3 True Stories From The Tournament Trail | Bass Fishing

Starting at the very beginning for me. When
I say the beginning, it was the beginningof my professional career, the first year
I ever fished professional tournaments andit was the second event I ever fished as a
pro. Gosh, I remember it like it was yesterday.
It was in the fall of 1999. It was on LakeChamplain, again, the second event I ever
fished as a pro, still kind of a little intimidated,all my heroes are out here fishing around
me. Had a great first day, had an amazing second
day, weighted 24 pounds and I’m leading goinginto the last day of the event and trailing
me is Rick Clunn, David Fritts, gosh, RandyFite, all these guys that I’ve read about
for years and what an unbelievable feeling. We’ve got a Bassmaster camera crew on me and,
man, to say I was nervous is an understatement. We had a major cold front come through on
the final day of the event and I had beencatching early limited smallmouth that only
weighed 13 to 15 pounds and then I would gorun and fish for largemouth. I used to mostly
isolate a largemouth, I was flipping aroundboat docks and reeds and isolated logs and
tire reefs and all these kinds of things andI was getting really big, quality largemouth
bites. Well, the last day of the event rolls around
and I get to my first place and I decidedbefore to forgo the smallmouth altogether.
I said, “You know, if I want to win this tournament,I want to fish for these big largemouth right
off the giddy. ” And I get to my first spot,I drop the troll motor and I look at the water
temperature gauge and the surface temperaturehad dropped 10 degrees, literally, over night.
I go to the first spot and fish 30 minuteswithout a bite. I go to the next place 30
minutes. Well, after about 2 hours, 45 minutesof doing this, I don’t have a single bite
yet, not a single largemouth. And so I end up in this area and I’ve got
this camera on me, I’m kind of half-embarrassed. I’m not catching them and I’m thinking that
I’m going to blow this thing and I look acrossand there’s a smallmouth place where, in practice,
I hadn’t fished it the whole event, but inpractice I caught a few 2-3 pound class smallmouth
and I thought, “You know what? Let me runover there while I’m here, go try to get a
limit real quick to settle me down and thenI’m going to go back and flip for largemouth. “Well, I run over there and remember the camera
boat’s with me this entire time, I get overthere and drop the trolling motor and I’m
headed up, getting close to this waypointand I’m casting a jerk bait and I throw that
jerk bait out there and I’m getting closerto my waypoint and all of the sudden, I hook
one. I’ve got the first bite of the day andI’m fighting it and I see him jump way out
there and it’s not big. It’s like a two-pounder,I’m just like, “Okay. It’s the first fish,
I’m excited. “And as it gets closer to the boat, Lake Champlain,
crystal clear water, as it’s getting closerto the boat, I look down as I’m fighting this
fish and I see this massive black cloud behindthis little two pound smallmouth that I’m
fighting. It’s almost like time stopped andI looked at that cloud and I was like, “What
the heck?” And in my mind, I’m thinking, “Isit a sea creature? Is it the blob? It is something
from Creep Show, the movie?”And as I looked closer, all of sudden, I stopped
breathing and I realized what it was and itwas a massive school of smallmouth from two
to four pounds, there must have been severalhundred of them all following this one smallmouth
I had hooked. I couldn’t even breathe. I couldn’teven concentrate. I grabbed the buoy and dropped
it. I kind of had to turn away, I couldn’teven look anymore. I flip the two-pounder
in and on every cast for the next 45 minutes,I caught a fish. It was the most unbelievable
little flurry of smallmouth action I everhad. But here’s where the story gets more interesting.
So, the action was so fast and furious and,at the time, you were allowed to use a net
in BASS in BASS events and I was hooking thesefish on the jerk bait and a lot of times,
they would get caught, the treble hooks wouldget caught in the net and, to save on time,
they kept getting caught and I was gettingfrustrated. I was getting scissors and every
time I cut, I’d cut the net just a littlebit because I wanted to just save on time. Well, finally I get to where I’ve cut a big
hole in the net now and I finally hook a goodone, like a four-pounder. I’m fighting him
on the jerk bait. I go to net him, it popsout of the jerk bait, but I’m excited, I’m
like, “Yeah!” I lift the net in and the fish,I had cut a hole in the bottom of the net
and the fish falls out of the hole. And Ilose the best fish of the day. But wait a minute, it gets more interesting.
So, I shake that off. I go back to throwingthe jerk bait and now I’m about an hour in
to catching them almost every cast. I’m notusing the net anymore. I’m swinging them in,
but they stop biting the jerk bait real good. But they start biting a tube. What’s happening
is, I’m able to see the fish follow the jerkbait, they stop on it, but I have a tube rigged
up to the eyelet on another rod and I quickreel a jerk bait in, I pick up a tube and,
if I fire it out there real quick, over towhere I saw that fish, I’d catch them. So, now I’m like, “Oh my gosh. This is the
most unbelievable thing. ” It’s all happening,it’s the last day of the event. And so I see
a good one, like a three and a half pounder,follow the jerk bait and just stop. He doesn’t
want it. I quick reel the jerk bait in andI put it down and I go to grab my other rods
on the other side of the deck and I go tograb it and I go to flick open the bail and
as I go back to make the cast, I hear a splash. I hear, “Kersplash!” Out of the corner of
my eye, I look and my jerk bait rod is flyinginto the water. So I hadn’t made a cast yet
with the other rod and I barely grab it bythe handle and, in one motion, swing in this
three and a half pounder. Well what had happenedis, when I reeled that jerk bait in real quick,
it was laying on the top of the water andthese smallmouth were so aggressive, he came
up right next to the boat and ate it off thetop and it was unbelievable. Kind of three neat stories, all true stories
that happened the first year that I ever tournamentfished. And I ended up winning that tournament
and won the second pro event I ever fished. But they’re the kind of things that happen
on the water all the time too. So keep listeningbecause every blog we do, every time I talk
to you, we’re going to have a new story foryou.

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