Labor Day and Mille Lacs

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Bassmaster Marshal

I made good use of this holiday weekend by getting together with a bunch of my childhood buddies for our annual Labor Day dove shoot. I join about 40 of the guys I’ve known since our days of playing t-ball, and we spend a morning shooting birds. Then we have a big barbecue in the evening.

It’s a big deal now, especially since we have about a dozen young’ns running around. This event has gotten so big, we even got t-shirts made. We call it the Big Cane Dove Shoot, in honor of one of my buddy's father. 

We all have a good time catching up and, of course, I pull out the guitar a couple of times. I find myself gravitating toward artists with deep, meaningful music — guys like Chris Stapleton, who sing about the things I can relate to. 

Along those lines, getting together with friends and family for stuff like this is important, because you need a break after a long season. There’s mental and physical fatigue, but at this point, I’ll tell you it’s more physical. I mean, we’ve done some traveling this year, and your body gets tired. 

But even after saying all that, I’ll be honest with you, I’d rather we skipped this break and just get it knocked out. I only say it that way because one of the hardest things about doing what we do is turning it on, turning off and then turning it on again.

You get home and you get around friends and family and you start relaxing, but then it does get harder to put yourself back in competition mode. I won’t have any trouble getting myself where I need to be for the Toyota Bassmaster Angler of the Year Championship; I’m just saying I’d prefer to stay in tournament mode until we get ‘em all done.

I’m expecting a really good event on Mille Lacs. This is could be the nation’s top smallmouth fishery — plus, it’s going to be nice, cool weather. While the South is sweating through the end of summer, we’ll be in thermals and rain suits.

After last year, you know you have to catch more than 20 pounds a day to even do good.

The thing about Mille Lacs is that it’s not loaded with smallmouth like the St. Lawrence River or Lake St. Clair, but the ones that are there are big. A lot of times, you’re fishing for eight to 10 bites a day, so you have to capitalize on every opportunity. 

I think the fans are going to enjoy seeing a great event with a lot of really big sacks, but I doubt most people will have any idea of the drama going on behind the scenes. It all comes down to this event, and there’s going to be a lot on the line for a lot of anglers.

You’ll have the guys in the middle of the pack from the 20s into the teens, that can’t really fall out of the Classic and they can’t really move up much. Then there are the guys who are on top, who are fighting for Angler of the Year title.

With me being in fourth place, I’m so far behind I can’t win unless Jason and Brandon zero the first two days — and that’s not going to happen.

And then you have the guys at the bottom that are fighting for the Classic berth. Some are right outside the cut, some are right inside. Those that are right inside could fall out if another came and bumped them down.

Regardless of all this, it feels really good to be wrapping up the season, especially because I’m already in the Classic. I can just relax, go up there and catch some of those big brown fish.