The Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Central Open kicked off today on Lake Lewisville, Texas. That lake brings back good memories for me because I fished my first collegiate tournament there. It was my first tournament out of the Southeast and was a tremendous learning experience.
I had just joined the University of Kentucky bass fishing team, and the guys on the team signed me up because they needed one more angler to fish in the tournament. The tournament was held in late October; and a week before we were supposed to leave, my partner backed out. The team tried to find someone else to fish with me, but on such short notice could not.
I decided to go ahead and go anyway because I could not pass up the opportunity. I was a little bummed that I would be competing against teams that had two anglers per boat, but I still felt I could catch them by myself. Fishing alone turned out to be a good thing, as the production crew filming the tournament said it was a good storyline. They did several interviews with me and filmed me on the water, too. Many of the guys for other schools that I competed against called me “Solo.” I was known as “Solo” for the whole week.
Fishing on Lewisville was different from anything I was used to in Tennessee and Kentucky, but after a day or two I started to figure it out. Practice went really well for me, as I found fish on shallow rock outcroppings and was catching them on spinnerbaits and crankbaits. I was really confident going into the start of the tournament.
The first day of the tournament was an eye opening experience for me as I learned that you must have backup plans in tournament fishing. The wind blew 30 mph most of the day and caused 3 feet waves to crash down on my shallow rock outcroppings. The fish were in 1 to 2 feet of water in practice, so the waves pretty much destroyed that whole pattern. I tried to force it the entire day and never caught a keeper.
The second day I tried some new stuff and stumbled on a marina bite, but it was a little too late. I caught a couple of good fish for a little under 7 pounds and finished the tournament in the middle of the field. The winners, Texas A&M, fished marinas almost exclusively.
I learned a good lesson that week – to always prepare for the worst and always have backup patterns. If I wouldn’t have been so consumed with the great shallow rock pattern that I found in practice, I would have spent more time on the marinas. I would have found that pattern much sooner, which would have resulted in a much higher finish.
Every fishing trip, it seems like I learn something new. It was that tournament that really got me excited about college fishing.
Collegiate anglers, I encourage you to learn as much as you can at every tournament. College bass fishing gets bigger every year, and there is more opportunity this year than ever. The 2012 College B.A.S.S. schedule looks really good. It is incredible that one college angler every year now qualifies for the Bassmaster Classic! I wish Andrew Upshaw the best at this year’s Classic! And the same to all the other collegiate anglers that will be competing this year for a berth in 2013 Bassmaster Classic. Good luck and always have fun!
Remember to chase your dreams!