Brandon Card’s 2012 season was highly successful by anyone’s standards. He won the Bassmaster Elite Series Rookie of the Year award, cashed five checks and qualified for his first Bassmaster Classic. Even with these accomplishments, he had his share of ups and downs and made some rookie mistakes along the way. In the post-season, Brandon Card has had time to reflect on the year that was and also to set goals to improve in 2013.
What He Learned
2012 was a season full of many lessons for Brandon Card, but the biggest thing he learned was about decision making. “I learned to trust my instincts a little more. Like all the great fishermen say, you can’t second guess yourself. Everyone out here has their mechanics down and has the best equipment, but the decisions are what separate the great ones,” shared Card. He feels that he made some good decisions, but also feels like he missed some opportunities. One thing that stood out during the year was his actual results compared to the practice period. “I had the worst practice of any tournament at Okeechobee and managed to get a check. On the other hand, the Mississippi River was the best practice I had all year and I came home empty handed,” mentioned Card. This has given him plenty to think about in terms of how he makes decisions on the water during tournament days.
The Best and Worst Moments
A highly successful season will always include some great moments and Brandon Card had many this season. Aside from his Rookie of the Year title and Bassmaster Classic berth, he was grateful for one moment that happened at the Bull Shoals tournament. “I was leaving an area for the day on the third day with an hour to go and decided to do a complete u-turn and head back for one more try. I just had this feeling that I needed to go back and I caught two four pounders in about twenty minutes, improved my weight and moved way up in the standings,” acknowledged Card. When asked about the worst moments, he was quick to point out a few missed cuts by less than a pound, but added, “I try not to focus on the negatives, because it will just carry over. I really can’t complain. It was a good year.”
The Business Side of Fishing
Like all rookies, Brandon Card was forced to experience a side of the industry that was more about building relationships than about catching fish. “I learned a lot this year about having sponsors and looking for new ones. It is something that takes a long time to develop, almost like a friendship. Things don’t always happen right away or as fast as I’d like them too,” explained Card. He has been active and strives to meet new people and develop relationships, saying that, “The best thing that can happen is you get a new sponsor, the worst is that you make a new friend.”
Individual Tournament Reflections
St. Johns River Showdown – Palatka, FL – Mar 15 – Mar 18 2012 – 21st Place
The first tournament of the season was a good one for Brandon, but it didn’t start out that way. Going into the event, he felt like he was going to have a great tournament based on what he saw in practice. He was fishing for bedding fish like everyone else and had some big fish located, but on the first day, every single one of those fish had somebody sitting on them or had been caught already. He was surprised yet learned quickly that these are truly the best anglers in the world. Shocked and disappointed, Card ditched the game plan, caught a small limit on the first day and went looking for new fish on day two. The result was a solid finish thanks to an open mind and looking for new water to fish.
Power-Pole Slam – Okeechobee, FL – Mar 22 – Mar 25 2012 – 41st Place
As mentioned, Okeechobee was Brandon Card’s worst practice of the year, but it also proved to be one of his proudest moments. After struggling for most of the first day, he caught a six pounder near the end of the day. “I made the decision to go there on the second day and camp out and it worked, I weighed in about 17 lbs from there. It was a smart decision based on a good feeling I had,” shared Card.
TroKar Quest Bull Shoals, AR – Apr 19 – Apr 22 2012 – 18th Place
His best moment of the season happened here, but he also made his biggest mistake on Bull Shoals. “The first day I was fishing in the back of a creek and catching them good, but for some reason I decided to run about as far as you could go in the other direction. I had gotten a few bites there in practice, but it didn’t turn out and I wasted half of the day,” admitted Card. He committed the cardinal sin in bass fishing, leaving fish to find fish. He spent the next two days in the back of the creek, catching fish all day on both days. Admittedly he had a great tournament, but he is still haunted by those lost hours on a prime spot in a tight tournament.
Douglas Lake Challenge – Dandridge, TN – May 3 – May 6 2012 – 9th Place
Brandon Card was familiar with Douglas Lake, having fished it sparingly over the past ten years. Going into the event, he knew the fish would be deep and stuck with the game plan. “I’m not a true local, but I have fished it over the years and I knew the fish would be deep,” said Card. Fishing deep is actually Card’s biggest weakness, but he made a gamble to do it the whole event and it paid off.
Toledo Bend Battle – Many, LA Jun 7 – Jun 10 2012 – 37th Place
Going into Toledo Bend, Card predicted the fish would be deep. Like the Douglas event, he stuck with the plan and it turned out in his favor. “One thing I probably did wrong at Toledo was my fish management. The first day I caught around 40 keepers and I really could have used some of them on the second and third day,” admitted Card.
Mississippi River Rumble – La Crosse, WI Jun 21 – Jun 24 2012 – 52nd Place
His best practice of the year contributed to a disappointing finish, “I had the blinders on and was too confident. I didn’t want to try anything new when my plan wasn’t working,” admitted Card. By tournament time, the dropping water moved many of the larger fish out and he believes he didn’t make the right adjustments for that.
Green Bay Challenge – Lake Michigan – Green Bay, WI Jun 28 – Jul 01 2012 – 79th Place
“Green Bay was a disaster!” is about the only thing Brandon could say for Green Bay. Admittedly he was mostly unfamiliar with northern lakes and decided he was going to fish a technique he is not completely comfortable with. “Going in, I told myself I was going to throw a drop-shot and fish deep water, both are things I consider my biggest weaknesses,” shared Card. His plan did not pay off and the fact that many of the top finishers utilized power-fishing techniques in shallow added to his frustration, “It just makes me sick that they were catching them shallow like that, that is how I really like to fish,” added Card.
Ramada Championship Oneida Lake, Syracuse, NY – Aug 23 – Aug 26 – 59th Place
The last tournament of the year had added pressure for the rookie from Tennessee. He was not only battling it out for rookie of the year but also trying not to slip out of Classic contention. After a tough practice, he decided to slow down and punch mats during the first day. It worked and he had a solid Day One. On the second day, he recalled, “I let the whole points race get to me and I fished way too fast. I scrambled all day and only brought four fish to the scales.” Even with a subpar weight, he managed to hold on to his title and Classic berth.
Sophomore Season Goals
Nearly every Bassmaster Elite angler, when asked what there goals are, will start off by saying they would like to win the Angler of the Year title and qualify for the Bassmaster Classic. Brandon Card is no different, but one other major goal that’s high on his list is to win an event. He’d like to win one of the Elite Series events, or even an Open. He feels that that will take him to the next level, financially as well as in status and respect.
After a successful 2102 season, Brandon Card has proven he had the skills to compete on the Elite Series. He is content with his progress and eager to compete in his first Bassmaster Classic in February. Some of the mistakes he made and correct decisions he experienced in 2012 will help shape his career and better prepare him for 2013.