By John Johnson
BassFan Senior Editor
Several anglers who finished on the bottom half of the points list for the MLF Bass Pro Tour's inaugural season have said their primary issue was failing to cover enough water. For Justin Lucas, it was just the opposite.
"I ran around way too much," said the 2018 Bassmaster Elite Series Angler of the Year who finished 46th out of 80 anglers in the BPT points. "I was running a lot when I should've really tried to settle down."
A second straight AOY crown became pretty much an impossibility for him when he opened the campaign with a 75th-place bomb at Florida's Kissimmee Chain of Lakes. He posted a 63rd two events later at the three-lake derby staged out of Charlotte, N.C. to deepen his hole and make it unlikely that he'd qualify for the inaugural Redcrest Championship.
He performed solidly across the second half of the season, finishing outside the money cut (top 40) just once in the final five events, and that was a near miss as he was 43rd in the first of two tournaments at Table Rock Lake.
"It really came down to two terrible events. The other times I missed a check it was only by one or two places – so I'm looking at the season like that – I had a good opportunity to make six out of eight checks. There was only twice when I was totally out of it, and in those other two I just failed to make it happen in the last hour.
"I needed to find bigger groups of fish – that was the biggest change. You can't run 20 minutes for one or two bites. If you're going to make that run, you need to get 10 bites."
Can't Lag Behind
One of Lucas' main takeaways from the 2019 season was that it's critical – for him, anyway – to get off to a solid start on the first day of competition in the MLF format.
"The tournaments I did better in, that's what happened," he said. "It's a lot easier to ride that momentum."
When that didn't happen, the ScoreTracker updates reporting catches by his competitors sometimes threw him for a loop.
"It puts a lot of pressure on you early in the day, and anybody who says that it doesn't is lying. There's going to be ebbs and flows throughout the day on that board and you have to get to the point where you don't let it bother you because it only takes one or two little areas to get back in it."
He had a lackluster practice at the Kissimmee Chain, but a couple of big bites led him in a direction that proved to be a dead-end street. He had a strong practice in North Carolina, particularly at Lake Jordan, but the water dropped so much between that point and his first competition day that some of his best stuff was literally almost dry.
"I did a bad job of adjusting to that and I didn't relocate those fish," he said.
More Screen Time Anticipated
Lucas likes the look of next year's BPT schedule, as it should give him more opportunities to fish deeper water and utilize his electronics than the 2019 slate offered.
"If there's any knock on this deal for me, it's that this past year we weren't able to use our electronics enough," he said. "It was really a shallow-water fisherman's dream schedule and the format kind of sets up that way with the short practice – it does cater to the shallow guys who hit the bank and catch fish right away just fishing the conditions.
"As the season wore on, electronics came into play a little more. I used them a lot at Winnebago (the regular-season finale in Wisconsin, where he finished 29th) and I caught some good smallmouth, but just not enough of them."
He's eagerly looking forward to returning to Winnebago next year, along with trips to the St. Lawrence River, Lake Champlain and Lake Eufaula. However, he won't set any goals for himself from a performance perspective.
"I don't see how anybody can look at that and say it's a bad schedule. I just want to go out there and catch the hell out of them, and you can put it just like that."