’t weigh a limit. I only had four fish that day at Pickwick and lost three different 2-pounders.

Those lost fish haunted me, but I shrugged it off at the time since it was the middle of the year. It seemed like I’d have plenty of time to make up for it. But filling out my limit would have boosted me about 20 spots in the standings of that event, easily enough to put me into the BPT. That was the perfect example of how, regardless of the circuit you fish, consistency and execution across an entire season is paramount. I put that lesson into practice last year and am thrilled to be here.

The Mercury pro knows the importance of every fish catch and every point in the season-long standings. Photo by Phoenix Moore.

Before the season started, I aimed to finish in the Top 10 in points. It was a lofty goal, but the Invitationals are stacked as well, and I feel like I was able to prove myself. Fishing against Michael Neal and other top guys gave me some confidence that I could hang with them and compete.

The one adjustment I have to make is the switch to the every-fish-counts format, the addition of SCORETRACKER® and all of the added pressure that comes with it. I had a taste of the format during the TITLE on Sturgeon Bay in 2020 and the 2021 Bass Pro Tour event on Rayburn, which I fished because I finished high enough in the 2020 points to fish the first event of the BPT season. At Sturgeon Bay, I was on the mother lode of smallmouth and never had any pressure. I wasn’t on anything at Rayburn, so I didn’t taste the drama of being right around the cut line or the top spot. Even at Toledo Bend, I was never in contention enough to really experience it.

Just watching as a fan, you can feel the stress of the guys on the elimination line, and I know my time is coming to feel it. This is an entirely different game, and I love the added pressure.

I’m looking forward to the rest of the schedule because it has two rivers I’m familiar with, both relatively close to home. I’ve got a lot of experience on the St. Lawrence River, and the last time we were at the James River for the Tackle Warehouse Pro Circuit, I led the tournament after two days. We’ll be there at roughly the same time, and I have a good idea of what to expect.

The one curveball will be the Chowan River. I had never heard of it before I saw it on the schedule, but I went there in October to ride around. I’m excited about that one because it’s new to everyone. All I can say is that it’s massive and will throw many of us for a loop. It’s going to be a fun one to fish — and just as fun for those watching at home.