This was no ordinary tournament. It was California¹s B.A.S.S. Federation TOC! Every angler in the event realized that we were only two steps away from making the "big show", the B.A.S.S. Masters Classic! Unfortunately, it turned out to be a tough bite and nearly half the field blanked. I was among the large group of disappointed anglers at the end of day2 and I was faced with that age old question, "How do I choke down such a terrible finish?" Well, maybe you don¹t have to! Here¹s what happened between the lines.
During the weeks before the event, the bite was tough and I realized it was going to take some unusual kicker fish pattern to move above the rest of the field. I tried shallow like everyone else...nothing but dinks for me. As time went on, I developed a hunch about very deep water! To test my theory, I needed to change the rigging on some of my rods but I didn¹t want to miss any fishing time while re-rigging. So, I cast out a baby Senko (237) onto the edge of a long point next to deep water while I prepared my rods.
Tap...tap...tap! My unattended rod started dancing all over the place. It turned out to be a solid two pound spot and a quick glance at the Lowrance revealed that I was sitting in sixty feet of water! I did not dare get my hopes up one just one fish so I cast the weightless Senko back up on the point and returned to my rigging chores. Tap...tap...tap! Another fifteen-inch fish! I caught four beautiful fish from deep water on that dead stick Senko! I was excited. In the next few days before the tournament though my great deep bite withered away into a slow "kicker" fish bite producing only one good fish on the day before the tournament. It wasn¹t much, but at least I had something to give me hope.
Tournament Day 1: Four hours into the day, we had caught plenty of small fish and no keepers. Both of us were feeling the pressure. With two hours left, I told my backseater about those deep fish and we decided to risk spending the next two hours chasing that very slow big fish bite. With forty five minutes left, my nonboater sets the hook on his only deep water bite and brings in a beautiful two pound spot. I ended up blanking but his one fish bested three fourths of the field! He was in twenty-second place and only one half pound out of the state team! Since it only took two and a half pounds to make the cut for the state team, I was still in this thing if I could just get my kicker fish spot to produce!
Tournament Day 2: My draw partner is a young man who also blanked on Day 1. We agreed to fish all day for a couple bites on my big fish spot in the hope of making a major move on the field. At eleven, we had no bites but I reminded him that all the good fish in the past two weeks came after noon. We decided to make one quick trip into shallow water just in case that bite turned on. As expected, we only stuck dinks. With two hours left to fish, we returned to the big fish area. Then it happened...my backseater sticks a "toad" (for this lake) in forty-five feet. It weighs in at a whopping three and a third pounds and held up as big fish for the tournament. He got a nice check for over $900! I blanked again.
Now at this point, I had a lot of reasons to be unhappy. I blanked. I didn¹t make the state team. My "big fish" spot paid off but for someone else, not me. My Classic dream would be on hold for another year. But, instead, I came away with a sense of satisfaction. Why?
First, the few fish that came off my kicker spot were exceptional. They accounted for the third largest check in the whole tournament. I take great satisfaction in having discovered something that no one else found. With another day or two of prefishing, who knows, I might have excelled on that lake.
Second. My first day draw partner was a nice guy and I was happy to have provided him with the water that put him in a good position to make the state team. I might have felt different if he was an.....well, you know.
Third. During the day, my second day partner told me about his wonderful wife who actually encouraged him to get a bass boat and to fish in tournaments. In appreciation of her support, he commented several times that his dream was to bring her a nice trophy and a big check from a major tournament. Well, his dream came true and I am proud to have played a part in it. In addition to putting him on the fish, his bass came from deep water so it¹s swim bladder bloated up. His fish was in trouble and could have died. I suggested that he needle the fish but he sheepishly admitted he did not have a needle or even know how to do it. So, I took time to teach him how to protect his fish. It was wonderful to help such an appreciative young man grow in bass fishing knowledge and experience.
I guess this whole experience comes down to how you measure "success". Sure, I wish I had caught those two fish. Then, I¹d be on the state team...it only took four pounds to make the team. But, if fishing luck did not grant me that result then I am content to know I helped one man have a chance at the state team and another to achieve a dream come true. It just doesn¹t get much better.