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Down, but not out!

Tournament bass fishing can be a humbling sport.  One day you can be on top of the world, and the next completely deflated as the result of a poor showing.  It’s a sport that tests your competitiveness and your grit…and most importantly, your perseverance when things don’t turn out like you had planned.

Saturday’s BFL tournament on the Ohio River was one of those humbling events.  I awoke the morning of the tournament to find the entire city of Maysville, KY draped in a thick sheet of fog.  I’ve never seen fog that dense in my entire life.  Visibility while driving to the launch ramp was probably 30 feet!  The full field of competitors had launched their boats by 6:30 a.m. and sat in anticipation of the day’s launch.  Hearing the rumbling of two stroke motors all around me, but only being able to see each boat’s navigational lights through the fog was an eerie experience.  The tournament was scheduled to launch at 7:00 a.m., but the fog wouldn’t relent, so the tournament directors opted to delay the launch.  By the time the fog had lifted enough to deem conditions safe to launch, it was after 10:00 a.m.  Tournament hours were not extended, meaning we had to be checked in a mere 5 hours later, at 3:00 p.m.

The area of the river where I believed the winning fish were located was approximately 30 miles away.  I debated playing it safe and fishing closer to ramp, but I knew that my best chance to win was to make the run.  I fish to win, not to just survive.  So when my boat number was called I hammered down on the throttle and started the long trip.  I hit several stretches of thick fog which required me to slow down to almost idle speed, and by the time I arrived at my area it was almost 11:00 a.m  Having missed the morning bite, I knew that I would have limited opportunities to catch fish.  With only about 3 hours to fish before I had to make the long run back, I quickly got into a “zone”, fishing methodically and fast.  My allotted time quickly evaporated, and I only had one keeper bite to show for it.  Unfortunately, I didn’t land it.  A fish in the 3lb range took a swipe at my jig as I was retrieving it to make my next cast, and it dropped the jig before I even had time to set the hook.   Losing that fish was  a heart-breaker! 

I fished hard to the last minute, but the fish weren’t cooperating and I came to the scales empty-handed.  Having weighed in zero fish meant that I received no points for this event, and my season ranking fell from 15th to 34th.   It took under 6lbs to win the tournament, and 3lbs would have put me in the top 10.

With one event left in the series I am still within the top 40 cut to make the Regional Tournament.  The pressure is on now, and I have to bring in a good bag of fish at the final event in September or I will miss my goal of qualifying.  This aspect of the sport is stressful.  But it is also the part that I love…the true test of my skills and my perseverance.  You can bet I will do everything I can to be ready for that event.

The experience wasn’t all bad though, as I made a new friend.  My assigned co-angler was Bud Gearhart of East Canton, Ohio.  Bud is a Vietnam veteran who shared a lot of great stories with me during the 4 hour fog delay.  I want to thank him again for his service to our country, and to apologize for breaking his back on that long boat ride! 

Finally, since I last wrote Marshall and I won the Griggs Tuesday Night Tournament on the 16th.  We weighed two fish for 5.75lbs, and also had big bass, a 3lb largemouth.  I got a good workout playing “net man”!

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