Looking back

When Valerie and I signed up to fish Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Northern Open at Oneida Lake, I wasn’t sure how it would play out. She loves to come to these tournaments when I’m fishing them.

But, being a spectator is worlds apart from actually competing. She only fishes a handful of days a year and has limited skills with bass fishing techniques. The tournament would be a major challenge for her and a crash course in bass fishing

Would she be miserable? Would she enjoy it? Would she get the adrenaline rush that makes an 8-hour tournament day go by in a flash?

Despite the rain, the wind and not catching a slew of bass, she loved the experience. We’ll never forget this week. The highs, the lows, the wind, the rain, the campfires, the laughs, the frustrations and the many friends we made.

Maybe we’ll have an opportunity to do this again some day. I hope so. When we get home gets home, Valerie will continue to apply for a registered nursing job. There’s no telling where life will take her. Whatever happens, we’ll always have the Oneida tournament to look back on.

Life is good.

After I bombed on day one of the Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Open at Oneida Lake, the pressure was off. I was so far down in the standings that I had little chance of catching enough bass to make a check.

My partner, Gary Besmer of Long Island, New York, was in the same boat. He  weighed only two small bass the first day. So, we were going fishing for fun and for pride.

I’m a terrible first-day tournament fisherman. I get too wound up. If don’t get off to a fast start, I’m too eager to run and gun. That’s what happened yesterday.

I started today at the same place I started yesterday. I slowed down, relaxed and we started catching smallmouths right away. Spinnerbaiting weed edges in 8 to 10 feet of water was the deal.

I considered the weather and the wind direction. I fished new places that seemed as though they should work. We caught bass all-day and culled several times. Doug said it was the first time he culled bass in an Open tournament. I was proud of that.

I weighed 14-1 today. Not great, but respectable. Had I kept my head together yesterday, I could have had a good showing. Someday I’ll have two good days back to back at an Bassmaster Open tournament. That will cause for a big celebration.

I must give a huge thank you to Gary Clouse, president of Phoenix Boats. He generously let me use a fully rigged Phoenix 721 for the Bassmaster Northern Opens this year.

Lake Erie and a windy Oneida Lake tested the Phoenix to the max. The boat impressed me, and my partners, with how it handled the waves. If you’re looking for a boat that tames rough water and delivers a stellar all-around performance, keep Phoenix in mind.

It’s time to go back to my “normal” life in Ohio. I’ll be happy to see my wife, Debbi, and our dogs and cats.

With a little luck, I’ll be fishing the Opens next year. I hope to see you there.