Bass fishing is a much tougher sport than what many people give it credit. Simple goal: catch the 5 biggest bass you possibly can, but it's a challenging goal that pushes anglers to their limits. There are so many sacrifices you have to make just to put yourself into a position to have a prayer of being successful. Many people will attempt to become a very successful angler, but very few will succeed. However in return, the rewards are priceless. I'm a big believer that you can do anything you want if you're willing to give it your all. So, if you're willing to give 110% effort and stay determined you can make your dream come true. For me, that dream has always been to become a professional angler.
This year was my first year on the tournament scene as a boater. I'm fishing the BFL Volunteer Division as a boater and it's been absolutely incredible. I've had to work a job at a local restaurant for the past couple years to cover the expenses. As all tournament anglers know, you don't just pay entree fee. There's also traveling, hotel, gas for truck and boat, fishing tackle, boat and truck maintenance, and the list goes on and on. Every bit of it is worth it though. It's made me appreciate it a lot more to be able to go compete in these tournaments with the money I have earned.
This tournament season has certainly had its ups and downs though. First tournament of the year was on Cherokee Lake in early spring. I spent countless hours in frigidly cold temperatures all winter to improve and get ready for that tournament. I figured some things out and came up with a game plan that I was extremely confident in. However, a couple weeks before the tournament the fish began to move to different areas, and I could not get them to bite anymore. Neither me or my co-angler got a bite during the entire tournament. I didn't make the correct adjustments that I needed to and that's something I will have to improve on. So, that was kind of a, "hey rookie, welcome to the big leagues." You can't get hung up on one bad tournament though. You just have to learn from your mistakes, shake it off, and get ready for the next tournament. I had to turn around and get ready for our next stop at Chickamauga.
Practice went incredible early on, but days before the tournament things started to go down hill. Conditions were changing and it was becoming very tough to get bites. But this time around I made the correct adjustments to the changing conditions. I committed to throwing a shaky head during the tournament and it panned out for me. I was able to finish 12th place out of 111 boats and cashed my first check on the BFL. This was a HUGE confidence boost for me.
Couple tournaments down the line I had to return to Cherokee Lake. I was feeling pretty good at the beginning of the tournament day and thought I could have a pretty good finish. However, once again, Cherokee Lake showed no mercy. I fished as hard as I could all day and was only able to catch 1 keeper. There was something much worse though. For some reason, I thought my check in time was 3 p.m., but it was 2:30 p.m. I realized that too late and rolled in 5 minutes late at 2:35. As a result, I was disqualified thus zeroing on Cherokee Lake yet again. This has really bothered me for awhile that I came in late (here at the end of the season I would come to find out that coming in 5 minutes late cost me a trip to the BFL Regional Tournament). I mean, talk about a rookie mistake... However, I was able to rebound on my last tournament of the year on Douglas Lake. I finished 17th place and it has really helped me regain my confidence back.
Before you know it the 2016 BFL tournament season will be coming back around. Safe to say, there's A LOT of room for improvement. The important thing is to keep your head high no matter how good or bad things go. I'm a much better angler than when the tournament season started because I have learned a lot of things from my mistakes. It takes time to learn how to win. This entire year I have dedicated myself on improving at fishing out deep and fishing on highland reservoirs, my weaknesses. That way I will be a lot more of a threat next year on lakes like Cherokee. I've been extremely blessed to have the opportunity to be able to fish in these tournaments. I give a lot of credit to my father for being extremely supportive. I don't think I could thank him enough for how much he sacrifices and helps me everyday to help me achieve my dream. We're doing our best together through the high and lows of the tournament trail. There are gonna be extremely tough and trying times but you can not stop there. It's not about how hard you fall down. It's about how high you bounce back. As my favorite angler Michael Iaconelli says, "NEVER GIVE UP!"