Embarrassed at Oneida

Courtesy of Mark Hicks
I pick up my first day partner, Scott Fairchild, at his motel. Despite the slow fishing, he was a great guy to spend the day with. He boated two bass with me.

I was so bummed after the Bass Pro Shops Northern Open at Oneida Lake that I had to wait a few days before attempting to write this. In two days of fishing at a lake where limit catches were the norm, I managed five bites and boated two bass.

I was so embarrassed with my single smallmouth the second day that I considered not weighing in. The last thing I wanted to do was stand up in front of the crowd and the cameras with the undeniable proof that I was clueless. But I managed to put my big boy pants on, get in line and face the music. 

As badly as I sucked at Oneida, I very much appreciate the opportunity to compete in some of the premier tournaments in the bass fishing world – the Bassmaster Opens.

The blow to my ego and my confidence was a double whammy because I also faired poorly at the James River, the first Northern Open of 2013. I have one more opportunity to redeem myself, the final Northern Open at Lake Erie in September.

I’m glad I have a month to lick my mental wounds before that one. I’m in bad need of an attitude adjustment. They say time heals all wounds. I think a few 20-pound sacks of smallmouth bass is a much better cure.

I also have a brand new Medicare card, which means I am officially an old fart. I’m in superb physical condition for my age. I do P90X six days a week when I’m home. I’ve been traveling so much this year that I’ve lost my edge. I plan to get it back after Erie.

I head out on Day 3 with Michael Sweeney. He weighed in a limit the first day and two bass for 6-6 with me. He finished in 21st place. If he had managed one more bass with me, he probably would have made the Top 12 cut.I head out on Day 3 with Michael Sweeney. He weighed in a limit the first day and two bass for 6-6 with me. He finished in 21st place. If he had managed one more bass with me, he probably would have made the Top 12 cut.
Given my performance in the last two Opens, I’m beginning to wonder if age has deteriorated my mental faculties, not that they were ever anything to brag about. Tournament fishing is far more mental than physical. I somehow need to get my brain firing on all cylinders before Erie.

My daughter, Valerie, drove over from Ohio to spend time with me during the tournament. If you read my blog regularly, you know she loves coming to the Opens and that she is my biggest supporter.

On Saturday, we drove around Oneida for a few hours to see what the final 12 anglers were doing. We found two of them, including Jim Bianchi, the winner. I learned that I wasn’t far off the mark in technique or location.

My biggest mistake was sticking with an area where the algae bloom had shut the bass down. During practice, I had found a good mess of smallmouth bass 10 to 12 feet deep in a point of grass on the north shoreline.

The algae bloom was more evident there than elsewhere in the lake, but the green stuff was concentrated in the upper few feet of the surface. The water below it was clear.

The bass were there and willing to bite a drop shot worm. I even saw some schooling activity there one evening.

A strong wind blew throughout the night before the start of the tournament. It pushed even more algae into my area. The killer was that the wind stirred things to the point that the algae mucked up the water from top to bottom.

I didn’t realize how badly the water had been stained because the wind and waves that morning were pushing us around. My partner, Scott Fairchild, and I caught a few bass there which urged me to hang in that area longer than I should have.

I’m going to forego my other blunders. The only thing worse than admitting you blew a tournament is providing all the sordid details about how you did it.

Beyond tournament fishing, a major life change is about to impact our immediate family, which consists of me, my wife, Debbi, and our daughter, Valerie. Valerie will be moving from Ohio to Tulsa, Okla., in a few days.

A registered nurse, Valerie will be working in a hospital there. Her duties will be caring for post-op heart surgery patients. Debbi and I are extremely proud of her.

Our little family lives like Hobbits in the wooded Appalachian countryside of southeastern Ohio. Valerie is leaving the Shire to take on life’s adventure. We miss her already.

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