Four Days of Viper Madness | By Special Request From the Archives

Traveling With Andy "Cooch" Cuccia

Two months have gone by since I sent Marc and my entry off for the Viper Buddy tournament. The Delta’s has been off limits for almost a month and was opened to boating only the Monday before. Very few guys, like my self, had ventured out into the bursting waterways due to the speed limitation. I had been out the weekend before and experienced and incredibly great bite. Fish were everywhere chasing food. But 10 days had gone by and many fronts had come and gone. With the weather constantly changing, I knew I could not count on the bite I found during those two days in the driving rain storms.

Each day of the week starting on Monday, February 2, I was down at the Hook by 6:00a on my way to work. Watching and talking to those who would venture out that day. It was killing me that these guy were getting a jump on me, the reports I was getting back, were of some really great fishing. Wednesday morning I could take it no more. While at work that afternoon, one of my fishing buddies called to ask if I had gotten a chance to go out and if I had planned to fish a certain area. He fished that area and had great success there every day. As I had taken him to this spot 2 years ago, he had the courtesy and professionalism to call and discuss it with me. Having given me that respect, I thanked him and told him he actually is helping me out and that he could have that area. It keyed me to other areas to which I needed an extra day to check them all. I called my boss and told him I was taking a sick day. Something about allergies and an annual trip to my acupuncturist. He bought it.

Of course when I got home that night and told my wife Liz was going fishing in the morning, this did not sit well with her. She does not deal well with me gone for these four day events. Even if they are local and the tournament is only 2 days. I didn’t care, it was the VIPER! The biggest team tournament to hit the West Coast. The VIPER, the one tournament, everybody is fishing! I had complete tunnel vision from that point late Wednesday on through the entire weekend.

Thursday, Practice Day 1

That Thursday morning found me down at the 1/4 Pounder at 5:30a for breakfast. I saw a couple of buddies from the Bay Area Bassmasters and we talked about the MTBE thing, the tournament and fishing the Delta. Man my adrenaline was flowing. I didn’t need the coffee I had ordered. I ate my breakfast so fast, the butter hadn’t even melted on my toast. I was up and out of there and on my way to Orwood. I did not want to fight the crowd at the Hook and had some areas to check in the south/central Delta, Orwood was perfect.

I arrive at the launch and the sun is just beginning to light the sky. I look at my watch and it’s 6:22a. Gauging this, I figured the launch would start around 6:45a. I had 20 minutes before I needed to be at my first stop. So I decide to fish the harbor on the way out. At the time, I only had two rods out, a pitchin stick with a 1/2 oz Bob’s Limit black Rattlin Jig-n-BoLiz pork. A huge bait, 9" long all toll. The other rod had a Bobby D, black 3/4 oz buzzbait. I tossed the buzzbait all the way out of the marina. Not a single bite. Not that I expected one, but I had to eliminate any kind of topwater bite that might be going. And if there was a top water bite, I would have gotten one in this spot. 53 degrees, no topwater. As I reached the point on the left side of the Marina opening, I grabbed the jig rod, juiced up and pitched to the 1st post on the retaining wall. KERTHUNK! I gave this first fish a true lip rippin lobotomy hook set. Swung him in the boat and it was a nice stout 3 lb. buck. Hooked straight through the bridge of his nose. Turned him right back to the water and continued to work that retaining wall on the point. Got two more bucks smaller than the first.

Thinkin I got me a point pattern. I cruise down to the bridge and work that little area, nothin. I head down towards Indian Slough and as I get on plain I lurched over the wake of a bass boat who just had left, and notice my two wool gloves go flying by my head. I swing back and only find one in the muddy water. Oh well I got more and besides, I’m on a point pattern. So I go down and hit all 5 rocky points and nothing. I swing into Kellogg Creek and hit two there, nothing.

OK, so now I’m 45 minutes into the morning with a false start. But I’m thinking, with my luck I’m gonna be blasting off in the middle of the pack and won’t reach the area I intend to fish till at least 7:30a at best. So from Disco I take off towards Bull Frog Landing. I go hit one spot and KERTHUNK! 4 pounder. Wow, that fish like to hit that bait so hard it was like walking into a plate glass window. So now I’m really starting to get the idea that fish are just plain shallow. Nothing to do with points. I’m heading towards Mildred and Turner Cut now and stop just on the other side of the new bridge. This is a long meandering levee wall, you hear me talk a lot of these this time of year, with an inverted point bend that creates an inside eddy were there is no current. I pitch in just beyond the tulles clump and KERTHUNK! Another 4 pounder. Another vicious strike.

7:30a and I’ve already caught 5 fish for over 16 pounds. And I haven’t yet got to the area that I really want to check. So I motor on down to my next spot. Now, excuse me here folks for being vague on the specific locations, some of you who know me will know exactly where I’m talking about and others will figure it out, the rest of ya just need to apply the info and you will pleasantly find out you’ll catch fish where ever ya go. I fish along a levee wall that I have caught some decent fish in the past. The water is starting to clear up back here and I can see my jig down about 10-14 inches. I’m not getting bit though after 15 minutes and 75 yards of bank. I’m gettin itchy and pull out old faithful, a little Fire Tiger Bomber, Fat 4A. First cast, WALUMP! I get this mushy feeling and horse in a 14 incher. Not quite what I’m looking for. I go down this rock levee without another bite.

I then move over to the opposite bank where there is smaller rocks, new rocks actually from all the repairs on the levees. 20 yards with that crank and nothing. I put down the crankbait and pick up the jig, juice it with BANG and pitch it to the bank. I’m working it down the first 6 feet until it hits the weedline, KERTHUNK! Man, another vicious strike. No hook set this time and out comes this real nice chunky fat 4 pound plus fish. This ones a big ole sow bellied female. And so dark black and green. A key, I know. Turn it loose and move on. 15 feet down the bank KERTHUNK! Right at the base of the weeds again, only this time I got a sow. This fish burns up under my trolling motor then heads towards the back and the big motor. God, how do they know to do this, these big fish? I quickly work the line past the trolling motor and then turn the motor away and hit the foot button and rrriiippp CLANK! Oh no, my motor cable has busted. It’s spinning like a top. This ole bass is tugging me one way and the motor another. I finally walk to the back of the boat and land her. Put her on the CullEmRight scale, a 6.62 beauty. Another fat bellied female.

