ESPN CITGO Bassmaster Tour - April 8-13, 2002

Lake Guntersville, AL

Well, it is finally here, it's April 6th, 2002, and I am on my way to Guntersville, Alabama, to participate in my first ESPN BASSMASTER CITGO TOUR. Can you believe it ? I can't. It's like I'm in Heaven! Anyway, first things first. I have to get on the plane and we all know how I love that, yeah, right. Well, I am her in Birmingham, Alabama. YEAH!. I jump in my rental and I am off in pursuit of the ever elusive largemouth or small mouth; I'll take either. It seems like I am driving forever but I finally arrive in Guntersville and I find the chalet where l am going to be staying with my buddy Brett "The Big Shooter" Hite. I will also be having the pleasure of staying with the ever stoic John "Gentle Ben" Murray and the Legendary Skeet "The Flow Master" Reese .

It is early so I sneak in like a mouse and try not to make any noise, but end up sounding more like a herd of elephants on a mating ritual . Now what? It is 11 p.m. and we are not going fishing till 5 a.m...great. You know I am not going to sleep so I just lie there staring at the ceiling, counting bass, 1 a.m., 2, 3, 4, 4:30, 4:45. Good, now I can start making noise so they will wake up. First one up is Skeet. He is a little reserved at first, give the guy a break , it is 5 o'clock in the morning and he just got woke up by this baldheaded freak. Anyway, right away I get a great vibe from him. Then comes the ever smiling Brett. I don't see John--he is in the bedroom hitting the snooze button, covering his ears, probably wishing I would shut up. Well, finally we are off. It is awesome--there is nothing like the morning take off. It's dark, you hear the water, the splash of a fish busting the chirp of bird, than, "WATCH WHERE YOU ARE GOING!" Oops, sorry, dude, didn't mean to run over your foot. Just kidding, but it is a scary thing having me back a boat into the water.

Well, Brett kicks the motor off and we are off to find Mr. Bass. Brett pulls up on a spot, drops the trolling, grabs his rod, first cast and bang, he gets hammered, almost rips the rod out of his hand. Not really, that's just me getting a little over excited, shall we say, but he did catch a fish on first cast .

The first practice day was a little slow, but we covered a lot of water and had a great day. Second day was much the same, caught a couple here and there. Oh ,yeah, I forgot at the end of the first day we all went to dinner at The Guntersville State Park Lodge. John, Skeet, Brett and I are all bonding now, we are basically inseparable, actually they are trying to find a way to lose me, this crazy guy who doesn't sleep, so they introduce me to the banana pudding. Oh, my! It almost worked, it was the most amazing thing you ever tasted! The food down South is something else, the hospitality as well, the people are great. Needless to say, we eat there every night until my pants won't button anymore. I better be careful or instead of Lt. Taggert I will be Lt. Big Butt or Big Gut or both. Then it was off to sign in. I met Denny Brauer, Kevin Van Dam, Larry Nixon. It was amazing, I was like a little girl at an In Sync concert, running around getting everybody's autograph. On the third day of practice I meet up with Bassmaster Winner & Local Tim Horton. He is truly a Godly men and we hit it off right from the get go . God definitely put us together for a reason. We had so many things in common and to share it was great. Oh, yeah, the fishing wasn't too bad either--I caught close to 30 pounds, Tim caught like a 10 pounder, it was awesome.

Tim taught me how to throw the Cotton Cordel C25 Dance's Super Spot. We were fishing grass in 0-6 feet of water, it was a great day. Thank you, Jesus. Well, it was time to head for the pairing. I was so nervous I couldn't believe it. I stopped at the local tackle store to pick up some Cordel lures and some YRLN6Y Riverside Lizards. Can't forget my diet Pepsi, like I am not wound up enough. As I am paying and bragging about my 30 pounds I caught (notice how it already went from close to 30 to 30. It's a fishing thing. I look and right there next to me is Rowland Martin. Needless to say, I made an idiot of myself. Who cares that I shook Rowland Martin's hand.

