Dustin Connell walked off with the REDCREST crown recently, culminating an incredible three-year span during which he’s earned over $1 million on the BPT circuit. His latest win can be credited as one of the most dominating last-day performances ever in a championship event. Connell’s 83-pound day surpassed the second-place competitor by over 30 pounds.

While Connell’s performance certainly highlights his abilities with fishing’s newest technology, the biggest take-away was his growth as a tournament angler. Gone were the childish hijinks and “aw shucks” attitude he once portrayed. What replaced them was veteran dominance.

Watching Connell move around the boat was an eye-opener. His motions were intentional and deliberate. Every detail, from the cast to the catch, including landing of the fish, was done in a perfectly repeated fashion. Truthfully, he reminded me of Kevin VanDam.

While his boat and jersey colors mirror VanDam’s, I think what made such an impression was the way Connell portrayed his fishing strategy. When VanDam was on his game, he fished as if everyone else was simply in his way. As if the other competitors were literally beneath him, and they were. To this day, no one has ever dominated the sport the way VanDam did, period.

But this new wave of anglers – the Connells, Wheelers and the like – they’re getting close. Partially thanks to the complete revolution of tournament angling through forward-facing sonar, the repeat winners are in a different league.

Connell himself regularly credits Wheeler for his success. The way Wheeler matured into a veteran angler was noticed and emulated.

But Connell may be moving past his mentor. Remember, Connell has now won REDCREST twice, and banked seven figures since the inception of the BPT. Not counting the few giant purses of FLW, this may be the quickest any angler has ever reached the million-dollar mark.

Connell’s REDCREST strategy was just that – a decided game plan that considered numerous moving parts. His decision to remain in his chosen fishing area, rather than running around the lake based on past history, showed the resolve of a veteran. Even more, Connell had practiced for this event all winter in some regard, forgoing any plans other than to fish and refine his craft.

Here is possibly the biggest variable that needs mentioning. The best in the game with forward-facing sonar are much further along than their competitors. This is a result of endless practice and time on the water. Make no mistake – when these guys go fishing, they don’t utilize any technique without FFS. There’s no throwing a spinnerbait because it’s fun or flipping the bank for a change of pace. It’s all day, every day, learning the tricks of forward-facing sonar.

Watch guys like Dustin Connell fish and see how often they cast at a fish, miss, and quickly reel in to make another throw. Then watch the rest of the field.

This game has always been about efficiency. It’s no different flipping bushes, skipping docks or careening a crankbait off a stump 10 feet down. The best have always been the most efficient. The same holds true with the newest way to bass-fish.

With his REDCREST win, Connell becomes the second to surprise no one. Like Bryan Thrift the year prior, Connell was supposed to win, a dominant player lucky enough to fish his home lake.

Perhaps nothing says more about Connell’s dominance. That the sport’s best felt there was no way to beat him, nearly all admitting they were fishing for second place.

Home lake advantage? Nah. Just the latest example of a whole new level.

(Joe Balog is the often-outspoken owner of Millennium Promotions, Inc., an agency operating in the fishing and hunting industries. A former Bassmaster Open and EverStart Championship winner, he's best known for his big-water innovations and hardcore fishing style. He's a popular seminar speaker, product designer and author, and is considered one of the most influential smallmouth fishermen of modern times.)