But now I’m in trouble, I’m toast for the day, no motor. What to do. I decide to make the best of a bad situation. I know I can get the motor fixed. If I leave now, I may not get back down here, so I decide to fish for 2 hours until 10:30 as best I can. I decide to work the deeper weed beds out in the channel. This way the motor is not so critical, I just let the wind help me out. So I cruise up and sown the slough, looking for holes and drops in the grass. I find an area were it goes from 16 feet up to 11 feet then back down again. I start working this 11 foot area and catch two more 4 pound plus fish, both females. Man I’m loving these fat footballs. The Delta is too cool. It’s only 9:35 and I’ve caught well over 25 lbs of fish, for 5. For 7, I’m probably over 30 pounds. No need to stick around, I pull up and head for the launch ramp and back to the Hook to fix my motor cable.

I get to the Hook and ask June Bug for a cable. He looks me in the eye and says, " We’re out of stock Cooch". My heart sunk. Now what am I gonna do. Biggest tournament ever on the Delta, I’ve got no trolling motor. June Bug then comes up, puts his arm around me and says, "They’re in the back Cooch, on the floor." You dog! It’s like that down at the Hook, everybody always messing with folk’s minds. If you have never been down there, other than during a tournament, just imagine "Cheers", you get the idea.

So off to the parking lot I go to install the new cable. As I’m digging for the tools up walks another buddy, Ben Williams. Ben’s an ex-member of CCBC and was the first to get a Viper boat out here. He’s on their pro staff and we’ve been talkin every morning. "What ya doin Cooch", he shouts digging through his lockers. "Cable busted, gotta get it in so I can go back and fish some more."

"The heck with that", he shouts, "grab some rods and lets go fishin, Jig Man. You can fix the cable at home." He didn’t have to ask me twice. I got two jig rods out, two jars of pork, a handful of jigs and the can of Bang and I’m in that 20’ Viper faster’n he can get his rain gear on. For the first time all week it is now starting to rain. Off to the ramp we go and Ben’s telling me of the great crank and blade bite he and Jodie have found this week. He also fished with Steve Sapp on Monday down south and the bite was not so good there. Steve did get an 8 pounder on a jig. He queries me and I tell him of my morning success on the jig. He say, " Well, you got the boat dude, show me what’s goin on out there."

So out of the Break we go, motor around to the Barge Cove and start fishing. I’m chunking the same jig and Ben’s got a Black/Blue jig on with a WingDad trailer. We get to a little rocky point with a tree overhanging and he pops a 3 pounder or better. This fish is almost white. Water is real muddy here. We motor around the corner, pull up to another little rocky area and I pop one about 4 plus. Then he gets a little 2 pounder. Then I get another one about 4 pounds. Ben says, "Yer right Cooch, them bigger fish chowin down that big pork bait of yours". We then motor over to the south cove of the Break, we pass Bobby Barrack tossin blades on a tulles island, to fish a couple of incoming creeks. Ben says he got some blade fish here on Tuesday, I figure we can improve the catch with the jig. Waters coming out of that creek clear and fast. It’s also about 57 degrees back there. We never get bit and leave.

On the way to the next spot I’m telling Ben, "I don’t seem to find them around the tulles, the rocky stuff seems to be much better". So we hang a right at the east end of the Break to go fish the two dead end sloughs, Ironhouse & Emerson. Neither was spectacular, the rain is really coming down now. I do finally catch a 6 pounder out of the weeds. Another male on a staging bank. But now, I’m beginning to think, maybe I won’t have to make that long run Saturday. There are good fish going up here too.

We head up towards Bethel Island to fish some areas in Taylor. Taylor Slough is one of those places where a lot of tournaments on the Delta have been won. Just gotta know when to be there and which pattern the fish are on. Well I’m catching big males which appear to be moving up to claim spawning areas, so we pick an ideal spot on the Jersey Island side. First pitch up next to a rock a big fish freight trains me. Never did get a hook set. That fish took off the bank faster than a Patriot Missile searching for a Sadam Scud. Rain is still coming down steady and it appears to be getting colder now. We decide to hit one more spot before heading back. Good choice, I thunk one well over 8 pounds. This one was a lot deeper than the rest and is a female. Big ole pot belly on her.

We head back to the Break, Ben’s got a slip for the weekend so I drop him off to get his truck and I drive the boat to the slip. Talk to Larry and Lonnie on the way, they’re struggling to catch fish. I see em tossin blades. Told em there was a great jig bite out on the rocks. "Yeah, sure Cooch." Just trying to help. I then hear Ben hollering, "Hey Cooch, get over here, nut up at the Marina gave me the wrong key. Come open the gate." So I let him in and we’re laughing, "It’s startin already. Viper weekend, gonna be a madhouse around here." Ben & I sit and talk fishin for about an hour while he’s re-rigging rods. Says I convinced him to go bigger, blacker and noisier.

Head over to the boat and talk to a number of guys along the way. Seems most guys kinda struggled today. They all had a tough time believing I had caught around 35 lbs for the day. That’s cool , believe what ya want, guess I won’t have to worry bout them following me around. I run into Conroy Oakley and Tony who launched down at Whiskey, they too say they had a rough day. Asked Conroy if he was tossing that pork I gave him up at Pedro for this tournament. Yeah, he got one bite that liked to jerk him off the boat and then it broke off his line. He decided he only had two pieces left and was convinced, so he wouldn’t use it the rest of practice. We arrange to meet for breakfast, then I head off home to fix the cable. We also just find out, they are now going with a 7 fish limit instead of 5. Oh, this makes me real happy.

I get home about 5:30, get the boat in, dry her off and decide not to worry bout the batteries as I had not fished much and they should get me through the day on Friday. Start taking the trolling motor apart, piece by piece. Once inside of the housing all these little pieces of cable come tumbling out. That thing looks like it just exploded in there. I get the old cable off, it was quite a pain getting it through the sheath and then struggle with getting the new cable through the sheath. What a pain, I’m getting really frustrated but finally manage to get it through. I attach it to the housing and close the lid all up, go to the foot pedal and the damn thing is 6 "s longer than the old cable. Oh, well now I got a problem, this just is not gonna work. 3 phone calls, no answer at the Hook and Genes at Pedro, and 3 cigarettes later I finally just decide to take it off. I then get this brilliant idea that it might work if I run it outside the sheath. Yahoo! this worked. I use some line ties and there is not too much of an excess bow in the cable. Only time on the water Friday will tell. It’s 11:30p, I’m beat and off to bed.

Friday, Practice Day 2

Up at 4:30 and out the door. It rained all night but as I walked outside to hook up the boat I noticed a clear sky and bright shiny stars. But there was an extreme coldness in the air. Off to 1/4 Pounder to meet Conroy, Tom & Tony for breakfast. Man they make a great ham-n-eggs. Find out the chef is fishing the Viper too! This thing is gettin big, Bob’s got 288 sign ups as of last night. They are gonna hit 300 boats with no problem. Word is gettin around that he will cap it. Conroy and Tony have yet to sign up. After breakfast I walk out the door and it is now light, still very cold out. I look to the west and can see that Mt. Diablo is covered with snow. Another cold snap. There is a small breeze in the air as I head down and fuel up the boat. Only takes $10, duh, didn’t go anywhere yesterday, dummy.