Well, I am finally at the pairing. I draw Rick for my first day. He tells me we will be throwing the Cordell and Carolina rigging. Perfect, I am ready. Well, it is day four, the start of the tournament, my favorite time. This time is so surreal to me, I feel very close to God, the energy of the excitement of what the day is going to bring for you, the darkness, the purr of the engines, the little red lights on the boats, anglers preparing their tackle, or thinking about their day, saying prayers, fisherman praying together, IT IS AWESOME. Then we are off. My first day was definitely humbling: I blanked. Yep, I go from catching over 30 pounds to none (notice it is over 30 pounds now). Smile. But my pro was a great guy, we had lots of fun. I learned some things, what more could you ask? Also, when I came off the water, I met Jerry McKinnis, the host of the ESPN Bassmaster show. I am in heaven, I tell you. Oh, yeah, I forgot the best part of every day is about 7 a.m., LA time. I call my wife and son to say a quick hello. Today I think he said daddy. Thank you Lord for blessing me with such a beautiful family. That is definitely my high point every day, no matter what.

Day two. I draw Mike Wurm. Yep, I am fishing with "The Wurm." We were Carolina rigging the Riverside lizard. It was a little slow at first but than we found the Honey hole and we were having fun now . They were hammering the Riverside Watermelon Seed Lizard sprayed with Yum. It was awesome. Then we went searching and we through the 1/2 Cordel Texas Red Suspending Super Spot and I caught one more. Although I only had a total of four for 8.5 pounds, we caught a lot of fish but they had to be 13". I had so many 12.75 I was almost going to start stretching them. Anyway, it was another blessed day and I got to go up on stage and meet the legendary, crazy Fish Fishburn and hold up my fish, just like on ESPN. It was incredible. Who said dreams don't come true?

Day three. I drew Mike Iconelli. We were cranking, staging fish over grass in 8-12 feet of water with a BO6A Bomber 6A Chartreuse Black. Mike was killing them but it just wasn't my day. But I learned a lot and had a great time.

After I was finished fishing I was walking back to my car and I look and there is this man. He is standing there very stoically. I say to myself, I know this man. Then he calls me over and says, "Son, I want to shake your hand." It hits me that it is RAY SCOTT, the founder of B.A.S.S.. Needless to say, I am in awe. This is great! I run and get my camera and I get a picture with the man. Then he invites me to come fish on his personal pond at the Hall of Fame tournament! What an honor. You can bet that if my work schedule permits, I will be there.

Day four. I got to go out with Tommy Biffle as an observer. Man, you want to talk about pitchin' a jig! I have never seen anything like it. This man was truly blessed. He could hit a 2" spot from 80 feet away and you wouldn't even hear it hit the water. I learned so much I can't tell you. It was just like being on TV too, right down to the last cast. Tommy had four good fish and one small one--he knew he had to get rid of it. There were about five minutes left. He picks a tree for one last cast, slides in on the boat, pitches the jig in the tree, the line starts to move, he sets the hook and it is a five pounder. He ended up in fourth place and won a boat. The day ended with me getting pictures with Kevin Van Dam, Kelly Jordan, Gary Yamamoto, Tim Hotrod. Then I got to go on stage one more time with Fish Fishburn. I need to get this guy on the show--he truly needs to be locked up. Smile.

The day after the tournament, Skeet and I went fishing and, of course, I caught all kinds of fish on the riverside, Green Pumpkin YRRFN4Y Riverside Rib Fry. I just have to figure out how to catch them on a tournament day. More importantly, Skeet and I got a chance to spend some quality time. I found out we have a lot in common and I was right. He is a good spirit and has a big heart. Well, the weekend is over and I can't thank enough B.A.S.S., ESPN, George McNeilly, Brandy Mitchell, Chris Murray, Trip Weldon, Mark Cosper, all the pros for welcoming me into their sport, the people of Guntersville, Thank you to my sponsors Evinrude, Kaenon, Kinami, Kinesys, Phenix, Lowrance, Pradco, Stealth and Stratos but most importantly, my Lord and Savior, Jesus. This was truly a dream come true and I can't wait till the next one.