How I went from first catch to cashing checks in Bassmaster Opens

Join me on my thrilling journey from a fishing newbie to earning my first paycheck in the competitive world of Bassmaster Opens!

At the start of the year, when Bassmaster released the locations of the Opens, I was pleasantly surprised to see Logan Martin on the list. A few years ago, I caught my first fish ever on Logan Martin, so that body of water holds a special place in my heart. Competing in the Opens had never crossed my mind because, after all, I had only just had a rod and reel put in my hands for the first time in the last few years. I’m still learning about fishing, so I felt like tournaments were way out of my league.

I did some digging and learned about what being a co-angler entails. From my point of view, being a co-angler seemed like one of the greatest learning opportunities I could sign up for. Best case scenario, I perform well and earn a check. Worst case scenario, I don’t catch anything but still learn what it takes to fish a tournament. To this point, I had never fished a tournament and wasn’t even sure tournaments were for me. I took a few days to weigh my options and ultimately decided to go all in.

I signed up for all three events of Division Two of the Opens, which would take me to lakes all over the South. I figured if I really wanted to know if the tournament scene was for me, I should give it a fair chance and see a few different lakes in a few different seasons.

Lake Ouachita: My First Tournament

My first event was in February at Lake Ouachita in Arkansas. I learned a lot during that first tournament! I learned how to be efficient at packing and keeping my gear organized (you only have so much room as a co-angler—too much gear and you get in your boater’s way; too little gear and you’re unprepared for the day). I learned a ton about how to fish deep, clear lakes (I’d never experienced, let alone fished, a lake this clear before this trip). And I learned just how welcoming this fishing community was.

I was matched up with two incredibly kind and knowledgeable boaters who showed me the ropes on the water. I got to talk to them about how they got into tournament fishing, how they make decisions under pressure, and swapped fishing stories most of the day.

The first day, I didn’t bring any fish to the scales, which was a humbling experience, but nonetheless, I learned a lot of valuable lessons. On day two, I was incredibly excited to take my first bass to the scales. I came in 54th in the event, but boy, was I excited.

Lake Logan Martin: A Special Tournament

My second tournament was the one I was most looking forward to: Lake Logan Martin in early May. The amount I learned during this tournament was incredible. I learned about several new lures and techniques, expanded my knowledge on spotted bass, and learned about fishing lakes that operate on a generation schedule. I had two more incredible boaters who continued to open my eyes to the fishing world and showed me ways to break down the lake.

My first day, I brought two fish to the scales; not a full limit, but one fish better than my first Opens appearance! For day two of the event, I had my sights set on getting a full limit, and I fished my tail off to make it happen. By 10 a.m., I had a limit and began to learn about culling for the first time in my tournament experience. That day, I took a decent bag up to the scales and had a blast catching up with my previous boaters. I placed 31st and managed to earn my first check in bass fishing, and I couldn’t have had any more fun doing it.

The Value of Experience

The tournament scene is pretty daunting from the outside looking in. I’ve only been fishing for a handful of years, and most of the folks I was competing against have been fishing since they were young. It can seem like a scary jump to make when you’re still learning the ropes of bass fishing. But from what I’ve experienced so far, there’s no greater teacher than just taking the leap of faith. Go in with an open mind and learn everything you can along the way. It’s been an incredible journey for me so far, full of invaluable lessons and friendships.

As I anxiously wait for my final tournament of the season at Lake Eufaula in Oklahoma this June, I’m practicing the techniques I’ve learned over the course of this year and getting my tackle organized. I’m looking forward to exploring a new lake, meeting new people, and hopefully reeling in a few bass. Wish me luck!

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