Pull up to the Hook, boats everywhere. Oh the adrenaline starts flowing now. Get coffee, pay the launch and head back to the boat when I see Alan Dorsey leaning up against his car with his head down. Dude looks real rejected. I go talk to him and find out he hooked up with some guy through the Hook to fish with. Turns out this guy is a big time drinker. Alan goes to wake him up and they guy is all gibberish and reakin of brew. Tells Alan to F#$% off and get the F%^$ out of his camper. Not wanting to surprisingly meet Smith & or Wesson he left, said I don’t need this crap, and there he was. "Well I already got a partner for the tournament, but you sure may go fishing with me today if ya like?" Made his day, attitude adjustment right there. He got his stuff in the boat called his wife and off we went.

Now Alan is a BIG boy. He’s bigger than Rick Craft. Now he’s sittin in my boat and it is tilting major to his side. First time my boat ever got up on plane and would not level out. I finally put some water in my starboard livewell to balance the weight. I also switched the gas tanks to burn the port side, his side, first. Minor adjustment, but it worked. We first pull up to a bank out in Dutch. Wanted to check an area that Rick & I had caught some decent crank fish this time last year. Not a bite. We head to the south/east end of the Break and pull up into Ironhouse. I wanted to check some early morning locales in case I got an early blast off.

We get into the back and there are four boats already there. All four are on the west bank though. I smile at Alan and say," Out of towners". We start working down the east bank and the first boat we come up to on the other side is Conroy. "Well, how ya doin?" he asked. " Nothing yet.......Oh there’s one!" I plunk in the boat a nice chunky 3 pounder. I turn to Conroy and laugh and keep going on down the bank. He’s complaining that they aren’t biting to which I stick another three pounder. I’m chucklin pretty hard now as we go down this bank and I stick 4 more. Alan’s throwing a brown jig-n-craw and doesn’t get bit. Lots of good fish for an early start. I make a mental note of this spot. Off to the next.

We again go into Taylor Slough and go about mid way down. I pull up to the dock side and pitch into an open area, KERTHUNK! A Seven pounder. Alan then gets one about four pounds. OK we’re out of here. We stop off on a tulle island and work about 100 feet, nothing, move on.

Then Alan’s phone rings, it’s his wife. She called to let him know his boater was looking for him to go fishing and couldn’t understand why he left in the morning. Anyhow the wife tells this guy off. Five minutes later this guy calls Alan. He’s down at the Hook, wants to go fishin. Alan explains it ain’t gonna happen, I don’t feel comfortable, don’t call me or my house, click! Good for you Alan.

We again see Conroy working a favorite area of mine. We chatted, he still had yet to boat a fish. We move right up under the Bethel Island Bridge and I get a little rat up under the pylons. Too much current here. We move on. We fish another deeper tulle island and nothing. I explain to Alan, the majority of these fish are moving to the bank to claim spawning territory. I ain’t messin with no more tulles. They are not conducive to catching fish.

Conducive, I find myself using this word an awful lot this weekend for some reason. This area is conducive to big fish. This bait is conducive to big fish. This weather is conducive to active fish. This area is conducive to migratory fish, and so on. It was kind of like the song ya get stuck in your head and can’t quit singing it. Everything was conducive to catching these fish. I was beginning to build a level of confidence that I was gonna do real well in this tournament. I had a big fish bait, nobody else was using. I had figured out the types of areas these fish were moving to. Anyhow, we moved on.

I then saw an area, between two docks, that looked conducive to the kind of stuff I was looking for. I have fished this area before but not at this time of year with a lot of success. We moved up to this spot and there was a retaining wall that formed a 90 degree angle in about 4 foot. The edge, leading from the bank, had 3 pylons about two feet apart. I pitched up to the bank and could actually see my jig. Water has gotten real clear, we’ve got 3 feet visibility. As I’m swimming this jig along the wall, past the second pylon, the toilet flushed a foot ahead of the jig. Instinctively I jerked the jig out of there. What we saw next was incredible. This big ole bass, she must have been 12 pounds or better, was still looking around for that jig. A quick look left, right, a 180, it was too cool. I bet I could have eased the jig to her and she would have eaten it, right there. But NOT, that was a sure $3000 fish and I was coming back to get her on Saturday.

I saw, beyond the next dock, another 90 degree wall. Only this one was much deeper and had a big tree hanging over it. We eased up to it and I told Alan that there probably would be a pretty good size fish down there. First pitch and I hauled it back, headed right into the tree. Next attempt, laid that jig all the way under and to the back with out a ripple on the water. "Nice pitch Cooch" Alan torts. "Not as nice as the fish that just grab it Alan". Never even set, it ran out to open water, the back of the boat, under the boat, what ever she wanted. I never got tension or struck the fish. I was taking up slack though and this fish just appeared at the side of the boat on it’s side. I reached down to lip it and when it opened it’s mouth, out popped he jig. Amazing. Huge fish. We put him on the scale and it went 9.89. Another big male fish. I eased the trolling motor right up to the crevice that I had pitched into and release this fish. It just methodically slumbered back to the bottom.

I then start to check other areas with the hookless jig and continue to get some enormous strikes. I’ve now found my number one area for the tournament. There will be no running south at all. My only concern will be the second day after I come in with these enormous fish. There will be many guys who will see where I’m at, that will be fishing or traveling to and from the back end of this slough. I am sure to have company. So I decide at that point to make myself visible. Now I want guys to see me fishing. But not on my good stuff.

Alan and I pull up to a rock wall and I get yet another 6 pound fish. Alan finally asks me advice on what to throw. I’m just smokin em and he has nothing like what I’m tossing. I got to my box and give him a jig. "I don’t have the pork to spare but let me see your plastics." I pulled out one of the big Black/blue claw Wacko Zipper craws. "Put this on the brown jig." Third pitch he thunks a seven, then a four. Then I get one about five. I look at Alan an say, "I’m done, I can’t take this anymore". It’s only 12:10p and were calling it a day. Off to the Hook to meet Marc.

We get back to the Hook and it’s 1:00p, gonna be a long wait for Marc to arrive. Alan unloads his stuff while I tie the boat down. He draws a crowd looking to confirm my BS. They get an answer they don’t want to hear. All afternoon while waiting for Marc guys are coming up tryin to milk me. All they get is I’m throwing a bait that is conducive to big fish. It’s a gas listening to them try to figure out loud where we’ve been fishing. The buzz is in the air. More people are showing up. Korny has arrived and is setting up the check in area. He’s got the tank, all is set. I help with setting up some banners. He starts to sign folks up at 3:00p, an hour early. 3:15p he already has a line 40 deep. The line stays that way through 4:30p, no Marc yet. I’m gettin worried, not much time to get him on the water. I’m watchin every car pull up.

