A first time for everything

The Northern Open on the Detroit River was a disaster for me. I marked fish in practice, but when I went back during competition, I couldn't catch a thing. It was about as ugly a tournament as I've ever fished. I mean when you can't catch fish on your home waters, where can you catch them?

In fact it was so bad that late on the second day I actually stopped fishing so that my co-angler could fish by himself and hopefully catch a limit and cash a check. I've never done that in all my years as a professional bass fisherman. Not ever!

The whole thing started shortly after lunch. I realized that the only way I could make the cut was with a 25-pound sack. I also realized that wasn't going to happen. It just wasn't in the cards.

My co-angler had one good smallmouth, but needed a limit. I knew where there were some largemouths in the river. I couldn't watch him go down the tubes with me. It just didn't seem right. So, I told him we'd go to the river docks, I'd run the trolling motor — he's not allowed to control the boat — and he could fish the docks by himself. It worked out perfectly. He caught two more keepers to round out his limit.

After that, I fished a little and caught a largemouth that almost hit the five pound mark. It's the first time I've ever weighed in a largemouth from that area of the country. When I'm on the Great Lakes, especially Erie, it's brown bass all the way as far as I'm concerned. When I say things worked out "perfectly," that didn't include my state of mind.

I have a reputation for being intense on the water. According to my co-angler, I'm even worse when I'm not fishing. That may be true. It's very difficult to control the boat for another angler when you're a professional. There's something unnatural about it. Unnatural or not, it does give you a sense of pride to put another guy on bass when you know he's fishing for a check just like you.

I don't have children but I'm thinking it's much like watching your kids succeed. It's a vicarious kind of success. I left the tournament in a good mood because of it, despite my dismal performance. But that's all behind me. I'm now practicing for a tournament in another circuit. After that, there's a PAA event on Lake Tawakoni (Texas) Sept. 9-11. That'll be a ton of fun, no doubt about it

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