I’ve done quite a bit planning for the season during the winter, but by now it is really starting to get down to the fine details. I spend hours and days researching flights and lodging for the season and coordinating with my fishing roommates John Murray and Byron Velvick. All of that coupled with lake research and ordering tackle from sponsors, buying fishing licenses and Google Earth and web research on fisheries; it’s almost a full-time job in the winter.
Before getting too far into the fishing though, I should tell you about Soccer Golf.
Our oldest daughter, Lea, turned 12 last week, and her and her friends from school – who are all soccer players – decided they wanted to play soccer golf on the only course in our area that allows it. I was in sad shape after the third hole.
I wasn’t ready for kicking a soccer ball, my groin and thighs were absolutely destroyed by the third hole, and while I was barely able to outkick the girls before, I was a train wreck by the fourth hole. I used muscles I hadn’t used that way in a long time, and I realized how much skill those professional soccer players I watch on TV have. They can kick the ball almost the whole field, and I can put all of my effort into it and it just doesn’t fly.
I spent Super Bowl Sunday getting intimate with icepacks after the party because I was so sore. But, I’m back in stride now and preparing for the Classic. I’m packing up the Big Rig because my buddy Jimmy is helping me by driving it to Hartwell this week so that it will be ready for me when I get there for practice. If you see it on the road, don’t worry when you see the driver. I’m not that old yet.
Getting ready for that, I put the final touches on packing and prepping my tackle. I’m excited to fish my new Pro Carbon rods this season, the new double trigger handles give me so much more power and control over the rod and the fish, that I really feel it is an advantage to me on the water. I’ve got my tackleboxes loaded, including my new SKT jigs and spinnerbaits, and a bunch of Berkley finesse stuff ready for the Classic.
Each year I do a complete inventory of my tackle and bring in new colors of lures, change out old hooks and replace items that need to be replaced. That took on a whole new meaning this year. I don’t know if you saw my social media post about a week ago, but I dumped my whole dropshot box on my shop floor. Needless to say I wasn’t happy about that! That’s a lot of little hooks and weights that I had to find and pickup.
All of that preparation is my way of starting to get mentally prepared for not only the Classic, but the season as a whole. It starts with the Classic preparation, but because my rig doesn’t come home until after the season is over, I have to prepare for it all.
I’m not sure that any of us ever truly get used to fishing in the Classic. I’m about to fish in my 15th Bassmaster Classic, and no matter how many of them I fish, it’s exciting, but also a challenge mentally. I know the agony of finishing second when Boyd Duckett beat me in 2007 by ounces, and I’ve been able to experience the absolute rush of winning it in 2009 while Mike Iaconelli experienced that year what I felt in 2007.
I have experienced these extremes as well as all the others in the middle. The truth is, you can be on a great pattern and a great plan, but sometimes another angler has a plan that just beats you. As much as I feel like Hartwell is a place I can win, the other guys in the field all have the same thoughts.
With all of that said I’ve got goals for my career, and winning more Classics is certainly on that list. I’m hoping that 2015 is another year to hold that trophy overhead and then open the bar for everyone at the host hotel again for a giant party.
But, don’t just sit around waiting for me to talk fishing with you, get out there on the water, because you know I’m gonna ask – what have you caught lately?