4:40p in pulls this funny lookin little green car with some military dressed guy in it, gotta be Marc. It is, I direct him to parking and he walks up with his change of clothes. I point him to the bathroom to change. While he’s in there a couple of the guys come running over, "Hey Cooch, that’s your partner? He ain’t no Lieutenant man, he’s a Lieutenant Colonel!" Cooch, " Yeah so what’s that? He’s just another fisherman like you and me." Bill, "Boy I would give anything to see how those two egos get along in a boat for two days". We’re all dying with laughter.

So we’re off to fish, first thing Marc says" Boy, I can’t remember ever seeing water this muddy". Cooch, "Hey this is clear compared to what we’ve had the last month, you can now see 6 inches". We pull into the barge cove and a tug boat is just wrecking havoc. So I take him out to Gilligans Isle. First pitch to a pylon and I thunk a 2 1/2 pounder. Marc’s eyes light up when I say, "Nice fish, but it won’t make our bag this weekend." We work around awhile and then get to another area of the island and I thunk an real nice fish about 4 pounds. "Now a fish like this will go to the scales." Mark, "I really like what I’m seein, you really are the man!" Gotta go, M&L will close in 30 minutes, need to get his reel and rod, sign up and head for the house.

As we’re leaving we meet Dana and Stacey, they’ve just arrive and are in line. It was so cute, Dana and her little readin glasses, that was a first for me. I chuckled, I had a flash of this petite young lady standing on the stage, in pink, wearing these glasses and stoking an oversized stogie, while accepting a set of keys. Funny stuff, but possible. I walk up and give her a big ole Cooch hug. We chat a spell and off Marc and I go to get the reel, a UC4600C, at $109 a steal, last one on the shelf. We get back to the Hook to get his new Cameron Rod, a 7 footer. I can’t stand it, I too buy my 3rd Cameron Rod in a week. I am so impressed with these rods and the price is unbelievable. While hangin out in the Hook in walks Bobby Delameter, I fished with Bobby last week at Pedro. We were amazing at how all his jigs had disappeared from the wall. I got a big smile out of him when I told him that Wally and I had bought the last of the 1/2oz black rattlin jigs. He said he would have made more but that he had ran out of rattles. I said well ya gotta meet Marc, he’s sponsored by McCoy. "What", he exclaimed, "that’s who’s rattles I use." The rest is history, you can imagine how a manufacture of lures is when he meets a rep from a company he relies on and visa versa. Needless to say, I was beginning to wonder at that point if Marc had remembered who his partner was for the weekend. These two were inseparable for about 45 minutes until I drug Marc over to the table to sign in. We got boat 28. Number 66 got the first draw so we are in the 6th flight. Gonna be 7:30 before we blast off, but get to weigh in at 3:15. Then get out early on Sunday.

I then see Tom Nelson and Dan Gorman, couple of ex-CCBC members. We chat and I ask where they are launching in the morning. They are going out of the PG&E ramp with Vince Costanza, they all work for PG&E. Cool, got room for another 2 boats? Tom says they only got room for one, they are already bringing a guest and are allowed one each. Damn, I was really tryin to get Stacey & Dana over there with us. It probably worked for the best as Stacey has a smaller truck, and that ramp there is really steep, real steep. Gonna meet at 4:45a, at least we’ll get in early and not have to fight the lines. OK, go talk to Korny, it’s 6:30p and they got 309 boats. He’s gonna cap it at 325. We’re off to the house. Team Brat leaves their boat in my drive way and are then heading off to the Holiday inn.

I draw em a map of Highway 4 to the hotel and back to Laurentzens. We then get out the Delta map and I mark some local spots for them to fish. They’re off and Marc and I retire to the garage to prepare for the next day. I have butterflies in my stomach like I can’t remember, worse than my first Pro-Am in 1994. Once completed it’s off to the house for some chow. My wife, Liz, has prepared some supa and sausitsas. I chow my two Sausitsas down before Marc even realizes they are there. He gets me on the supa though, see I put a bowl in the microwave and he grabs it thinking I was being hospitable an all, and start chowin down on my supa! Yep, he’s an Italian all right. Damn, I put all them good meet chunks in that bowl too. I get all the left over veggies. He found the sausitsas too.

It’s 10:00p and I can’t keep my eyes open. I roll out Marc’s bed, set his alarm and head off to bed. Takes me about an hour to finally fall asleep. I keep tracing my path for the next morning. At 299 out, where am I gonna start? How’s that cold front gonna affect these fish? Another one coming tomorrow, what then? Do I make the long run first and come back? What if I make that long run and there are boats on my first stop, then what? Don’t forget to fill the oil tank. Remember to go fill up with gas. All these thoughts just keep racing through my head. Somewhere along the line I mercifully fall asleep.

Saturday, Viper Day 1

Amazingly I’m awake, seconds before my alarm goes off. 10 seconds later I hear the alarm downstairs go off too. I’m out of bed and into the bathroom to look out the window, once open I get this blazing chill of fresh air flowing completely over my body. Man, it’s cold out there. I look to the sky and stars, the rain has stopped. I dress for comfort knowing there will be a long wait once we get in the water until we finally reach our first spot. I want to be warm and ready when we get there. Marc is up and moving around and disappears into the downstairs bathroom. I’m pumped, still got the butterflies and the adrenaline is oozing through my veins. I forgo making coffee and head straight to the garage. I’m in such a hurry, I trip over Belle, my 10 year old Golden, at the foot of the door. I knew she was there as that’s her spot, little piece of carpet to keep them old bones warm. She gives me that old lady look like, what’s up with that dad? Then I get this glimmer in her eyes and the tail starts wagglin, Oh boy, dad’s goin fishin and I get to go. Normally she’s my partner. But I have to lovingly explain that this weekend she must be left behind. I think she really understands as she just lazily plops her head back down like nothing happened.

I look at my watch and it’s 3:30a. Damn we’re running late, Stacey and Dana are probably out front and I gotta move the Lincoln from the drive way. Open the garage door and they are not there yet. Cool. Move the car, open my first pack of smokes in an attempt to settle the nerves. Get the tongue on the trailer, put away the charger and fill the oil tank. Marc is out now and we’re making last minute arrangements of stuff in the boat. Oh, food! I can’t forget the sausitsas, smoked salmon and jerky. We’re set there. 3:55a, still no Dana & Stacey. I’m gettin worried, they misplaced the map and may have gotten lost. I can’t get my boat out of the garage as their Ranger is in the Drive way. No problem, I’ll just hook up to the boat and get ahead of them and have it waiting on the street. I back up my truck and low and behold, Stacey has locked the trailer hitch. OK, no problem Cooch, just chill, they will be here. 4:15a, still no Dana or Stacey, they are almost an hour late, I’m starting to panic now as I gotta get gas in one tank, not that I need it but I want em both full just in case I make a long run, and then be at PG&E by 4:45a. Don’t want to fight the zoo at Laurentzens or the Hook. 4:22a, they pull up, Whew! We are out of here.

