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When I was fifteen, my father was taken from me suddenly by cancer. He was in my life one day and then gone the next. Whenever I think back to the great times we had, they were usually out on a boat where he was telling a good story, a bad joke, or just spending time with his eldest son. The lessons he taught me can still be applied to today Read More
This was it, the final event. The culmination of many early mornings, several tournaments, many days of practice and several entry fees all to get here. It was finally upon us. The District 2 Day State Championship. The morning was crisp and cool with a slight fog hovering over the lake. The sun was just starting to crest and the smell of outboard engines was in the air. Man I love tournament mornings. After receiving the rules and safety brief and getting our take-off positions, I climbed aboard my boat. My mind was racing as I triple checked, to ensure all my equipment was in pristine condition, ready to deal a devastating loss to my competition. I watched my opponents walk across the beach and board their vessels. Some where laughing and joking, others appearing to be determined and anxious. In my mind, I rehearsed my strategy in preparation for ooze off….Now hold on a minute. I must digress here. Why do we call it ooze off? Are we really fooling anyone? Have you ever seen a guy start a tournament by gently easing the throttle forward to a comfortable cruising speed while he enjoys a cup of joe and a donut? I never have. What I know is the throttle hammering, blast out of the hole, wave skippin’, cold, tears streaming down your face adrenaline rush called a “blast off”. That’s what I know. That’s what I was mentally preparing for. Let’s be honest and call it what it is. So, as I was preparing for the “blast off” my thoughts were shattered by someone yelling, “LOOK OUT. HE’S GOING TO HIT YOU!” I turned and watched helplessly as another angler fumbled for his throttle, trying to stop his motor from backing into mine. It was too late. As the motors connected, he gunned his engine clipping my prop with his. My boat was still beached and I was out of commission with a large chunk of a prop blade missing. This guy must be a pro, I thought. He managed to eliminate one opponent before we even took off. How did I fail to anticipate that tactic? How could I be so stupid? I didn’t even consider this type of strategy. How clever was this guy? I had no recourse or counter-attack. No way to reinsert myself into the fight, I merely took a whoopin with no way to recover.
It took a moment to realize what had just happened. As my dreams of fame and glory came to a metal crunching end I pondered my next move. Would I just quit? Go home with my tail dragging like a whipped puppy? No! I decided, “If you want to play with the big boys you must overcome adversity”. So that was it, I would fish no matter what. I was able to use the motor to idle around the lake but it severely restricted my ability to get to my spots. I caught a few fish that day but not much for weight.
I replaced the prop that night and started day 2 with a fresh attitude. Today would be the day I etch my name in the tournament books as an angler that never quits, never accepts defeat and is able to rebound from anything you throw at me…NOT!
The launch and “blast off” were uneventful. I raced to one spot, then another trying to limit early. On my third leg of my run-n-gun strategy my dreams of fame n glory didn’t just come crashing down….they exploded on impact! I ran through an area I have run a hundred times only this time I failed to account for the unusually low water levels. Yup, I ran the prop across the bottom with the throttle wide open. I managed to shear the skeg off and fold all three blades over on a prop that had literally only touched the water for about an hour. I limped the boat to the nearest shoreline telling myself that I would finish this tournament no matter what. Yeah right! I was so mad, so mentally defeated that I couldn’t even cast a lure with any accuracy. Two props in two days? Unbelievable! I threw my rod down and spent the next hour and a half idling back to the ramp. Just to add insult to injury, the wind was in my face and blowing hard the whole way. I now carry a spare prop, watch my surroundings and always check for recent changes to the water level. I don’t have a great lesson for you to learn or some great story about overcoming life’ obstacles. This is simply a story about another day in the pursuit of that ever elusive professional angler status.
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Let’s face it. Bass fishermen primarily fish because we like the adreneline rush, right? Whether it’s the blast-off in the morning, bugs in your teeth as you scream down the lake, or setting the hook like a champ, we are not out there to listen to birds chirp. Of course, there are exceptions. My problem is that on non-tourney days a lot of the excitement is missing. I need something to strive for so I participate in alternate programs.
Hall of Fame, Master Angler, Big Fish or Big Catch (just to name a few) are all State run programs that promote sport fishing through an awards program. Award items vary by state but could include; patches, certificates, shirts, hats, listing in Hall of Fame, titles (like Master Angler or Expert Angler) …etc… If you have not heard of an organization in your state you can visit the BadBassBoys.com Maps of Interest for details.
