By John Johnson
BassFan Senior Editor
There are no tidal venues on next year's Bassmaster Elite Series schedule, and that fact doesn't disappoint Josh Bertrand. It also doesn't lessen his desire to become more proficient on lunar-influenced fisheries, as plenty of them are bound to show up on future slates.
Three events were contested on tidal waters this year – the St. Johns River, Winyah Bay and the Potomac River. The best placement the 4th-year pro from Arizona managed in any of them was 60th, and that's the primary reason he'll be working the Expo at next year's Classic.
"I knew this year was going to be a test," he said. "I like to fish shallow, but I feel like I'm a better deep-water fisherman and the biggest weakness I've got is tidal fishing. I've struggled with it since I started.
"I was worried as soon as I saw three of them on the schedule, and those ended up being three of my four bad finishes."
Rough Beginning and End
Bertrand opened the 2016 campaign with back-to-back tidal bombs (60th at the St. Johns and 85th at Winyah) to put himself in a big hole in the Angler of the Year (AOY) race. He climbed out of it with five consecutive money finishes through the middle portion of the season, but plummeted again with a 74th at the Potomac and an 82nd in the finale at the Mississippi River.
He was 34th on the points list with the last two derbies remaining – inside the Classic cutoff and comfortably within the parameters for making the AOY Championship (Top 50). But the Potomac's tides were inhospitable toward him and the Mississippi was a disaster.
When the final fish had been weighed in La Crosse, Wis., he was 52nd in the points and his season was over.
"I had a blast at Cayuga (where he finished 29th in the season's seventh event), but then I had time to come home and sit there and think about another tidal fishery (the Potomac) that I'd never been to," he said. "I pre-fished for that one and tried to do a lot of research and when I got there I think I found the right groups of fish in practice, but I didn't fish the right ones on the first day. I lived in the wrong area."
He weighed a limit of 1-pounders that mired him in 89th place. He moved up 15 places the following day with an 11-12 stringer, but that was little consolation.
"The second day I lived in a different area and the results were a lot better. If I would've done that on both days, I could've gotten to the third day and come out of there pretty decent.
"But instead, I was now on the outside looking in for the Classic. Then we went to the Mississippi River, where I was 18th before (in 2013), but I let the pressure get to me. I tried to hit 5 million places in practice and in the tournament and I never settled into one thing. I tried to fish like I'd been fishing there my whole life and the reality was that I'd only been there twice before and I really didn't know that much about it."
More Experience Necessary
Bertrand's quest to improve his tidal-water proficiency will likely include a few excursions to places such as the Chesapeake Bay and the California Delta. He'll try to hit the Delta this offseason and the Chesapeake during a break in next year's schedule.
"I think the answer is spending more time on it," he said. "I didn't grow up doing it, so it's been tough for me.
"I travel with Justin Lucas and Clifford Pirch and they're both real good tidal fishermen (Lucas has won Elite events on both the Delta and the Potomac over the last 2 seasons), but there's only so much they can help me with – they can't go out there and fish for me. If I can get some more experience with it, I think it'll only be a matter of time before it clicks."
His main objective for 2017 will be qualifying for this third Classic.
"I really like the schedule – it's pretty similar to the one we had in 2015 (when he finished a career-best 34th in the points). Quite a few of the places I've been to before and there should be a lot of opportunities to fish a dropshot, which is my favorite thing. The weather will always be a factor, but it looks like (the dropshot) could be a major player in five or six tournaments and I'm excited about that.
"Getting back to the Classic is definitely my goal, but I really want to just do as well as I can and not think about that. I want to catch as many big fish as I can every single day, regardless of where I am in the points. I seem to perform better when I fish that way."
> The 28-year-old Bertrand and wife Chantel will welcome daughter Emma, their first child, any day now.
> His highest finish of 2016 was a 21st at Wheeler Lake. "Even when I was rolling good, there wasn't anything super-exciting," he said. "Most of the season was just kind of a dud."