Monday, October 22, 2012

End of A Rookie Season

My largest tournament-weighed spotted bass (3.93lbs)
October 5, 2012 on Smith Lake, Alabama

While I was not new to fishing Bassmaster-sponsored tournament trails, I was new to the Bassmaster Southern Open trail in 2012, a trail which offered a level of competitive fishing like no other.  My final outcome was a 79th place finish in Angler of the Year points (top 32% of the field) and a decent year on the trail. 

In my first year on the tour we traveled from Florida, to North Carolina, to Alabama.  The types of lakes we fished ranged from southern grass lakes to upland reservoirs dominated by rocks and docks.  I traveled over 5,000 miles and provided my sponsors over one half-million impressions of their boat-wrap logos.  In addition, I was able to catch a limit a bass in all but one day of fishing, which allowed me to walk across the stage and be interviewed live on website. This brought another estimated quarter-million impressions to my sponsors.  Lastly, I was honored to be a guest speaker for AERF at the Bassmaster Federation Nation Conservation Directors meeting at the 2012 Bassmaster Classic in Shreveport, LA. 

Aquatic plant dominated lakes in the south

Rock dominated lakes in upland reservoirs
While I felt great about the ability to represent my sponsors, I did miss out on several key opportunities to finish better in the tournaments.  Reflecting back, I can list specific bass I missed because I made incorrect retrieve changes as they followed my baits, changes that caused them to shy away instead of hitting. In golf every putt counts, and similarly in fishing, every retrieve, twitch, or turn of the reel handle causes different reactions to the bait and determines whether or not a following-fish will hit.  The details of fishing are amazing and so important to the outcome.

On day-two of the last tournament of the season, I finally figured out that I had what it takes to compete at the Open tour level.  Weather conditions shut down the bass activity throughout the entire tournament, but I made a change in my retrieve that started to get the fish to react.  The result was a quick limit including the largest spotted bass I ever weighed in (3.93lbs).  This tournament day reinforced to me that I had the ability read the conditions and fish behavior correctly, and that I could make the appropriate lure changes.  In future events I just need to apply what I know.

I am following my dream, supported by wife & family, and by B.A.S.S.  My formula has been simple: I follow the 10% rule in transitioning from one tournament trail to the next (once I find myself in the top 10%, I enter in the next level up). 

It started when I joined the grass-roots trail of the Florida BASS Federation Nation  to learn about tournaments and to practice in club events close to home.  Once I began placing in the top 10%, I entered into the state-wide level of the Bassmaster Weekend Series. After earning a few checks and top 10 finishes on the state-wide trail, I began my work to gain sponsors for transitioning to the regional Bassmaster Southern Open tour. 
My 2012 sponsor boat wrap

My wife was instrumental in gaining my sponsors!  Her love and marketing skills have taught me to be more marketable.  Because of this I can excercise my fishing skills against great anglers like Roland Martin, Chris Lane, Gerald Swindle, Terry Scroggins, Aaron Martens, and many others. 

The AERF/Casselberry Hooters/KISS boat wrap was a big hit on the Southern Open tour. 

When ever you join an organization you should do so to gain and share information.  I always believe that you should also contribute to the organizations you join.  When I joined the Southern Open tour I made a commitment to be a professionalangler worthy of BASS, and to provided interviews when requested, even though I am afraid of public speaking.  Overcoming public speaking was the hardest part of this entire process, and I am still not done learning this skill!   It is amazing how I would not think twice about competing against the likes of Roland Martin and Chris Lane on the water, but hand me a microphone and I still need to get my courage up to speak to a crowd.  Go figure...

Speaking in front of crowds is important to your professional career

If you fish tournaments and want to improve your skills, consider joining your state's BASS Federation Nation, Bassmaster Weekend Series, or Open trails.  They are pathways to the dream of fishing in the Bassmaster Classic!


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