By John Johnson
BassFan Senior Editor
A pair of 6th-place finishes were Tyler Rivet's best showings during his first 4 years on the Bassmaster Elite Series. He's already topped that standard twice to begin his fifth tour-level campaign.
The well-muscled 28-year-old from Louisiana won the opener at Lake Okeechobee, then added a 3rd-place finish the following week at Lake Seminole. He's the early leader in the Angler of the Year (AOY) race and will head into the Bassmaster Classic with some confidence even though he feels that the Tennessee River isn't particularly well-suited to his shallow, dirty-water game.
"Confidence is the main deal and I guess it just comes down to fishing with more of it," he said last week. "I've also had some luck on my side – I didn't lose a fish all week at Okeechobee, although I did lose a few at Seminole.
"I need to keep focusing on making (Top-50) cuts; you can start out with a 1st and a 3rd and then bomb the rest of the season and not make the Classic. I go to every tournament looking to get a check and then if I get a chance to win, I'll go for it. It's all about making it to that third day and then from there, figuring out what you can do to try to make the fourth day."
Some Added Incentive
Rivet had some extra incentive to get the 2023 season off to a good start. Walk-On's Sports Bistreaux, a Cajun food chain co-owned by former New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees that had been his title sponsor, informed him the day before Christmas that it wouldn't be on board for the new year.
"I was really bummed at first because it's a money deal and a lot more was going to have to come out of my pocket," he said. "It was too late to get anything else – everbody was booked up and the budgets were done. I've just been going with my name for the title, but the spot is still open if anybody shows up."
His Okeechobee victory alleviated a lot of the financial pressure he'd been feeling. Forward-facing sonar played a big role – he's dedicated a lot of time recently to becoming proficient with it in off-colored water in the shallow and mid-depth ranges.
The fish he caught at the Big O were primarily in the 6- to 14-foot range, with 8 feet being the prime depth for the largest specimens. If he found a group of three or more fish, he was almost certain to get bit and he could often catch them all if he went about his business quickly. If there was just a single fish, it was usually much more difficult to get it to commit, but those were often bigger – frequently in the 6-pound class.
"I'd say that I saw (on his graph) about 80 percent of the ones I weighed in," he said. "Most of them were prespawn on the third and fourth days, but some of the other ones I'd been catching were postspawn."
His primary offering was a Berkley Stunna jerkbait (stealth shad). He also punched vegetaion with a self-designed Xcite Baits Sucka Punch (black/blue) on a 3/4-ounce weight and Carolina-rigged an Xcite Baits Hawgalicious (green pumpkin/green glitter. He used F5 rods and Shimano SLX reels.
Better Feeling about Classic
Rivet will compete in his second Bassmaster Classic later this month on the Tennessee River. He's fished the venue only once previously – he had an uninspiring 71st-place finish in an Elite Series event 2 years ago – but he hopes that he can fare much better this time.
"I didn't pre-practice for it – I'll base things off that Elite event and hope for the best," he said. "I'm not a big rock fisherman, but the last time we were there I didn't use (Garmin LiveScope) near as much. Now that I'm pretty good with it, that gives me a little bit of confidence and I think I can catch them with that."
He's also looking forward to the Elite events at Santee Cooper (which is likely to be a big-weight slugfest) in late April and the Sabine River (which assuredly won't) in early June.
"The Sabine is pretty similar to the stuff that's around my house," he said. "It's the closest thing I'll get to a home-field advantage."