I can’t believe it's already February!
It seems like just a few weeks ago that I was trailering my Nitro Z19 home from the FLW Cup in Hot Springs. In reality, a time that we tend to call our “off-season” was little more than a blur due to the sudden loss of my mom and other family priorities – all compounded by the perennial scramble to get proposals submitted and contracts signed before the upcoming season.
In this sport, there are a multitude of moving parts that keep a career moving in the right direction each year, and the time in between seasons is critical to keep positive momentum for both the business side and competitive side of the sport.
So far, my 2020 season has started off with me scrambling to get back into my “process,” as well as having to deal with some curveballs thrown my way at the first FLW Pro Circuit event.
However, I've found that these challenges, in fact, may not be a detriment to my season after all.
Major Road Time
After my mom’s passing, we quickly decided that the only suitable place to have her service would be our hometown of Paradise, Calif., where she had many friends and family nearby.
With everything we needed to bring and accomplish on that trip, Katie and I decided to make a road trip out of it, and in the beginning of December we hit the road for the West Coast.
It ended up being a fulfilling trip, being able to visit with family and friends and seeing the progress in the rebuilding process of Paradise after a year of recovering from the devastating Camp Fire. More importantly, we had a wonderful service for my mother that provided a certain level closure for our family.
Arriving back home to Tennessee in early January, I immediately got into business mode, attending the Big Rock outdoor show in Nashville for Z-Man, and then on the way home from there I received another family related curveball and needed to leave for Florida to assist my father with some things he needed help with.
This last-second trip to Florida forced me to condense my season preparation from a nine-day period into a day and a half, since I had to pack the Lance, Nitro and the truck as if I was heading to Sam Rayburn for the first event. I would have to leave directly from Florida to Texas.
Big Start at Big Sam
With little opportunity to prepare mentally, physically or logistically, for the 2020 season, I found the trip from Florida to Texas to be a good opportunity to start getting in “the zone” again, and get excited about the impending season opener on Sam Rayburn.
Though I was much less prepared than I like to begin a season, I was more than ready to back the Z20 into the water after the longest hiatus from fishing that I can remember.
Though my expectations and anticipations were high, practice at Sam Rayburn was a real struggle, and though I was catching fish, I never was able to catch one heavier than 2 1/2 pounds on any of the three practice days, so I found it hard to be confident going into the event.
One thing I’ve learned over the years is that the quality of your practice rarely will dictate the quality of your tournament – unless you let it – so I took the dismal practice as a personal challenge, which kept me motivated going into the first day.
That day went pretty well. I found some fish in a staging area with a Carolina rig and then started running a classic Rayburn pre-spawn “drain” pattern with a Jackhammer ChatterBait and a lipless crankbait. Quickly I reconfirmed the lesson I learned about practice not being a barometer for success in an event by catching my best bag of the week at 13-08, putting me in good position going into day 2.
The biggest challenge going into the second day was that early in the morning of day 1 I hit a submerged tree that damaged my boat enough that I felt that I needed to find a loaner boat to fish out of. I was very fortunate that fellow Pro Circuit angler Chris Brasher was willing to lend me his boat from 2019.
The second day started with some battery issues from my loaner boat, which forced me to fish off the trolling motor near take-off. Something like that can be an advantage sometimes because it forces you to focus on fishing what’s in front of you. Using my Navionics card, I was able to find an underwater point that had a large population of fish on it and quickly caught a 14-04 limit, easily putting me into the top 30 to fish the third day.
On day 3 I decided to fish the same underwater point with the borrowed boat, catching a limit early on the C-rig and then upgrading several times on a Z-Man Finesse WormZ rigged on a Shaky HeadZ jighead to finish with 13-07 for the day.
In the end, I finished in 18th place, which was a big win in my book after such a challenging event. Once again I would like to thank Chris Brasher for loaning me a boat and allowing me to start the season off strong.
A big part of my tournament process is in my preparation leading into a season. Making sure my boat, truck, camper and tackle, as well as my mental focus, are dialed in to the highest level possible is important for me going into an event.
My preparation going into my sophomore year as an FLW Pro Circuit angler certainly is at an all-time low, and my focus has never been more fractured as it was going to Texas. However, after capturing a solid finish at Rayburn with as many challenges as I faced, and without proper preparation, I'm about as confident as I ever have been. I'm very proud of the way I was able to handle everything I have faced personally and professionally in the last few months.
Adversity is a key ingredient for growth and I'm thankful for the challenges I've faced and overcome.
Bring on the rest of 2020!
(Miles "Sonar" Burghoff is an FLW Pro Circuit competitor and the co-host of the TV series "Sweetwater." To visit his website, click here. You can also visit him on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube (SonarFishing) and Instagram (@sonarfishing).