John finished 2nd in the Opens points and even though it took him 5 years on the Opens I wasn't surprised at all that he made it to the Elites. Can't tell you exactly why – I mean, of course he's a good fisherman, they all are. He just always seemed to have "it." Here's 5 with him:
1. How many years on the Opens were you going to give it?
> "I was closing in on this being maybe the last year or the next to last year...because of the financial standpoint of it."
2. Did the competition get better every year or was it about the same?
> "That's hard to say. I would say it probably got a little better each year. This year the competition was definitely better on the top end of it. But historically if you you look at the points average, it seems to be about the same to qualify."
3. Why was this your best year?
> "A different approach in practice, I would say. And I think it's one of those deals – when it's your time, it's your time.
> "I caught big fish in every tournament when normally I wouldn't catch one...seemingly out of the blue in every tournament, which didn't happen to me in the past. I'm not saying it wasn't decisions I was making and I'm not saying it wasn't luck. It's just when it's your time...."
Follow-up: What was the different approach in practice?
> "In the past I had always gone out going out looking for that secret honey hole or place to win a tournament, and if I never found it that came back to bite me. This year I went out and was like, How can I get bites? How can I catch keepers? If I found that out the 1st or 2nd day of practice, then the rest of my practice I would spend figuring out how to catch quality fish.
> "...figuring out how to catch a good limit every tournament – that led to no bombs. That was the biggest part of my deal. In the past, I always threw in a 130 or 140 in the season. I'd have a couple of top 10s too but couldn't make the Elites after that. This year I tried my best to avoid that 1 crappy tournament by making sure I knew how catch a good limit.
> "...first and foremost find out the easiest way to get a bite, then after that figuring out how to catch quality."
4. Everyone thinks that the Elite rookies are all about forward-facing sonar (FFS) – is that an accurate statement?
> "I would say that FFS definitely helped all of us, but I wouldn't say its what we're all about. A lot of the guys who did well this year have done well before FFS came out. So I would say it more enhanced what we were already good at.
> "It definitely played a role for everybody that made [the Elites]. But if you look at everyone that made it, most of those guys were already offshore fishermen and we had an offshore schedule. So FFS enhanced our ability to locate fish and make better casts, and learn more about why we were catching fish on those offshore places...."
5. After all that time fishing with your granddad, do you fish like him?
> "I know that I've found a lot of fish from what he taught me because...he was kinda like one of the OG offshore ledge fishermen on the TN River, so I learned that an early age. And as our mapping and technology [sonar] came out, we were able to learn that together.
> "I find a lot of fish by doing some of the same things he taught me growing up, but I wouldn't say I fish like him."