Eager to make my Bassmaster debut

It’s the start of a new chapter in my fishing career down in Florida this week with the first Bassmaster Elite Series event of 2019 taking place at the St. John’s River.
After six seasons fishing the FLW Tour, I have changed things up this year and will fish the Bassmaster Elite Series.
While the format is similar between to two circuits, there are some differences that I’m excited about. For instance, there only are 75 anglers competing on the Elite Series, which will be a pleasure compared to the 185 anglers that I fished against last year on the FLW Tour.
It will open up a lot more water at each venue and the lakes won’t get pressured as much during the practice period before the event.
As well, there are no co-anglers in the Bassmaster events, so I’ll have the boat all to myself to fish. But each angler will have a marshal riding along to make sure all of the rules are followed and to send in updates on the anglers’ catches throughout the day.
FLW has moved away from having co-anglers this year, too, but in all of the events that I’ve fished, we have had co-anglers who fish from the back of the boat.
Not having another person fishing in the boat will be nice because there have been times when they would influence my boat positioning and the techniques that I used. Now I will be able to fish however I want.
My Canadian pals from Peterborough, Ont., Chris and Cory Johnston, also have moved from FLW over to Bassmaster this year so there will be three Canadians in the field.
Another Canadian, Dave Mercer, is the emcee for the Elites events. He is the host of the “Facts of Fishing” TV show and is from southern Ontario. We all know Dave pretty well so it’ll be fun to interact with him on stage.
The Johnston brothers and I are staying together in a rental house this week so we’re like a little family on the road. Next week, we have another house rented at Lake Lanier in Georgia–the sight of our second event.
It’s often a lot cheaper for us to rent a house for the week than to stay at a hotel and we can cook our own meals, which beats eating in restaurants. Plus, it’s nice to have some camaraderie with the other guys at night when we get off the lake.
Through a couple days of pre-fishing, it’s been tough for me. A hurricane hammered this area last fall and wiped out nearly all of the weeds in the whole river system, which is the traditional habitat for the bass here, so that has made things much different than usual.
The weather is warming up fast this week, though, so that should make the fishing better as the week goes along. Hopefully, I can find a couple of good spots to use throughout the tournament.
The tournament is set to kick off tomorrow morning, with the full field fishing Thursday and Friday. The top 35 qualify to fish Saturday, then the top 10 anglers will fish Sunday to determine the winner of the $100,000 first-place prize.
Everyone can follow along on Bassmaster.com for results this weekend.