Were running a little behind at this point, so I decide to get gas at the Shell down on Wilber, it’s right on the way. OOPS, forgot Shell was closed due to remodeling, gotta go to Chevron across the street. More precious minutes wasted. $20 of gas and off we go. Head down Wilbur, and all of a sudden Marc is jumping and scramblin, he just spilled coffee all over my plush velvet seat, groan. We arrive at the stop sign to E10th, the line to Laurentzen’s is starting. Stacey jumps in and I head down towards the bridge, OOPS, I was supposed to go left at E10th. I’m starting to get real ansii now as it is 4:44a. We finally get to PG&E, I drive down, to what I think is the correct road and get to a closed gate, look at my watch and its 4:45a, but no one in site. Man, it’s pumpin now. I must have taken the wrong turn, I have to back up a quarter of a mile to turn around. It’s pitch black down here and all I have are the lights on the truck and boat. You would have thought I was drunk watching me back that thing out. I pull around to the previous driveway and go to the end were it says Sportsmans Harbor, must be it. We get to the end of the road and nothing. I then notice over at the gate we just left, there is a body in a big yellow rain suit, it’s Gorman. Damn, I had it right the first time. Again I gotta back out of this whole. We pull up an Marc goes to work on cleaning his mess. Figure it coulda been worse, like a can of garlic Bang in the boat. No harm done.

So we finally get in the water. This is too cool, there are only three boats down here, no problems at all. We pull out and begin to head up to the Big Break Marina. It’s very cold and clear, the water is like glass, nary a breeze. I let out a very loud HOOT & YEA HAW! As we get to the Antioch bridge, off in the distance we can now see the spectacle of all these boats at the opening to the Hook. What a site. But as I pull around the bridge I mention to Marc, "That’s odd, I don’t see any boats coming out of Laurentzens. Could they all be in?" We still gotta get our livelwells check so I’m up on plane at about 25 mph. I drift in towards the tulles along the meat wall just past the entrance to Laurentzen’s, we still see no boats coming from there and none ahead of us up to the Break. Just as we get to the entrance of Little Break, I notice an odd ripple on the water, which soon became a distinct wake. I back off on the throttle only to see 20 feet directly in front of me is another boat, WITH NO LIGHTS ON! I turn a hard right and punch it right into the tulles, just missing this clown by about 10 feet. I back out and pull up next to this guy, in a 20’ Champion no less, and ream him for runnin without lights. Course they realize they are in the wrong and will not even look at Marc and I, as they now scramble to put on their lights. It’s gonna be one of those days.

We finally pull up to the chute at the Break and we are in complete awe of the number of boats and lights in the harbor. It’s Christmas in March. Unbelievable, boats are everywhere, all tucked along the tulles as far back to the marina as you can see. It’s 5:15a and it looks as if over 3/4 of the boats are already in the water. The slow crawl up to the launch area seems to take forever. We pull up and low and behold I find a spot on the dock at the ramp. It’s on the back side out of the way. I tie up and get Bobby Kornhauser Jr. to check the livewells. Right then I knew we were in trouble as he ties this god awful pink ribbon onto my boat. "It’s gotta stay there the whole day Cooch". Pink in Cooch’s boat and no Dana, what a distressing thought.

It’s 5:30a and we got 2 hours before Marc and I blast off. So we take a hike over to the Hook. On the way I am amazed at how smoothly the boats are launching. It looks no different than a normal tournament down at the Hook. We get over to the tournament parking lot and there are vehicles as far as you can see parked out in the field. There are guys directing traffic everywhere without any hang ups. We get over to the check in area and there is a small line of guys still checking in. We get confirmation that there is 328 teams. WOW! We get to the store and look out to the marina and the site of all the boats is amazing. Chills are just running up and down my spine. I can’t believe how smoothly things are going to this point. We go in and get a cup of coffee. Marc again finds Bobby D for more conversation. Little do we know at this point we are being graced by the presence of the eventual winner. I find Korny, he’s stoked, he’s ready to go, he can’t believe the turn out. He’s just hoping the weather holds and we don’t get rain for the weigh-in. Still can’t believe how smooth things are going here at the Hook.

It’s now 6:30a and Korny is off to his boat and begins instructing flights 5 & 6 what to do. The megaphone is loud and you can hear it quite well over the hush of the fisherman. The buzzing has stopped and Korny has everybody’s attention now. Man, the excitement is really starting to build. I grab Marc and we head off to the boat. We get to the launch and Korny is now speaking to the 4 th flight. His speech is like a recording as we are sitting in the boat we can hear him talk to the remaining 3 flights. All of a sudden we hear the roars, The VIPER has started. It’s 6:50a and boats are just screamin out the chute. One of the Viper guys is on a megaphone updating the anglers in the later flights, 20 minutes go by and he has us moving up. We finally get to the 5 mph buoy at the marina entrance, boats already on every key point in the Break. They are moving up at a pretty good pace, it’s 7:15 and they are just finishing up on the 4th flight. The nerves are really welling inside my gut now. It was at the moment he started the first boat in flight 6, that I decide to run directly to Emerson, gotta take the chance. I know it will be crowed but a good place to start. Even if I only get a couple of small fish got to get rid of these butterflies early with a couple fish in the boat and then tone it down for the rest of the day.

Korny calls 22-27 and no boats appear, they are straggling, he torts "28", that’s us, "OK move out Cooch", I liked that, a personal greeting as we went out, it help to settle me some. We punch it, get up on plane and are heading to Dutch, I let out another Ha PEE!!!. Boats already on every key point of the Break that I have ever fished. We cut through at the Coke sign and go straight through the Break. I’m amazed half the way through, no boats in sight, nobody following. I trim all the way up for maximum speed, God I love that rush first thing in the morning. We get to the East end of the Break, same story, guys starting out on every major point. We veer right and head towards the Jersey Island bridge, boats all over the place here. I’m thinking, did I miss something in practice? No way, must be out of towners or locals looking for a quick limit. I get to Emerson and there are 5 boats out at the entrance, I’m know doubting that we will be able to fish the back end. As we pull around the last bend, I am stunned! Not a single boat. No way, 299 out and we are all alone. Oh, I can’t believe it.

