Happy Birthday, Charlie!

Last Thursday, August 8, was my birthday. I spent the day fishing the first day of competition on the St. Lawrence River. I’ve always enjoyed fishing on my birthday. For some reason — probably confidence — I always seem to do well. And so it was on Thursday, almost a week ago.

The first three times I lowered my drop shot that morning I caught a smallmouth bass. Each of them weighed over 3 pounds. The St. Lawrence River is an extraordinary fishery but even there that’s a darn good start. When all was said and done after the weigh-in, I was in the Top 5.

For me, that’s really good. I absolutely couldn’t wait to get out on the water the next day. I had visions of great success in my head. Unfortunately, however, my birthday good fortune didn’t hold. I may have been too excited, or it may be that the fish decided that one day was enough. Regardless, I ended up in a mess.

In the excitement of the moment I put six fish in my livewell and failed to cull properly. After a well-deserved, 2-pound penalty I ended up somewhere in the thirties. That’s not in keeping with my visions. The thing that hurts the most about it is that it was a totally self-inflicted wound. There was no reason for doing it. Excited or not, Charlie Hartley is no rookie. He knows better.

There was a time when I wondered how someone could do that. I’d watch other guys get penalized for having too many fish in their livewell and think to myself that they had to be incredibly careless to let such a thing happen. But that was before I did it myself. I understand it a little better now. There’s more going on than simply counting to five.

The mistake didn’t cost me the Friday night cut. I still fished Saturday. It did, however, put me way down the list.

My bone-headed move notwithstanding, I had a good time. It’s always fun to fish somewhere you can catch a ton of big smallies. I’m looking forward to going back there, and not just because of the fishing. The people around there are special, too.

We had a huge group of Canadians with us. They’re something out of this world. I can’t remember having Marshals that were as courteous and as enthusiastic as mine were last week. All they did was tell me how special it was to go out with me and tell me what a good time they were having.

That brings us to an interesting point I’d like to make.

I don’t care who you are, or what your station in life might be, it’s a wonderful thing to be praised, even if some of it is questionable. We should never lose sight of that. A compliment can go a long way. You never know when you’ll do it at just the right time to help someone feel better — like after they end up with six fish in their livewell.

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