By Todd Ceisner
BassFan Editor

The time is coming. Jared McMillan can sense it.

If. He. Can. Just. Keep. It. Going.

McMillan successfully avoided any semblance of a sophomore slump on the FLW Tour in 2019. Aside from a triple-digit finish in the season opener at Sam Rayburn Reservoir and a 99th at Cherokee Lake in April, he posted five top-50 finishes to make the FLW Cup for a second straight year.

The 23-year-old Floridian is content with the upward arc his career has started on, but hes getting antsy. He has a trio of top-10 finishes in two seasons. He knows winning at this level is difficult and he feels like hes on the cusp of breaking through.

Im happy with it, but at the same time I want to contend for more wins, he said. Ive made three top-10s, but I havent contended for a win. Id like to do that next year. Im close, but not there yet. Im not sure if thats mentally or physically. Maybe its a new a technique I need to learn. Im getting close. I can feel it.

Building Blocks

McMillan started his rookie season in 18 with two top-10s in Florida (Lake Okeechobee and Harris Chain of Lakes) followed by a 20th at Lake Lanier. After three events, he sat atop the FLW Tour points standings. He then failed to log a money finish the rest of the way, but still managed to finish 19th in points (tops among rookies) and clinched a Cup berth.

Its easy to understand then why, coming into the 2019 season, he was uncertain about his prospects. He didnt like not having much success outside of the Southeast. At the same time, he knew he was still learning the ropes and being able to travel with older brother Brandon gave him a good sounding board for ideas.

I was 50-50 on doing (the Tour) in 2019 because I cashed just one check outside of Florida, so I was a little nervous about that coming into 2019, he said.

A dud at Rayburn (125th) to start the season put him on his heels, but he was able to shake it off and rebounded with a 48th at Lake Toho three weeks later.

That 20-hour drive home from Rayburn was not a fun drive home, McMillan said. I had a lot of time to think about it. It was one of my worst tournaments ever. It was my worst practice ever. It was just not a good week at all, on or off the water. My mind wasnt in the right place. Im ready for some redemption there next year.

When I got back into Florida and cashed a check at Toho. It wasnt pretty, but it gave me some momentum. I cant preach enough about momentum. When you have it, you have it. When you dont, it shows.

He parlayed the Toho finish into two more checks at Lake Seminole and Grand Lake before stubbing his toe at Cherokee.

I went there with a little too much confidence, he said. I didnt miss anything, but I just didnt realize what I had found. I got too comfortable catching them one way, but they switched on me. I had the right area and pattern, but it didnt go my way. I just got too comfortable. Id made three checks in a row and I was catching them in practice. I let my mind wander and lost a couple fish, and when ounces matter, you cant do that.

He rebounded with an 8th-place finish at Lake Chickamauga to display the sort of resilience this sport demands.

I love that place. I dont know what it is, but it just has big fish like we do at home and they spawn and set up like at home, he said. I shared some water with (tournament winner) John Cox, so I was definitely in the right area.

He then carried that momentum to Lake Champlain, where he sight-fished smallmouth en route to cashing his first check up north.

I have a little more confidence with that type of fishing, he said. I wish I were a little more centrally located to fish more lakes like that.

Busy Year Ahead

In an effort to build on the foundation he laid over the last two seasons, McMillan hopes to fish as many tournaments as he can in 2020. Hes almost certain hell be competing on the new FLW Pro Circuit as well as one division each of the Bassmaster Opens and the FLW Series.

Its all part of his plan to expose himself to as many different scenarios on the water as possible, which will help him improve his decision making and proficiency with certain techniques now and down the road.

The more I do these things, the better I can be at effectively fishing them, he said. Ive learned how to be more efficient. Whether its skipping a dock, picking apart a laydown or throwing a buzzbait around docks, Ill feel more comfortable the next time that situation comes up. Its mostly been trial and error.

I flip a lot at home so I know the little tweaks to make that can make it better or get an extra bite, he continued. Thats what I need to learn on every bait. Everybody can throw a Strike King 5XD, but whether you know what youre hitting or if youre hitting a brush pile or grinding a shell bed, thats where I need to get better. I have a good group of baits and ways to fish and places to put them to use. Ive been having to learn on the fly. If I can just learn it, thats whats been holding me back.