Pull up, drop the motor, grab the big jig, check the knot and line, juice it up and the first pitch is on the way. The anticipation of that first KERTHUNK was too unreal. Six pitches down the bank and nothing. Water is much clearer in here today. I juice up with the Bang again. Pitch into the edge of a small indentation and BDOW! I see this toad race off the bank into the weeds and set! Nothing! "Oh dude, that fish creamed that jig. Don’t know how he missed it." Work that spot for about 5 minutes, different jig too, no second chance. I’ll get that fish a little later. Ease down the bank. Still all alone, again I remark to Marc, "I can’t believe this, it’s all ours!" 30 pitches and 20 feet down the bank, KAWAM! Zip off the bank to deep water faster’n I know what hit me. I set on bowed line and come up empty. I see this huge boil and a tail, wider than my hands, disappear into the weeds. Another missed BIG fish. That’s OK, they are here. We work all the way down the bank without another bite. Boats are starting to appear. Bunch a local guys. They were all out front, saw me come in, waited 15 minutes and have decided to come join me. Knew it was gonna happen. We work back up the bank we just came down. Never got bit. We’re outa here.

As we’re leaving, we pass Dana & Stacey coming in. Cool, they paid attention. I instructed them to go here early and often. No fish for them yet either. We head off to Taylor. I go to pull into my first area and there’s Conroy. I pull up and he has yet to get bite. I motor away from the area and pull up right under the bridge. Still got out going tide, water is real dirty here, but I do stick a little 14" fish. I’m still ranting about the two lost bites earlier. But I’m confident the big fish are still on the bank. We pull out of this area and motor to another spot just 50 yards away on the left, we work it real well and get no bites. I hadn’t pre-fished here, but intuition said hit this spot. As we leave now I notice the cloud cover coming. It’s a big dark line of clouds. It’s still fairly cold. We pull up to the area were I saw the big fish of the previous day and I notice we have 2 feet less of water. The conditions are not yet conducive. We work it anyhow. Nothing. Hit the spot where I got the 9+, nothing. Clouds are on us now, no sun, tide should be coming in but there is very little movement.

We move to the back of the slough and fish the area where Alan got the big fish the previous day. We flip & pitch all the way down that bank and get no bites. We go to the back of Sandmond, boats are everywhere on the rock side and in the back. We work a 100 yard stretch of rock bank. I get Marc to crank and blade as I’m pitchin. Nothing. No problem, tide ain’t right yet. A breeze is coming up and boats are leaving the back. But as many leave another one pulls in. I recognize a number of guys. They were all out front when I first pulled in. It’s now 10:30 and only one fish in the boat. Tide should be gettin right. I move back to the dock side. I miss two nice fish. I then stick one about 3 lbs. And miss another. I’m noticing a pattern here, although the fish are smaller, I am only gettin bit right next to the white PVC pipes used as drainage from the property. It’s 12:00 and we only got 2 fish. I move down a few docks, I notice there are now about 10 boats on these docks. I guess those guys aren’t as dumb as I thought. I’m picking out the isolated spots now and not fishing as thoroughly. I get another 3 pounder. I’m now getting down to the area with the deeper access. It’s almost 1:00p and we’ve only got 3 fish in the boat. Although the tide is up, there does not seem to be much movement. I’ve decided to stay, the fish here are just too enormous and will move up. Marc is doing the best he can from the back, but finds himself mostly waiting with the net in hand. There aren’t too many places the guy in the back can fish with how I’m attacking these fish. He does what he can, I got him pitchin and flippin to isolated pylons on the deeper outer edges of the docks. He could stick a suspending toad on any cast. That’s what they should be doing with this front if they are not up close.

I finally get another 3 pounder, and miss two more fish. I’m baffled, why am I missing so many fish? We get one more small keeper before I see that it is 2:10p. We need to go back and hit a couple spots in the Break. We pull up to 4 areas and crank and flip, but come up empty. 2:55p Still time to hit one more good spot. I go screamin across the Break and pull up on one of my favorite little pieces of structure, and there’s a boat on it. I pull off 60 or so yards away and the big jerk flips me off. Boy he sure got nerve. We try one more spot, nothing. Off to weigh-in.

We pull up and get one bag from Mike. Oh man am I disappointed. 6 missed bites, of which two of them were real pigs, the rest I’m not sure about, but they would have no doubt improved our bag. I apologize to Marc and inform him we are toast, we’re out of it. We start chowing down on the salmon, jerky and sausitsas. I pull up next to Lonnie Woodlief and hear that Delameter has a 27 lb bag and is leading the tournament. Pass em some smoked salmon and they love it. They struggled too. I’m figurin we are gonna be way back. If Delameter got that kind of weight, there surely are gonna be 200 boats between us and him. We pull to the dock and Pringle starts in with, "Hey Cooch, ya only got one bag. We changed the rules ya know, it is now a 7 fish limit". Like salt in an open wound. Thanks Randy, I love you to.

"Looks like you got a couple good ones, what did ya catch em on?" I tell him a big rattlin jig and I tell him I missed a couple of big ones. He starts in with this rusted hook thing, two year old jigs, that’s probably why I missed em. "Randy, wish it was that easy, I’d have seven". Haul the bag up to the scales and Korny starts in, "Well", see Bob uses this word a lot, "looks like even the best ones have a tough day, huh Cooch?" Yep, ouch, 11.75, we got a big mountain to climb now. Well I’m pretty bent now. I’m real pissed at myself for not adjusting. But I haven’t had time to reflect on the day. I got lots of guy coming up asking what happened, I got stupid I guess. Some guy tells me he got a 9 pounder and is leading for big fish, had 19 pounds for the day. Another guy tells me they are in second with 21 pounds. I’m tuning em out, being a real jerk. Whoa, hey these are my friends, I am supposed to be happy for them, the hell with what I did. It hit’s me right there, hey Bobby’s leading the tournament and Fontes & Silva are in second. And Chuck Rodgers got the big fish. That’s good news man. I then find out we are only in about 95th. There is hope. I go bouncing round the Hook talkin to people, they can’t believe it and ask what happened, I tell em, "It’s fishing, we’ll come back with a huge bag tomorrow".

I finally make my way back to the ramp and see Marc waiting in the boat. Almost forgot, we got to get to PG&E before Tom, Dan and Vince leave. We move tail down the river and pull up to the dock, nobody around, not even in the trailer home. I go get the truck and back it down that perpendicular ramp, Marc pulls her up and I tighten her down. Go get in the truck and start to pull the boat out and the tires start spinning. Oh man, I get this rush, we’re gonna get stuck, nobody around to help. Oh chill out Cooch, I see Marc in the rear hop out to the bumper and I try again, this time easing her out at a much slower pace, she pulls right out. Whew! We still got a problem though, we’re locked in. Marc goes to check the gait while I go pound on the door. I see a TV on and hear a dog but nobody answers. I pull up to the gate to meet Marc and we wonder what to do next when some old guy pulls up and opens the gate. See good things are starting to happen again.

