Just like all of you, I’ve been following All-Star Week. Bracket-style fishing looks like a really awesome format. Just beat one guy and you advance to the next day. Easy … right? Ha.
It reminds me of the old Bassmaster Megabucks tournaments. On the final two days, the top pros were moved to a hole-course on a section of the lake that had been off limits the previous days. It was cool because the anglers had to keep finding new fish as they were moved from hole to hole.
In 2001, BASS had a Megabucks tournament on Douglas Lake, Tenn., only 45 minutes from my hometown of Caryville. It was a “big deal” because we had never had a professional tournament come to town.
My brother and I saw this is a great opportunity to learn more about tournament fishing. I was 15 and he was 17 and we had been tournament fishing for a little over a year. We took his boat and followed the pros around.
We learned a lot that day. We watched Mark Davis drag a carolina rig, Jay Yelas run shallow pockets, and Rick Clunn crank. It was cool watching Mark and Rick fish offshore because my brother and I had never really fished deep. We were shocked at how far they were from the bank. Watching them that day gave me the confidence to go “out” there and learn how to do it myself.
One of my most vivid fishing memories happened while we were watching Rick Clunn. I haven’t really told many people this, and for good reason. Clunn was putting on a deep cranking clinic as he cranked almost every square inch of the hole-course in Flat Creek.
He would parallel crank fast on the straight banks and slow down and fan cast points and ledges. This was a great learning experience because we never deep cranked. Prior to watching Rick, I think that my deepest crankbait went 8 feet deep.
We were pumped because we had always watched Rick on TV, and here we were 25 yards from him. So as we watched Clunn fast crank down a straight bank, something caught my eye. It was a dock that had a perfect shade edge on it.
As he cranked past the dock, I reached down in the rod box and grabbed one of my rods. I opened my crankbait box and tied on the deepest crank that I had. By this time Rick was 30 to 40 yards away from the dock. Before my brother even knew what I was doing, I stood on the front deck and launched the plug as hard as I could. As my crankbait was in the air, Jordan gave me his typical big brother “I can’t believe you just did that look” and turned back around to watch the crankbait land on the dock and get hung in the dock’s carpet.
We put the trolling motor on high in hopes of getting to the dock, freeing my bait, and getting back in the flotilla unnoticed. Yeah right. We got to the dock and the bait was buried in the carpet and it was not coming out easily.
Rick turned around, and looked at us (not in a mean way but more in a confused way), like “what are these two goofy kids doing on this dock behind me?” I’m certain the cameraman turned around too. I’m just glad that we weren’t on Bassmaster TV.
After what seemed like an eternity, we got the bait free from the dock and got out of Dodge. I have never been more embarrassed in my life, and to add insult to injury, my brother let me have it the rest of the day. He was like, “What on earth possessed you to do that? That could have been the stupidest thing you’ve ever done!”
Yeah, I was “that guy.” Sorry, Rick. Minus my 10 minutes of stupidity, the day was a great learning experience. Thankfully, Rick won the tournament too!
If a tournament comes anywhere near your hometown, I would encourage you to go out and watch for a day or two. You would be surprised at what these guys can teach you in an 8-hour fishing day. Just leave your rods at the house!
Remember, chase your dream!