T minus three days and counting: That's when I'm heading to Zapata, Texas, and Falcon Lake for the Lone Star Shootout.
I'm fishing the amateur side of the Bassmaster Elite Series tournament. It'll be the sixth such BASS event I've fished — two on the California Delta, two on Toledo Bend and one on Guntersville.
If you'll notice, none of those bodies of water are anywhere near my Virginia home. That's the great thing about fishing one of these events — I get to go to some of the crown jewel bass fisheries and fish with the best anglers in the world. Typically, they come before my local tournament season starts and it's a great way to jump-start the year. I've been pumped up about this all winter long.
I've always been careful to avoid events that are likely to be primarily sight-fishing tournaments. I've heard that won't be the dominant paradigm at Falcon — keeping my fingers crossed on that front.
Last year, I traveled to Stockton, Calif., with friends Bill Roberts and Bryant Copley and it was an amazing trip. While none of us threatened to win, we all made the cut.
On the first day of his first-ever BASS event, Bryant drew out with Rick Clunn. Bill lipped two 10-pounders for Aaron Martens. I practiced three days with Kevin VanDam and drew some guy named Denny Brauer on Day Three of the tournament.
Sure, it's a little pricey to get out there, but what would you have to pay on eBay for a trip like that?
Bill and Bryant are much more accomplished anglers than I am, so that puts additional pressure on me to not make any mistakes. The two of them can catch fish out of parking lot mud puddles, so even with a good draw I need to be on my game.
We're all aware tournament day is pretty much luck of the draw in one of these tournaments, so we've made a point of setting up pre-fishing opportunities with some great anglers. (More on that later in the week.)
With five or possibly six days on the water, there's a good shot at least one or two of the days will be superlative: I hear they grow big down there and I'd like nothing more than to return home with sore thumbs, memories of big fish and possibly a check.
But who am I kidding? I'm going to spend plenty of time and money at the shop(s) down there, anyway — I'm an absolute sucker for new tackle.
I also spooled up a bunch of braid. The only applications I use it for around here are throwing frogs and toads, or flipping the mats on the Potomac. I'll definitely need to get used to it for other techniques during the practice day.
You don't want to be testing out new equipment and techniques when you have a chance at the bass of a lifetime.
I've been to Texas a number of times, but never farther south than Austin. I have a feeling this journey to the Mexican border is going to have an element of culture shock that I haven't experienced at any of the other lakes.
Real Mexican food, for one … the type we don't get up here in our area.
But I plan to be pretty careful with that — I don't want to mess up some pro's day on the water because I need a trip to the bank to do my business.
On top of that, I have a feeling the banks at Falcon are swarming with critters that bite and sting — having the potential for extreme discomfort (and embarrassment).
Pete Robbins is a frustrated attorney who dreams of pursuing a full-time career in the fishing industry. In the meantime, he tries to satisfy his need to be around the tournament scene through a second career as a freelance outdoor writer. A self-described tournament junkie and tackle addict who calls the Potomac River his home water, he resides in Vienna, Va., with his very understanding wife Hanna and their two dogs, Riley and Cookie.