We take off to the Hook to find Dana & Stacey, it’s only 5:30 and the place is virtually empty. We head off to the house. Figured they went to shower and will show up for dinner. Get the boat in the garage and start the charger. I respool two reels with 15 lb Big Game and put on the 3/8 oz R&B jigs. I think with this front we’ll need the smaller baits, and with the water clearing we wont need the rattles in the jigs. We get all set with the equipment and head for the showers. No word from Dana, Stacey or Micster. Guess we’re eatin pasta without em. We sit down to eat and I call the Holiday Inn and speak to Stacey, Dana’s out like a light. They got plenty of room there and electrical hook up so they will keep the boat there. Start to eat and Dilling calls. This is a different Pat though. He’s jovial, words are slurring, Damn he’s drunk! Liz is gettin bent, we’re all at the table waiting to eat and I’m still talking fishing on the phone. I finally fill Pat in and get going with dinner. Liz, Marc and I are talking afterwards and I’m falling asleep in my chair. I graciously retire. Got a long day tomorrow.

Sunday, Viper Day 2

Alarm goes off at 4:30, I drag myself out of bed today. Been a long hard week. Today will be the toughest, physically and mentally. Marc is already up and has the bed put away before I even come down stairs. He’s in high spirits. He’s seen and done this before. He has the confidence we are going to have a big day. How big, is the question? We get the boat hooked up and head out for gas and make our way to the Hook. I’m launching there today, Marc’s got a late flight and we want to exit quickly. Besides, the Hook went smooth yesterday. Sunday was no different. We got in the water, boat check and all and still had 45 minutes to get coffee and shoot the breeze.

We again talk to Bobby Delameter. He got em on jigs, no surprise. We’re 28 out today, but find out weigh-in will be at 1:00p, we are loosing an hour today. So I figure to run up into Emerson again and maybe get that early morning big bite. We motor out to the staging area out front. One guy is ranting to the gang about coming early. He must have a late bite. Poor guy. We find a spot and pull up next to Micster. He had a fairly tough day too. Find out he was the jerk who flipped me off yesterday. 6:35 they are already starting us off. We’re out fast and on our way. Get to Emerson and nobody there. Spend 35 minutes and not a single bite.

Head into Taylor and pull up on a point, then decide to go right to the docks and there is team partner Rick Kraft. Turkey, right on one of my favorite spots. It’s OK though as I have not got bit there in the last three days. We pull way down the docks from him and pull into one small opening, I pitch up to the bank and before I know what hit me, another huge fish has grabbed my bait and run off the bank with it. By the time I get the slack up, nothing. Damn, here we go again. I pull around that dock to a nice deep point and start working it slowly. Rick comes around the corner and cuts me of 25 yards away. We exchange commentary, he laughs, I call him a few choice words and then leave in discuss.

We’re headin north from here working in and out of the docks. I pick up two small fish and loose two more. I can’t believe that I have missed so many fish the last day and a half. It’s now 9:30a and I have made a decision to make a run to Mildred and Old River. First stop we pull up on in Old River looks real good but no bites. We pull around the bend a few turns and I finally pick up the 3/8 oz jig with the smaller pork. A fish THUNKS it real good. I set and the reel starts spinnin like crazy, forgot to engage the reel. I reel up and the jig is out by the boat and nothin. I get three more runners that I miss. I finally have had enough of this and I cut the weed guard off. Next pitch KERTHUNK!, I set and see this big ole swirl and SNAP! Line breaks. What the hell is goin on here. I get a new jig on, cut the weed guard and thunk about a 3 pounder. Then I get another one. This little stretch is loaded with active fish right on the bank. We turn around and work it again and I pick up one more. Then nothing.

So I move 1/2 mile up the river to the next bend. This bank is a little deeper and has a bunch of sparse tulles off the bank. After working the first 50 yards I turn to Marc and say, "Ya know, I’m real surprised we haven’t got bit on this stretch, it’s real conducive to big fish". All of a sudden KERTHUNK! Oh, there he is, Oh Marc it’s a big un, toad actually. Net, Mama Pesce! This fish has now crossed his line and is heading right for the motor. How do they know to do this? Things are happening way too fast. I come off the front and fly to the back of the boat. With that Cameron rod I’m just hangin on and I guide this fish out from underneath the boat and into open water. I’m tripping over Marc as he is scrambling for the net and doing something with his rod. I hear him utter something but I really don’t understand what his problem is. Get the F*%&%^ net over her MARC! Fish is just under the boat now and I can see it has wrapped on Marc’s line and his jig is hanging from my line. I can see the fish now, It’s hooked deep and I begin to relax. All of 15 seconds has gone by since he first ate that jig. He’s tiring now and I start to tow him towards the boat. But I got a problem in that Marc’s line is around the big motor and I can’t get this fish any closer to the boat. Marc lies down on the boat, reaches out as far as he can and as he scoops, I guide that pig right on into the net. And then he sits up to breathe a sigh of relief. "Dude, get that net in the boat!" I grab the net, then the fish by the lip and remove the jig. "Yeah Baby! This is what I’ve been talkin bout all week. This could be a $3000 fish. Hey like I said, this area is conducive to big fish. Lets get him in the well and keep fishin. There’s got to be more here."

Fired me up a cigarette and started fishing again. Thumped another one. It goes in the same well as the bigger one and I toss our smallest fish. I give Marc a twin tail Yamamoto grub to put on his brown jig. Waters is very clear hear. Next thing I hear is MAMA PESCE! I look over and Marc has got his first fish of the weekend. Hot damn and it’s a good one. Net that fish, it’s about 3 1/2 pounds and I put it in the same well. I then reach in and grab another small fish and toss it. Man, we’re gettin real excited now. Fishins been real good the last hour. We move down the bank some and I get one more to cull. I toss the next smallest fish. I look at the watch and it’s 12:00. We need to start headin back, I think we got a pretty good sack. Marc goes to check on the fish and claims, "Cooch, we only got six fish." "No way", I cried. "What else can go wrong. That means three times I have thrown our limit away. Don’t worry I’ll catch that seventh fish. I know just the spot." We start back to the Break and hit one spot at South Quimby. Nothing. We are headin home.

