Posted by Z3 MEDIA STAFF on 09/23/2013

Story by Matt Pangrac - Photos by Dave Rush and Matt Pangrac

Del Rio, TX – Over the past year, the BASS ZONE has chronicled Kurt Dove’s return to the Bassmaster Elite Series after last fishing at the top level of the sport in 2008.  

After two successful Bassmaster Northern Open events during the 2012 season, Dove stated in an August 2012 article that a return to the Elite Series in 2013 was a real possibility should he have success in the final Northern Open of the season and earn an invitation.  “I definitely will do everything that I can to make it happen again and fish.  You can never say that you’re 100% in, because it’s a huge commitment.  Hopefully I can qualify and make some things happen.”  To read the original story, CLICK HERE

Dove did qualify for the 2013 Elite Series through the 2012 Bassmaster Opens, and he announced his return the Elite Series in December of 2012. 

“The goal was always to return (to the Elite Series).  I wasn’t sure how or when, but I knew that the path would be created, and when it was, I would be in a better place,” stated Dove in an article that The BASS ZONE published on December 3, 2012.   “I can’t begin to describe my excitement about returning this upcoming season. When I left, I knew that I wanted to come back and be in the right situation and right state of mind.  I feel like that’s exactly where I am right now.”  To read the full article, CLICK HERE.  

Kurt DoveFast forward roughly 10 months, and Dove’s first season back on the Elite Series is now in the history books.   It took the Del Rio, Texas pro just a single sentence to sum up his 2013 season that included eight Elite Series tournaments, three Bassmaster Southern Opens, and three Bassmaster Northern Opens: “The year turned into a little bit more of a grind than I had hoped for,” he stated.  

While Dove recorded three top 50 finishes in the Bassmaster Opens in 2013, including two top 20 finishes in the Northern Opens on Oneida Lake and Lake Erie, he cashed just two checks during the 2013 Elite Series and finished in 89th place in the final Toyota Angler Of the Year point standings. 

Admittedly, it wasn’t the return that he had envisioned.  “I certainly wouldn’t call it a successful year by any means, but at the same time, I continued to learn and adapt to try and find a successful process to compete at the highest level,” said Dove.  

Two times during the Elite Series season, Dove finished in 51st place, missing the cut at Bull Shoals by 4-ounces and missing the cut at the St. Lawrence River by a single ounce.  It was the difference between cashing a check in a quarter of the regular season events and cashing a check in half of the Elite Series tournaments.  

“I went into a mode where I was teetering on having success but ended up getting the short end of the stick,” he stated.  “That started to play with me mentally a little bit, and I started thinking about what I needed to do to change things up and get a little bit better results.  Once you finish the first competition day, you really see where you stack up to the rest of the field and the pressure steps up a little bit on that second day because you’re thinking about things a little bit more.

“When you finish in the middle of the pack, it puts some additional stress on everything.  That can be good in a way, but the bottom line is that it’s additional stress,” Dove continued.  “Regardless of what kind of job you have, you want to be good at what you do. When you have a bad or mediocre day at work, you want to find a way to attack it a little bit differently the next day to improve.”

Throughout the 2013 season, Dove said that despite the eventual outcome, he saw noticed a dramatic improvement in his overall game compared to the last time he fished an Elite Series season in 2008.  “There’s no question that I’m a much better angler.  I can feel it and I can see it.  You don’t always see the good decisions in the final standings, but there was a marked improvement in my decision making. I believe that was a direct result of the time that I’ve been able to put in on the water guiding over the past four years.” 

Dove said that he learned two major things in 2013.  “I learned that I really need to relax coming out of the gates.  I got so amped up on the first morning of each tournament that I fished too fast for the first few hours of the day, and that really hindered my performance because I got out of rhythm. 

“Generally speaking, I found quality fish during practice.  In the tournament, I wasn’t fishing the same way that I did in practice when I was more relaxed.  During my time away from the Elite Series, I forgot about the adrenaline rush of the competition when you’re fishing against the top guys in the world.” 

He also learned that he needed to reevaluate how he prepared for each Elite Series tournament.  “Strategically, there were probably some things that I could have adjusted in regards to how I attacked each particular venue,” Dove admitted. “There’s no question that when you have just two-and-a-half practice days, it’s a tough nut to crack because you can’t cover as much water and experiment with techniques.  Over the past several years of fishing the Opens, I generally put in five days of practice before each tournament, and the shortened Elite Series practice time kind of snuck up on me this year.”

In 2014, Dove is committed to putting in more time pre-practicing at tournament locations where he is unfamiliar with the water.   “I think that familiarity is one of the biggest keys to being able to break down the fishery,” he explained.  “Most of the events where I was on the cusp of success were on fisheries where I had been before or had pre-practiced.”  As a result, he stated that he will most likely fish just one division of the Opens next year and dedicate the extra time to scouting and preparing for Elite Series events.  

“Even though I was away from the Elite Series for four years, I still felt comfortable and knew that I belonged,” concluded Dove, who said that it looked like his relationship with his title sponsor, BK Racing, will continue into the 2014 season.  “There was a little bit of angst heading into each tournament, but I could definitely tell that I’m a better angler overall and that I improved dramatically from my first stint on the Elite Series.  I’m already pumped up for 2014.”