By Kevin VanDam
We kicked off a big week here in Syracuse, N.Y. on Oneida Lake.
This is where all the chickens come to roost; the Toyota Tundra Bassmaster Angler of Year, Elite Series Rookie of the Year, 2013 Bassmaster Classic Elite Series qualifiers and Toyota Trucks All-Star Week contestants all will be determined.
Everyone is making that last ditch effort to garner valuable points, or at the very least, put together a good showing to carry them into next season.
The last tournament of the year is very stressful for the majority of the Elite field. Everyone has something at stake.
Me? Well, my hopes for another AOY title diminished greatly on Day One as I could manage only five bites. I caught them all (12 pounds, 8 ounces) but couldn’t get the quality bites I had hoped to get.
My chance of winning the AOY was a long-shot before the tournament began, but I never lost hope. I knew that the guys ahead of me had to really stumble and I had to knock it out of the park if I were going to repeat as champion.
But AOY leader Brent Chapman did what he had to do on Day One (he’s in second place), putting forth another stellar effort as he has all year. If he can catch a decent limit each day, he’s gonna wrap it up and my hat’s off to him.
And that’s why I went for broke today; knowing I already had a Classic berth clinched I had to swing for the fences. I spent my practice targeting the big smallmouth that Oneida has and which I saw roaming offshore, following pods of baitfish.
My pattern would have worked if the wind would have blown just a little, but it didn’t. It was basically slick on the lake most of that day and that makes my pattern that much tougher. The fish are really scattered so I spent my time power fishing so I could cover a lot of water.
It worked pretty well for me in practice. I didn’t catch a lot of smallmouth, but the ones I caught were good ones. But for it to work really well, I needed more wind, and it just didn’t happen.
I’m not only fishing for myself this week but also the thousands of fans who signed up on Nitro’s Facebook page. Nitro wrapped a new boat for me to use in this event that has the faces of thousands of anglers wrapped around the gunnels and sides.
The concept is that those fans get ride around with me each day of this tournament.
And, believe me, the impact of that was not lost on me throughout the day. Anytime I looked down, I’d see those faces staring back at me and that gave me the motivation to try harder to catch more and bigger bass.
It just didn’t happen.
I can’t complain, as it’s been a good year overall and I’ve been consistent; but it’s frustrating because I’ve not been able to win. I’ve had my chances and had the fish on all year, but it’s been one of those seasons where a lost fish here and there can make a huge difference.
But you know what? I’ll work through it and keep doing my best and I know it will turn back around!
Remember, it’s all about the attitude!