There are a few companies out there that also have free programs to participate in. The MEPPS Master Angler Program comes to mind as well as the Angling Master International free derbies. Both are a fun way to add a little competative edge to your day on the water. The MEPPS program is great and very easy to understand. The critiria is simple, catch a fish, take a picture and submit it, receive your certificate and patch. I, myself, have the Trophy Fish Award. The Angling Masters International is like MySpace for anglers. It’s a great way to meet fishermen and women from everywhere. Share stories and ideas and participate in some unique, online derbies. There are to many details for me to explain here so you will have to check it out yourself.
Last but not least, Anglers Legacy Kids Fishing Hall of Fame offers nice certificates you can make for any kid you take on the water.
Bottom line is these programs can be used to create friendly competition and add a little excitement to you fishing trip. Get involved!
If you like catching rock bass and lots of them, Bay Lake in Minnesota should be your next vacation destination. Bay Lake is located in central Minnesota just northwest of Mille Lacs Lake. It also holds quality largemouth bass, pike, and sunfish. The water is so clear its like looking through a window. I could see structure seven feet down. The bottom was made up primarily of gravel and sand. It’s a large lake but it is broken up by islands and canals so it fishes like a small lake.
I skipped senkos and french fry worms under docks. Topwater was productive around the weed lines in 6 to 12 feet deep. The rock bass and northern pike liked everything I threw that day: senkos, french fry worms, buzz baits, and poppers. Those little buggers just wouldn’t give up. The largemouth bass preferred the worms. If your looking for rock bass I’ve found heaven on earth for you.
If you need a place to hang your hat for the night in central Minnesota, check out the Deerwood Motel. I stayed there recently for a tournament. The rooms are comfortable, there is boat parking and they have electrical hookups. They allowed me to check in early so I could get out and pre-fish without having to come back to check-in. The staff are the kind of people that make you feel like you’ve known them for a long time. Just down to earth good people.
Just had to share these stress relievers with everyone. This was a Friday evening, “after-work”, outing that I took after a very bad week at work. The photos didn’t work out though. Behind the Bass, up in the tops of the trees, I was watching 3 Bald Eagles when I caught this guy. One had the white head and the other two must have been young still. You can’t really see them but that’s what I was ‘shootin’ for. The other picture turned out more dark than it actually was.
I wanted to relieve stress and get away so I went to this tiny lake my neighbor told me about that is a “stones throw” away from a lake that gets pounded by tournaments. Even though the stench of cow manure was really strong, it was the perfect lake. It only had 4 or 5 docks, is ringed with pads and reeds and has good bottom contour. The point I’m trying to make is try those tiny lakes in your area. They can be goldmines and your personal “Stress Reliever”. Tell us about your ‘personal’ bass lake.
A day fishing is not always about catching fish. My last two outings are a testament to that. The water is very low this summer, it’s been very hot and the fish have not been biting that great but being on the water can give you opportunities to meet some interesting people. Yesterday about 6:50 am I was exploring a small bay that I had never been in. The sun was warming the morning air, the water was calm and really clear and the sunfish were feverishly attacking my scum frog. I had the bay all to myself. Can you think of a better way to start the day? As I was enjoying the peaceful setting a little old aluminum boat with a small outboard puttered around the corner and into my bay. At the helm was an elderly gentleman. As he pulled his boat up to the dock and killed the motor I ask how his day was going. He said he caught about 15 bass and kept 3, motioning at the 5 gallon bucket in the boat. I asked if he fished this lake much and he replied with, “50 years. My friend usually fishs with me but he is sick and the rest of my friends have passed away.” We spent a good 10 minutes or so talking. I learned that he is a WWII Veteran and that he only goes fishing from 4:30 am to about 7 am. He only uses topwater plugs because “they are the most exciting.” When his grandson, from Idaho, came to visit he taught him how to topwater fish for bass and now that’s all he wants to do. We talked about several other things as well. As we said good-bye and I picked up my rod again I thought to myself, today has already been worth the trip. If I don’t catch any fish today, just meeting this old fisherman with a lifetime of stories is as good as a livewell full of fish. Take the time to meet your fellow anglers. You will be surprised at where they have been and the things they have done.
If you’re mentoring a kid, recognizing their accomplishments, no matter how large or small, is a great way to keep them interested. From first fish to catching the big one, you can post a photo, tell a story and create a custom certificate that commemorates their special day. Visit the Kid’s Fishing Hall of Fame
Do you have a ‘special’ fishing buddy? This is a great way to make a memorable day on the water unforgettable.