08/25/13 – This date had been circled on my calendar for months. The nerves and excitement building each and every time I saw it. What would it be like? How would it turn out? Was I ready for this? Always sitting in the back of my mind every time I hit the water, my confidence would waver with the bad days and be heightened with the good. I took advantage of every opportunity I could to learn, practice and perfect my skills that could make the difference. Some say it is the most humbling sport there is, even the best of the best have off days… is tournament fishing for me? could I compete?
Equipment checked multiple times just to humor my anxiety, boat loaded and clothes laid out perfectly. It was finally the moment for my head to hit the pillow one last time before the big day. My mind swirled in and out of reality with thoughts of giant bass, raccoons tipping garbage cans outside, rods breaking on hook sets and sleeping through my alarm.
The 4am buzzing of my phone was music to my ears and brought an instant sense of excitement, this was bigger than other fishing days. I would have ranked the feelings up there with Christmas morning or the first day of school and I shared that same gleeful happiness that only a child seems to possess. It’s TOURNAMENT DAY and I am PUMPED!!!
The antagonizing wait for the sun to rise seemed to last hours as we sat under the single lamp post at the water’s edge just waiting to drop the boat in. Those first few rays of sunlight appearing down river couldn’t come soon enough and as they finally did our time had arrived. A quick, cool run down river to the tournament harbor felt like a blink of the eye and boat 32 was ready to rock.
In charge of keeping count of the boats leaving before us sounded simple enough but truly was a difficult task. With such incredible machines ripping away at full pin creating havoc on the calm water it was very easy to become hypnotized by their power and beauty… 30… 31… 32 – that’s us, game on! The adrenaline surged as we blasted off, racing away from the 27 boats left sitting at the launch.
Those feelings were quickly replaced with nervousness again as it was now fishing time, 9 hours to put 5 fish in the boat that beat the other 59 teams. Our plan was smallmouth in the morning, largemouth the rest of the day and my captain had all the locations picked out from past experience. Prep work had been done and it was time to put it all to task. With that first cast, first strike and first fish my nerves calmed as I quickly realized it’s just another day of fishing. All of the buildup but when we hit the water with rods in hand a warm comfort of being at home came over me. The fishing is a lot more focused on specific structure and locations, the movement around the boat is at an elevated pace and you make sure to set that hook with more purpose but it’s a day on the water doing what you love, fishing.
The tournament played out as planned picking up fish in all of our locations. We lacked great size but where able to find enough fishing to post a weight. The excitement and nervousness all came rushing back as you return to the harbor you vacated at top speed only hours before. The chatter of anglers over the water as our boats idle for our turn to step up to the stage.
Tired from a long day of fishing hard we couldn’t help but discuss the highs and lows we had just encountered. The addiction anglers have to tournaments could not have been clearer at that exact moment, although exhausted your brain is racing with decisions you could have made differently and you want to rush right out there to do it all over again.
Is tournament fishing for me? There is no doubt it is. Could I compete? A weight of 12.11 pounds and 25th place finish out of 60 boats definitely says that I can. I already have the next date circled on my calendar and next time I will look to answer new questions, next time I with bring a more educated approach to the day, next time can’t get here soon enough.
Never stop pushing yourself…