Every angler has to make sacrifices. Whether it is economic or family, there is a sacrifice from each dedicated angler. Time away from home is the hardest part for me now. My seven year old daughter and six year old son get all my attention when I am home.
Road time was not hard for me before married life. I was thirty-nine when I married a classmate from grade school. My dog (Barkley) and I were just nomadic anglers on the road to the next event. I racked up 330 days on the road one year! My last trip was 27 days.
I left on a Thursday heading to Birmingham, Al. Friday found me at the Mark’s Outdoors Open House. I was on hand to represent Strike King at the event. It is like a family reunion as I have attended this event for over five years.
Saturday is the Mark’s Outdoors Bass Tournament on Lay Lake. This event has a field of 500 teams! Skeeter Boats gives away a new Skeeter as an attendance prize to a lucky angler that takes a demo ride on Friday. This event has over 250 Parent/ Child teams. The entries are donated from the likes of Yamaha, Skeeter, and other fishing related companies. It is so cool to see all of the sleepy eyed kids in the morning. Watching them fish with passion is a real treat.
10-15 professional anglers are fishing as well. The partners are drawn from fishing fans. This year I had a sixteen year old boy that is planning on attending Law School in the future! We finished in 25th place out of this huge field. We caught them on a white Strike King Swim Jig and a black and blue flake Strike King Rodent.
The next morning, I am up and traveling to the Elite Series on Douglas Lake in east Tennessee. A five hour drive was an easy commute to the tournament. My roommates (Greg Vinson and Bradley Roy) and I were treated to a small cabin on the lake. A good friend from Virginia made the arrangements for a free week of lodging. We always leave the cabins clean and a pile of tackle for the owners to enjoy. Anything beats a hotel room! Staying in a home is a great treat for the road warriors!
The Douglas event was a tough event. The winning fish were in 35 -40 feet of water. Smaller fish could be found in the shallows. The decision was to go for a win out deep or make a check in the shallows. I opted to get a check in the shallows and move on to the next event. I flipped soft plastics, cast floating worms, and then the final day cranked a Strike King 6XD on structure. I must have had 25 Lew’s rods and reels on the deck of my boat.
The first morning of the tournament a 4 ½ pounder ate my topwater bait. This fish gave me the weight I needed for a $10,000 check. This would move me up in the Bassmaster Classic standings. The check also takes the financial pressure off of me as well.
I wake up at 7:00 am on Sunday morning. Sleeping an extra 3 hours was welcome. We clean the cabin and head to the Professional Anglers Association (PAA) event at Old Hickory Lake near Nashville, TN.
I don’t have a love/hate relationship with this body of water. It is the latter! This Cumberland River reservoir has as much pressure on it as any lake in the country. It has tournaments on it every day of the week! It has had my number for 20 years.
I vowed to go to this lake with an open mind. I have lots of history here and I just threw it all out the window. It was a “junk” fishing tournament for me.
Another pile of rods on the front deck of my boat was the norm. During practice, I lost two heavy fish. I was fishing a Strike King VD 2.5 crankbait. Both of those fish felt as if they were foul hooked.
The first afternoon of the tournament I went back to the channel swing on the bluff bank and landed a 4 ½ pounder on the crankbait. I stayed in the area and culled my entire limit. I pitched a black neon tube to a shallow tree and landed a 3 pounder. That tree would produce five of my best keepers over the next two days!
When the smoke cleared, I had a fifth place finish in the PAA. This will help me qualify for the Toyota Texas Big Bass Classic on Lake Conroe this fall. The top prize is $150,000! I have fished this event three other times. It is an amazing event.
My family came down from home to watch me weigh in on day two of the PAA event. We had dinner with friends and I got hugs and kisses from my kids! This was a real road treat.
I headed home for a grand total of 36 hours. Laundry, exchanging tackle, and a bit of time with the family was the extent of my home time.
Monday morning came. I put the children on the bus for school and headed out to La Crosse, WI to scout the Mississippi river for a Bassmaster Elite Event. The Mississippi River on pools 7-9 is beautiful. It resembles nothing to the same river in my part of the world. The Bald Eagles were nesting on each island. The bluffs on each side of the river are magnificent. I’m looking forward to heading north for the tournament.
School is out for the kids. It is fun time with dad until my next event. We are trying to eat all of the ice cream in our hometown! We are fishing in our pond in the front yard and going to educational places. For the time being, Daddy is home and is not a professional fisherman. Just trying to be the best daddy possible!