It’s 3:45 a.m. and you’re wide awake … waiting for an alarm to sound.
You don’t really need it. You never have. Probably through anxious anticipation, you always seem to wake before it’s time.
As you lay there, your thoughts drift through a series of scenarios — all on how the day ahead might play out. Some are good, some not so good.
Finally, the buzzer sounds. You rise, hit the can, then gather everything you might need. It’s Day 2 of competition, and the clock is ticking.
You reach your rig in the hotel parking lot. Everything is secure.
You crank the Tundra, remove the boat cover and unplug the power cord to the battery charger. You then head for a convenience store where you’ll buy a breakfast snack, bottled water and plenty of ice. The forecast is for scalding hot temperatures and no chance of rain.
When you reach the ramp, you’re at the end of a long line of fellow competitors … all anxious to launch their boats. It’s now 5:15 a.m. and your mind’s telling you to hurry, the clock is ticking.
Realizing it’s going to be a slow process, you exit the truck and do a final prep on the boat. Straps, drain plug, running lights … all set. Next, you secure your rods and gear, then do a once-around to make sure everything is secure.
Back in the truck, you call your Marshal, letting him know your status.
You meet on the ramp. He backs you in, parks the truck, then returns. The two of you sit and chat while waiting for official take-off to begin. You tell him you’re in 38th place, less than a pound from 50th, and that you’ll need 12 more pounds to make the cut.
While applying some sunscreen, your thoughts turn to your equipment. You second-guess every lure, knot and rig, wondering if you’ve made the right choices.
Then there’s an announcement. “Everyone. Please stand and remove your hats, and pay tribute to our flag.”
As the Star-Spangled Banner plays, you can’t help but notice everyone around you — standing, hands pressed against their hearts. Some voice the lyrics, others think them. It’s humbling, but you feel proud. When the anthem ends, you applaud, knowing you’ve started the day right.
Minutes later, the tournament director begins the take-off sequence. Using a loudspeaker, he sounds off, “Boat number 1, Brandon Palaniuk. Boat number 2, Randall Tharp. Boat number 3, Mike Iaconelli…”