We get to the Break and I go screamin towards the piece of structure that the big jerk was on yesterday, and I’ll be damned if’n he ain’t there again. I tell Marc, "As we go by Micster, this time I’ll get closer and we both will flip Him Off!" Har Har har, boys and their games. We pull right up to Gilligans. Marc, "Oh I remember this from Friday" Net,. there he is. That quick I’ve got number seven in the boat. He’s only a 2 1/2 pounder but he’ll do. We may now be near 20 pounds. Lot of boats pulling in. We still got 6 minutes. I tell Marc to keep fishing. We move over to an isolated pylon that I know has some submerged beams running perpendicular to the base. I pitch out beyond the pylon and start working that jig along the beam. I feel the jig crawl over the designated trigger zone and KERTHUNK! There he is! I set and the toilet flushes and my line breaks all in one sweep. Marc is handing me his rod. No use, that fish got my jig in his nose! What a way to end the day. How fitting.

We motor over to the check in boat. Got to get 3 bags. Fish over five pounds must be in a bag by themselves, and ya can only have a maximum of five fish in a bag. Could have stuck that sixth fish in another bag but hey, ain’t often you go asking for 3 bags, gonna take advantage of it today. Spirits are much better today. I’m still disappointed, mostly that I missed way too many fish. I had the bites to win. And I wasn’t very good at puttin Marc on fish. But I know we’ve done good and have worked well as a team. We probably have one of the top ten bags for the weekend. I get up to the holding tank and Randy’s has taken on a different attitude when he sees my toad. He realizes this may push for big fish. Currently it is 8.24 and this one looks awfully good. Falls short though at 7.95. Total weight for the day 19.20. We got a two day total of 30.95. Korny says we are in the top 5 with that weight. I know better, we are in the first flight and have a long way to go.

We get the boat out and go watch the remaining weigh-ins. Fishing for some, like us, was better and for others was tougher. We see a lot of really nice fish being weighed in. The 8 pounder holds up, we drop to 22nd and Bobby D and Mike win it by .08 of a pound. Wow, what a finish! Marc’s got his stuff packed and we’re off to Tower Park. We’re feelin pretty good now. Made a great comeback. We both fire up a big ole stogie and smoke it on the way. As we are driving up along Highway 12, a black Camero ahead of us is riding the shoulder on the right. He’s running over the warning bumpers and it is making this god awful sound. My ears and head feel like they are swelling from the sound. This goes on for about a 1/2 mile. All of a sudden the passenger window explodes! Right in my lap. Holy crap! We’re not really sure what has happened. Was it the sound vibrations, a rock or did someone shoot at us. Who knows. Sure scared the begeebers out of me though. Oh well, he took the insurance on the rental car. Good move.

We pull up to Tower Park and find a spot to park right away. I convince Marc he should take his rod tube with him. Close the back seat and his luggage will be safe, but with that window out his rods may not be safe. Thing looks like a big ole bazooka. At least I won’t have any troubles finding him if we get separated. Oh man! I can smell the BBQ. Good size crowd up ahead. People every where. Everybody still as excited as Friday night. There’s a buzz in the air. We find Dana, Stacey & Chris and they have already eaten. I turn around to talk to someone and 10 minutes later I locate the bazooka and Marc already has a plate full of food. Figure to go get mine before they run out. Salad, beans, beef, chicken and bread rolls. MMMMMM! As I’m eatin I notice that Randy is on stage now and he’s working the crowd purty good. I hear him call out some boat numbers and hear 28, but really don’t pay much attention. After tossing my plate to the file bin Marc comes up, "Hey Cooch, I think we won something, they called our number" Turns out they are giving away Viper jackets. I go up to Randy and he gives me this look and grin, "Yeah, and what do you want?" "I think ya called my number, 28?" "Yeah, so what, you runnin a Strat. What you gonna do with that Jacket?" "I’ll do the same thing I did with this here Ranger jacket, I’ll put a Cameron patch over it, Har Har."

So we are directed to the Marine Engine store, with 4 other teams, only to find out there is nobody there. We finally find someone and he knows nothing of it. I grab a number of cards from the counter and head off to find Jodie White, he’ll know what to do. He says he’ll take the names & addresses. Cool. Back to the festivities. Crowd is getting bigger now. Looks to be around 1000 people or more. I’m being stopped by folks I don’t even know, introducing themselves and thanking me for the contribution to the Website. I’m approached by at least 15 people who have been to NCBF, all they do is read the fishing reports. I explain to them that there are other areas of the site and they should browse the webpage deeper.

Korny is on stage with the others and they are talking about the tournament and handing out accolades. Marc and I have now fired up our two celebration stogies, enjoying the moment. We find the gang again and Chris is chowin down on a fatty too. Where’s Dana’s stogie. Chris hands her one and she’s having troubles lighting it. I take it from her and walk over by the restroom out of the breeze and fire it up. As I’m walking away she comments, "How do ya light that thing?" As I return with her lit cigar, I tell her, "Ya just gotta suck real hard and push" This gets a big roar out of the group. Dana then says, half dying, "But that damn thing is too big for my mouth", more loud laughter until I snap back, "Yeah, and where has Ole Cooch heard that before?" Now the house comes rumbling down. Everybody is bent over holding their gutt and knees. We are all beet red with tears. And there were more one liners about lips and teeth and loads and all kinds of real funny stuff. What a moment, ya really had to be there.

But ya know, that’s how the weekend went. Just a whole bunch of people who fish for bass, getting together for the largest event ever held on the West coast, and having fun. Our group wasn’t the only ones, everybody at Tower Park was still having a great time! And then they started passing out the awards & checks. To my surprise, Marc and I have climbed all the way up to 22nd place as Korny announces our name he say, "Andy Cuccia, better known as COOCH". This is too cool. I’ve never gotten a check for 15th and below in a team tournament, let alone all the way to 65th. Making our way back to the group another 7 or 8 people stop me to introduce themselves, not previously knowing that I am Cooch. It’s amazing the number of people who are frequenting NCBF. I’m feeling a certain glow of satisfaction that far exceeds this event. I am so proud of what we have accomplished at NCBF and of all those Nutcases that have participated and done well here.

And then they draw for the boat. It goes to a father and son team who have just fished their first bass tournament, from a Whaler no less. How fitting. And Mr. Luna upgrades it to a 150 hp motor for $10. This stuff is too cool. People are leaving, Marc is off to catch a plane. I’m looking for a ride back to the Hook and hook up with Ben Williams. We get back to the Hook and I drive my truck out to the tournament parking lot and my boat is the lone standing object out there, providing nary a clue as to what has just taken place here.

As I’m there all alone, hitching up my boat, I reflect back on the whole weekend and quickly relive all the ups and downs, the good and bad( there weren’t many). It went so well, better than anyone would have thought. I thank the good Lord for making it a success and getting everyone home safely. And then, standing there all alone , I yell,