Last week I said we’d review the Open with an eye towards lessons learned. That’s going to be a little tough because I’m clueless as to what happened on the second day. I couldn’t tell you what went wrong, or how to fix it, if my life depended on it.
The first day was OK. I had a couple of bass in the livewell when I moved to a spot that I knew held fish. In just a few minutes I had three more. They weren’t the kind of fish you win with, but they were fish. It was a morale booster if nothing else.
On the second day, I went straight back to that same spot. Nothing. No matter; I wasn’t panicked or even concerned. Florida bass are finicky in the early morning after a cool night. The afternoon bite is always better at this time of the year.
But things never got any better. I tried several spots — even returning to my first place several times during the day — without anything at all. In short, I didn’t get a bite the second day. It was ugly. There’s no other way to describe it. As a professional angler you’re supposed to catch them, not want to catch them.
As bad as that was it’s even worse when I look back on things. The truth is that I have no idea why, and I don’t know what I’d do to correct the problem if I had another shot at things. It’s frustrating, deep down frustrating. I pride myself on learning from my mistakes.
Of course, one guy who wasn’t frustrated, and didn’t have to learn from his mistakes, was Chris Lane. What a fine tournament he had. That fellow sure can fish Florida bass. If there’s anyone better I don’t know who it is or where he lives. He’s such a nice guy, too. He’s always smiling, in a good mood and upbeat. We need more guys like him.
There was a huge bright spot that I saw down there, too. We had 197 boats. A huge number of guys said they were fishing their first Open. At the same time our major competitor held a tournament with 130 boats in it. That’s two tournaments on the same weekend drawing over 300 boats.
That’s good news for bass fishing, a sign that things might be starting to turn around. I’m cautiously optimistic. We need to grow our sport. Everybody knows that. Participation is the first step. As the numbers grow so will the sponsors and the fan base, and it looks like the numbers are growing.
I’m going to do my part next week to get more people involved. I’m meeting my dad down in Florida for three days of bass fishing. We haven’t fished together in years and years so we’re both really looking forward to it. I’ll tell you all about it in a future column. Hopefully, I’ll be talking about all the giant bass we caught.