I’m the luckiest man alive

_mg_3127.jpg

Ronnie Moore
The seasoned pro notched his first Bassmaster victory here at the James River.

Last week was unbelievable. There’s no other way to say it. It was an out-of-body experience to stand on that stage with the trophy in my arms knowing that I finished in first place, and that if I fished the last Northern Open on Lake Champlain I’d have a slot in the Classic on Lake Conroe next year.

It was especially sweet because I’d just about written off this year. I’ve been fishing all three divisions in the Opens without a whole lot of success. I’d like to be able to say that it wasn’t bothering me, but in truth it was on my mind. I’ve never made a secret of my wanting to return to the Elites. It didn’t look like this would be the year for that, but now I might have a shot at that, too.

I was way down in the Northern points before last week, somewhere around 80 or so I think. Now I’m at 25. That seems like a long way away from qualifying, but there are twice as many anglers in the Opens so there are twice as many points up for grabs. A big finish on Champlain just might get me there. That’s far from certain, I know, but it never hurts to think positive.

It’s a funny thing, this professional fishing. On the surface winning a tournament is about catching the most weight. The thing is, though, to do that there are about a hundred things that have to go your way. If I get the chance, I’ll talk some more about that in the future. I didn’t realize how complicated it was until this past Saturday.

One of the things that made a big difference for me was managing my fish. I had a good practice, but I’ve had those before. I mark my waypoints with different colors. There were plenty of them in various colors so I knew I had a lot of places to fish. Of course, I thought some of them would be better than others.

I had a good area marked for the first day and caught some good weight. On the second day I went back to the same place but wasn’t able to put much more than 11 pounds in my livewell. That forced me to move to new water on the last day, water that was marked in yellow — caution.

Moving is not my thing. I’m like a dog that gets fed out of the same bowl in the kitchen every day. Whenever it comes in the house it’ll immediately go to that bowl for something good to eat, just to be sure. That’s me. I’m that dog.

Anyway, this is about as good as it gets for me. After 218 B.A.S.S. sanctioned tournament appearances I’ve got a win on my resume, an outside chance to return to the Elites and a second Classic appearance in my future. I don’t intend to waste any of them, not if I can help it.

Editor's note: Read about Hartley's 2008 Classic Article | Photos

I’m in Columbus right now tending to business, but as soon as I get done I’ll head to Lake Champlain to prefish for the last Open. I’m not saying I’ll get up high enough to make the Elites, but I can say that if I don’t it won’t be for lack of preparation or effort.

And, I can say the same thing about the Classic. Once the Opens are finished I’ll head to Houston to settle in and get to know Lake Conroe. I’m planning on spending at least two months down there to get ready. My big brother has a house right on the lake so that’ll make it nice.

The last thing I want to say is that I can hardly believe all the phone calls, emails and text messages I’ve received. They’ve come from other anglers, sponsors and fans. I honestly had tears in my eyes as they rolled in and I read them. It’s wonderful to have that much support. It’s the thing that makes this sport so great and why I want to be a part of it.

I’m the luckiest man alive.