I’m back in Dallas this week after fishing the Red River Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Central Open #2 Presented by Allstate. This may have been one of the most important tournaments of my career to date. I’m on my final year of my American Sporting Visa and to continue chasing my dream I need to make the Elites to be eligible for a Green Card. Basically, this is probably my last shot at making the Elites.
I was sitting 6th in AOY points after Amistad and leading into this event, which was right where I needed to be. After fishing the tournament I feel like I am more proud of this finish than any other placing since competing in the U.S.A. I believe the Red River is one of the toughest and demanding – mentally and physically – tournaments on tour.
There are so many things that you need to be thinking about before hitting the water and on the water. It’s crazy.Just some include: what are the water levels doing? are they dropping the water? if so by how much? and in which pool? which pool to spend most of the pre fish in? do I run several spots? or put my head down and fish one area? do I catch the scheduled lock time? or fish longer but risk being locked out? do I fish the dirty water? or fish with the crowds in the clearer back waters?
Then there is the wear and tear on yourself and your equipment.
The Red is hard on gear and having a 2500 pound boat stuck on a sand bar or log becomes a mainstream, everyday event and you have to take it on every day and not let it get to you.
Falling out of your boat is at high risk and if you were fishing Lake St Clair in the summer time it wouldn’t be a problem but here you face a mess of sharp dagger like trees all around your boat and the ever present ‘gators keeping their watchful eye on you.My practice went well. I had found fish in a lot of different areas and I was having trouble making the decision on where I was going to start on the first day.
This time last year I fished the Red River Open and faced things I had not seen before – like dropping water levels the day of the tournament, and it saw me finish in the 100s.
The harsh lessons I have learnt from then really helped me this year. This is where I realized how important it is to not give up.
The last few years has presented me with some of the toughest times of my life and giving up seemed like the only option at times. But looking back now those tough times prepared me for whatever obstacle that I would have to deal with now.
If I gave up I would have never found out.
DRASTIC DAY ONE
Thursday morning and 10.30am rolls around on the first day of the event and I haven’t had a single bite. Everything I had found in Pool 5 just wasn’t working. Conditions had changed and I wasn’t able to adjust to what the fish were doing.
That’s when I made a kind of crazy decision to lock down to Pool 4 and fish the last few hours of my day in an area in Sullivan’s – over an hour boat run from where I was.
My attitude today is at a level I never thought possible and is totally different from where I was the last few years.
I rolled into Sullivan’s at 11.30 to see boats in every spot I want to fish, I try to make it to a row of trees that were free and find out I can’t even get to them as they had unexpectedly dropped the water level in Pool 4. Now it was 1.30pm my boat was stuck, the wind was blowing 25mph and it was overcast, conditions were absolutely nothing like the last 5 days of practice.
I could feel the panic button starting to show up, but I shut it down pretty quick. I didn’t let it affect me and not once did I have a negative thought, I stayed positive and there was never a moment that I wasn’t going to catch them entering my mind. Just believing it’s going to happen is a huge thing.
I sat down, cranked my Yamaha and idled to the nearest drain of deep water to were my fish were, reached into my rod locker and pulled out my Swim Freak Millerod/Shimano combo with my new design Bassman Bladed jig tied on – a great reaction bait for the conditions.
My non boater and I began to catch them and I had 4 fish in no time.
With half an hour left before I had to leave, a small opportunity presented itself as the sun broke through the heavy clouds. I knew my best chance of a big one was flipping to large stumps if the sun would hold. I got out of there and went to my area that had been hit hard by other anglers, they had all left to catch the scheduled 1.30 lock time.
I had it to myself and I started to catch them. With 10 minutes to go, I flipped a 4 pounder to give me a weight that would keep me in the hunt and I had the Skeeter running at 70mph on the way back to the lock.
I knew I was pushing time to the limit and I was hoping the lock would be open when I got there. That was not to be. It was closed and I could see it was full of water. By this stage it was 3.45 and I was due in at 4.30 and it wasn’t looking good.
At 4.00 the gates opened and I was in. I knew it was a 12 minute run to the ramp. Gates opened at 4.15 and I was on pad to the weigh in. I knew it was going to be close. I look to my left and can see a competitors boat stranded with both anglers waving franticly.
I knew it was possibly going to cost me but I would hope someone would do the same if I was in their situation.
I hook a hard left, shot in and said we needed to hurry. They put their tagged fish in my live wells and we were on our way to the weigh-in, coming in with less than two minutes to spare.
What a day! So many things could have gone wrong but I didn’t let it happen. I was sitting in 47th place with 9.80 pound and only 2 pounds from the cut.
Everything is about catching them the second day on the Red. This time I was boat 27 with a 2.30 check in.
I had half an hour to fish before I had to make the scheduled lock time into Pool 4. I ran into a shaded back water that I knew had some good lay downs and healthy milfoil and threw a top water looking for a big bite, and it came.
A 5 pounder hit the deck in the first 10 minutes and I knew it was “game-on” and only a few minutes later another giant 6 plus inhaled my bait.
This was the first game changer I had lost all year as it rolled my rod loaded up and in the blink of an eye it was gone. There wasn’t much I could have done, I may have been a little early on the hook set as the violent boof it made when it took my lure made me react a little fast.
Although I haven’t stopped thinking about that fish ever since, I didn’t let it effect me during the tournament. I put my head down and went hard all day and brought in another solid limit of 11.80 pound which jumped me into 23rd place for the tournament.
I’m now sitting in 4th for AOY and have given myself the best possible shot of making the Elites. I have been here before and I’m going to really have to catch them on the Arkansas River.
In 2012 I was in this same position in the Central Opens going into Fort Gibson the final event, I had a big first day over 12 pounds and in 20th position which had me sitting in 2nd AOY with one day to go. It was mine to lose, the fishing got tough and I weighed in 3 good fish which only dropped me to 31st in the tournament, everyone including myself thought for sure it was enough to make the Elites. That night when we did the calculations one of the most heart breaking visions came to me. I had dropped to 9th in AOY and in the end I was one single point away from making the Elites.
Again, looking back now it was the best thing that ever happened to me, I wasn’t ready then and as long as I make it this year I feel I’ll be ready for next year.
Lake Douglas is next. It’s the first Northern Open which I’m really excited about, I’ve had some good finishes on this lake and I love the way it sets up and I’ll be sure to keep everyone in the loop with how it goes.
He who says he can and he who says he can’t are both usually right!
What Ever It Takes