Fishing For Freedom 2009

28 October 2009

On October 10th I fished in the annual Fishing For Freedom tournament on Belton Lake.  This was a very exciting event for me because it was my first “big” tournament to participate in since getting home from my mission back in 2006.  I heard about this tournament from another angler in my club because the organizers were trying to rally up more boaters to fish in it.  The idea was that they were trying to get 200 professional bass anglers to take war veterans out for a guided fishing trip for the day in order to honor their service for our country.  Plus, to add some extra incentive, the anglers and veterans would be competing for high cash prizes and a brand new Triton bass boat for the first place team.  The great thing about it was that it was a free tournament.  A shot at winning a brand new bass boat for no entry fee?  I was in!

Pre-fishing: I planned on pre-fishing for the tournament the three days prior to it, but unfortunately my pre-fishing was cut down to two days due to heavy winds and flash flooding one of those days.  Lucky for me, on the first day of pre-fishing, I found a pattern that I felt extremely confident in having the potential to be a winning pattern.  The second day of pre-fishing, I didn’t find much of anything exciting, but I knew exactly what I would need to do to win the tournament.  I discovered some big bass on the extreme northern end of the lake in very muddy water.  I knew very few anglers would want to run that far up north, so that was a plus for me.  The key was that the bass were holding in shallow pockets off the main lake sitting along the rocks leading back into the pockets.  Often times the biggest bass would be holding on the first piece of brush or wood as you headed into the pockets.  I knew that if I was to be successful in the tournament I would need to fish fast, cover a lot of water, and fish as many of those pockets as I could.

Game Day: I met up with my partner for the tournament, Christy Baker, at around 4 AM.  I’ll admit, about the last thing I was expecting was to be paired with a woman in a bass fishing tournament with war veterans, but she was a great asset to our team.  Christy has fished in every Fishing For Freedom tournament since they started five years ago, and was pretty experienced for a fisher-woman.  She had all of her own tackle and everything!

Going into this tournament, I was extremely optimistic and excited about our potential for getting a very strong finish.  To make a long story short, the day didn’t end as I had hoped.  We found ourselves only weighing in two fish for about 3.5 pounds and finishing in 52nd out of 230 teams.  When looked at overall, it’s an ok finish, but I was still very disappointed with it.    What was so disappointing was that, honestly, and I really do mean honestly, Christy and I had a very legitimate shot at being able to win first place and getting that new bass boat.  Even after the tournament, I knew that I had had the game plan that could have won the tournament for us, but I didn’t stick to that plan as much as I should have.  The one mistake I made was not fishing enough of those shallow pockets.  We fished maybe a third of them that I was planning on.  Reason being, I was trying to do everything that I could to be accommodating to Christy.  I know what it’s like to be in the back of the boat trying to fish while the guy up front wants to put the trolling motor on high and fish fast, so I tried to slow down for her.  I’m not blaming Christy at all for that.  That was my own decision.  What I should have done, however, is told Christy my game plan and tell her, “Just get up here in the front of the boat with me and be prepared to fish fast,” and everything could’ve worked out just fine.  For some reason though, that just never crossed my mind.

Now, here’s what really got to me about this tournament.  After we had weighed in our fish, I hung around the weigh-in tent to see what the final results would be.  Most importantly, I was interested in what the winners did to catch their fish.  Well, when all was said and done, it was a very famous angler by the name of Gary Klein and his war veteran who won the tournament.  Gary is a very accomplished angler from my neck of the woods in CA, and has won a lot of money and a lot of boats in his time.  He also fishes in the Bassmaster Elite Series on ESPN.  I was extremely frustrated with this because for years I’ve been telling myself that I can compete with the Elite Series guys, and here one was kicking my butt.  I just had to know what Gary did to win that tournament and why I didn’t do what he did.

When the time came for Gary and his partner to accept their cash and new boat, I was waiting anxiously to hear what their pattern was for landing their winning limit of bass.  As Gary explained their approach, my jaw dropped and my heart sank and Gary explained to the crowd the exact same game plan that I had had for the day.  He fished the same spots I did, used the same lures/presentations, and even experienced some of the same frustrations that I had through the day.  The only difference was, he ran the odds and fished a lot more spots than I did and by doing so was able to find enough fish that were willing to eat the bait all the way.  Gary talked of being plagued by short-striking bass all day, and that was the same problem I had.  He just covered a lot more water than I did.  One side of me was even more frustrated that he won running the same pattern I was, but the other side of me was extremely relieved.  It was a very big reassurance to me that I do know what I’m doing and I can compete against the Elite guys.  My mind and strategies are in the right place.  One day…one day…I will get there.


One Response to “Fishing For Freedom 2009”

  1. This makes it sound easy. I really should start fishing more.

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