The Amateur Chronicles

Several weeks before the WON Bass Delta Pro-Am, Rich and I were sitting in my office discussing whether I should enter the tournament as his amateur. He definitely wanted me to, but I was nervous about being one of a handful of women entered. There is a lot of pressure on amateurs and that’s compounded for first time amateurs and then compounded again for first time amateurs that happen to be women. After much internal deliberation I finally said, “Just send in my entry money so I can’t change my mind”. So off it went in the following day’s mail.

I have confidence in my ability to fish. My main trepidation was avoiding doing something inane like falling out of the boat or loosing a 10-pound fish. I know both of these things have happened to many of us, however, being a woman and doing one of these things only intensifies the inaneness of the act in the eyes of male counterparts. I didn’t want either of my partners thinking to themselves, why did I get paired up with her. I wanted to contribute and not be a nuisance.

The bottom line is I had nothing to worry about and neither does anyone contemplating entering a pro-am tournament – man or woman. At the draw I was called very early on and paired with Ish Monroe and Mark Tyler - two phenomenal draws on the Delta.

Needless to say, I didn’t sleep much Friday night. To say I was nervous sitting in Ish’s boat waiting for the tournament to start is a colossal understatement - I was petrified.

After day one I wasn’t feeling too sure of myself because I only caught three fish all day, one dink and two that didn’t cull up. On day two Mark fished for bigger bass while I helped filled the box. This did a lot to boost my confidence and so did Mark’s observations of me as a partner. To paraphrase his words: I was a good amateur draw not just because I could fish, but because I didn’t talk his ear off, I wasn’t boasting about all the club tournaments I’d won, and when he said “let’s move”, I was clipped, zipped and in my seat.

Although we didn’t finish well, I had a great time talking and learning from Ish and Mark. Winning wasn’t my biggest concern. Honestly, I just wanted to be paired with two fishermen that weren’t jerks and fortunately that happened.

With that first amateur experience under my belt, I decided to try my luck at Clear Lake. Again, I managed to be paired with two incredible fishermen: Steve Geffs and Jimmy Reese. Too bad my luck at drawing great partners doesn’t extend into picking lottery numbers.

Though my nerves weren’t nearly as severe as the first tournament, they were still bad. Right off the bat on day one I pulled in a crank fish that ended up being our biggest. I finally exhaled after feeling like I was holding my breath all morning. I told myself, you can do this, just go fishing. And that’s what I did both days. I continued to help fill our limit on day one and on day two, though I caught fish, I mostly played “net girl” for Jimmy. When all the weights shook out, I ended up taking third place!

And if you’re wondering, I did manage to complete my daily quota of klutzy acts which both involved falling, but at least not out of the boat. The first morning I slipped on the wet dock while attempting to save Steve’s boat from crashing into it and submerged my left foot in the dock piling hole soaking it completely. On day two as Jimmy and I were preparing to take our fish to weigh-in, I stepped out of the boat and tripped on an ant or something of that general size and landed flat out on the dock. Graceful I’m not.

It was a rewarding experience to fish with some of the elite professionals of this sport and learn new things and areas that I can improve upon. Not only did those pros strengthen my fishing knowledge, but I better understand the importance of good communication. It’s challenging to become a cohesive team in one day. The easiest way to make that happen is to communicate. If your considering entering a pro-am tournament don’t be afraid to ask questions and be honest about what you can and can’t do.

Stepping out of my comfort zone and fishing with other professionals made me appreciate my team partner even more. Rich and I have a system that has been honed after many, many tournaments together and it’s easy to take for granted how smoothly we flow. Remember there’s no ‘I’ in ‘Team’ no matter if you’re team for the day or for life.