James Watson Q&A: “I’ve Learned a Lot About Fishing as a Pro” - Major League Fishing

James Watson Q&A: “I’ve Learned a Lot About Fishing as a Pro”

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James Watson answers some question about his 2021 Bass Pro Tour season. Photo by Phoenix Moore
October 12, 2021 • Dave Landahl • Bass Pro Tour

James Watson is not known for mincing words. If you’ve had the opportunity to watch him the past several years fishing MLF Cup events and the Bass Pro Tour, you’ll know that the Missouri pro speaks his mind. So after three seasons fishing the Bass Pro Tour, we connected with “Worldwide” for a no-holds-barred assessment of his 2021 season and career.

Q: What are your most obvious takeaways from the 2021 Bass Pro Tour?

“I’ll tell you what, I’ve learned a lot about fishing as a pro this past season in particular. I learned how much I love the RV life compared to the hotel life. Now that the rules are loosened up regarding talking restrictions amongst your peers, it’s more enjoyable and we can chat a lot more. This year I got an RV and stayed next to the Walkers, McClellands, Brett Hite and Shinichi Fukae.

“I get to stay in my own bed and have my own bath. In the evening, having a nice meal with friends, bouncing ideas off each other. Being able to do that this year made the year fun for me again.”

Q: In addition to that camaraderie, what else have you learned?

“I don’t know if this is part of learning for me, but my dad battled cancer for the last two years. I watched him wither away to nothing this past winter. It impacted me more than I thought it could. I fished Ozarks BFLs and the Toyota Series Plains Division. I did pretty well and took that confidence with me on the road fishing the Bass Pro Tour. I decided to just enjoy fishing like I did with my dad. My dad fished tournaments and that’s who got me into it.”

Q: Were there any lessons learned about the way you fish?

“I decided to change how I fished. I decided not to be so hard-headed, not so one-dimensional, and to trust myself more. Now, if an hour goes by and I’m not catching them, I’ll up and move to different areas, even if I didn’t practice there. On Rayburn, Travis, and St. Clair, I weighed some of my best fish to qualify for Heavy Hitters. I caught all of those fish using a Tackle HD Worldwide Buzzer. I just went with my gut more. There have been a lot of close calls making cuts this year, I never had a bad tournament this season. Chickamauga was my worst, and I still weighed a 6-pound, 12-ounce fish for Heavy Hitters.”

Despite missing the cut on Chickamauga, Watson landed this 6-12 to help him qualify for Heavy Hitters in 2022.

Q: What are some of your potential points of improvement?

“I feel I need to continue to improve on what I’m doing now and make Knockout Rounds and some Top 10s. I know how to win when I’m in a position to do so, just haven’t been close on the Bass Pro Tour.

Bad practices have got to me. I can’t tell you the last time I’ve had a good practice that’s sustainable.

“The MLF format is so much more difficult than a five-fish limit. Guys like Jacob Wheeler and Ott DeFoe make it seem easy. You could run a tub full of water, I’d see no bass and Ott and Wheeler can see all sorts of them they can catch 25 pounds of bass. I’m not there yet.”

Q: You’ve always been known as a great promoter and speaker. Will you keep that balance in 2022 and beyond?

“I know where I rank in the bass fishing world. My strengths are promoting my sponsors and speaking with the public. I can’t do what I need to do for sponsors without this highest level of platform that the Bass Pro Tour provides. I focus a lot more on getting paid, I don’t have a mantle full of trophies yet like some. A great year for me is $100,000 in tournament winnings. If I make enough to cover entry fees, I get to keep all my sponsor money. That’s a good year.”