I can’t believe the season is over! I’m relieved to have some time off now, but I know that in a couple of weeks I am going to be ready to get back at it again. Good thing I’m fishing the PAA tournaments this year. I will be fishing Lake Cherokee in a few weeks, so that will give me just enough time to relax and enjoy being in a home that doesn’t have wheels on it! So, to recap on the season, it didn’t go as well as I had hoped, but it could have been a lot worse! We did good financially speaking, and I made my 10th Classic! But, no matter what, if you don’t end up in contention for AOY, you always finish the season feeling like you could have done better. Regardless, I am thrilled to know that I will be fishing the Classic in 2011. Ultimately, making the Classic is what all of us on the Elite Series strive to achieve.
Here is how things went down in Oklahoma:
On the first day of practice (which was on the river) I had a great day. At least 20 keeper bites that probably would have gone 15 lbs. I was excited, to say the least.
On day 2 of practice (still on the river) the water had risen about 5 feet from where it was the previous day. Despite the drastically different conditions, I managed to scratch out about 7 or 8 keeper bites that would have went 13 to 15 lbs. Then, at about 3:30 that afternoon the rug got pulled out from under me. A text message from Trip told us that we were no longer going to be fishing on the river due to unsafe conditions. I was a little upset, since I had really found some good fish in practice, but he made the call he had to make. So, I got myself ready to go fish Ft. Gibson, and start all over again.
On day 3 of practice I found that it really helped that I had fished there before! Things were tough, and tricky to figure out. I fished the lake like I would fish Grand Lake, which kind of helped me out. I got dialed in on some shallower fish, and caught them up in creeks on a shallow crank.
On the first day of the tournament I caught about 12 or 13 lbs in 30 minutes off of my first spot. I found this spot in practice, and didn’t really know what all was there, so I spent some time expanding on my area. All in all I caught about 25 keepers that day, and culled up to a little over 16 lbs by the end of the day. I was feeling pretty good, and sitting in 14th place.
On the second day of the tournament I tried to do the same thing as the first day, but something had changed and I didn’t put my first keeper in the boat until 8:30. Once I got the fish going, I was able to catch them. I didn’t get on them as good, and my weight was a few pounds lower than the day before, but I was still feeling alright. I dropped to something like 21st place, but I figured I had everything locked up and would be able to sneak my way up into the 12 cut the next day.
On the third day, I didn’t put my first keeper in the box until 10:00. The only thing I knew to do was to stick with it, and wait for the fish to turn on, but it never panned out. I ended up heading to a back-up spot a lost a 4 lber but caught another fish that measured. I was patient, and really just hunkered down and willed myself to believe that my fish would turn on for me, but they never did. My spots were inconsistent and unreliable, but I made the best that I could out of it. I got a $10,000 check, finished 33rd in AOY, and made the classic. I made myself a new rule that day too: If I don’t catch a fish in an hour on one spot, it’s time to move on. Some might consider me a veteran of the sport, but I still learn new things and figure new stuff out every tournament!
Now I am going to be focused on the Classic. Some of the reasons I work so hard to make sure I make it to the classic is that it is a fairly level playing field that provides a lot of momentum for the preceding season, we get good sponsor support for participating, and everyone is guaranteed a pay check. It’s 8 months away and I’m already looking forward to it! Right now there is some uncertainty about fishing in the New Orleans area, but we will make the most of it and I am definitely going to get down there sometime before deer season to do some scouting!