Getting my second career Bassmaster Elite Series win at the 2022 SiteOne Bassmaster Elite at Harris Chain was the grandest thing ever. I’ve been told there have been only 35 people that have won more than once, and that is pretty stout in the history of B.A.S.S. to be in that league. We just fish hard everywhere we go, and sometimes it works out.
I started the tournament out just trying to make the cut, get some good points and make sure I got some money for my family. This is how I support my family, and my family means the world to me. We live by faith here, and we put it in the Lord’s hands, and that’s how it came out.
I’ve caught them pretty good in Florida, but it was a little different this time. I always caught them in holes or in grass clumps, but this tournament, I wasn’t fishing around grass. If grass was close, it was just a bonus. I went down in pre-practice and deleted 460 waypoints of grassy spots from the last time I was there because it was all gone. At that point, I just looked for places close to Kissimmee grass, but that’s what everybody was doing. I scratched that idea. I don’t like fishing in those giant crowds if I don’t have to.
I was struggling most of practice, and I went for a grass patch because I knew it was going to be a popular spot. I looked around and found some places in that area where I was going to fish. As I was idling off from the grass spot and I was going towards a point, I think I reached in the cooler and grabbed a water and idled a little further off than I would have normally.
I saw a hard spot that had a bunch of dots lined up like they would be at home. They were sitting tight to the bottom scattered out, and it was a pretty good sized school. I marked it to come back and look at it. If you circle around and you have a bunch of guys fishing around you, it is like a stop sign with blue lights like a wreck just happened. Everybody will stare.
Eventually I went back and caught two fish on two casts that were just keepers. But my practice was so bad that the keepers were excellent. It was close to takeoff, and I said more than likely, that is where I’ll start just to get me a couple of fish to calm my nerves. I had every anticipation of being over there with the other boats in the grass.
Day 1 I ran straight there, stopped a little sooner next to some Kissimmee grass and caught a 5-pounder. Then I made my regular cast to where I thought they would be, and it was on for an hour. I caught them almost every cast, and if I didn’t, it was because I didn’t throw to the sweet spot because somebody was running by.
It was a fabulous start and I had such a good bag, I said to myself, “If they are here, they are somewhere else.” So I spent the rest of the day looking for new places. At the end of the day I felt like I had three good spots.
On the second day, I went to where I started and didn’t get a bite. I then moved to my second spot and didn’t get a bite. I went to the third spot, and I caught them pretty good. Every day I caught them somewhere different, I just had to keep looking for them. If I panicked after I went to two spots, didn’t catch them, didn’t go to my third spot and just moved to a different lake, I would not have won.
It is about decisions you make, and the feeling you have in your gut. If you don’t follow it, sometimes it messes you up. You have to let the conditions tell you where you need to be, and let it play out.
I never thought I had a shot at the win until I pulled up to check in. But after the first day when I caught that big bag and went to the second and third spot and found another giant school, I knew I was on to something special and no one else was doing it. I could see all my spots at any given time, and no one touched them except for some crappie fisherman that went over them.
The first day I kept it as low key as I could with 50 boats looking at me. The second day I kept it really low key because no one could really see me. The third day I got scared and ran around a bunch to try and make sure I made the next cut.
On the last day, I said I was going to make this work ,and I went to three spots and never got a bite. I stopped on the fourth, and it wasn’t working. I was trying to move to the next spot. I saw them on my Humminbird 360, stopped, put the Power-Poles down and it happened fast, man. I had to hunt them every day.
Along with Bullet Boats and Mercury, having good Humminbird electronics, having proper wiring set up by SonarPros and my Power-Poles were important keys. We had wind every day, and I put my Power-Poles in the ground. I didn’t have to use the trolling motor and spook the fish. I was very quiet about what I was doing and stealthily caught them.