EUREKA, Ill. — Three years ago, Jamie Maisenbacher qualified for the B.A.S.S. Nation Championship, but only a day before he was supposed to leave for it, with almost no prep time, a vacation he had to cancel, and a GPS mistake that cost him six hours he didn’t have, then he followed up the tournament by having a stroke.
If that’s not bad luck, we don’t know what is.
But he’d do it all over again, and he hopes that next time he qualifies for the championship, it will hold more good fortune for him.
During the August 2013 B.A.S.S. Nation Northern Divisional on Francis Case Lake in South Dakota, Maisenbacher finished second on his Illinois state team, which left him one spot shy of qualifying for the B.A.S.S. Nation Championship (BNC). However, as the runner-up on his state team, Maisenbacher became the first alternate if BNC qualifier David Junk had to miss the championship.
Fast forward to October when Maisenbacher got an unexpected call while fishing the 309 Bassmasters club classic at Lake Mattoon in Illinois.
“I was doing pretty good the first day and had a good second day, so I was feeling like I was going to get my first win in that classic,” recalled Maisenbacher, 41. “Our state president was calling me all day long, just blowing up my phone, and I was thinking that I didn’t have time to talk to him right then. I didn’t know what he wanted; obviously I was focused on winning.”
Maisenbacher finished second in the tournament. When he finally returned the state president’s phone call, he found out David Junk was injured and unable to make the BNC.
If Maisenbacher filled in for Junk, he would have to make the three-hour drive home that night, then load up his boat and head out early the next morning to Arkansas, where the BNC started with the first practice the following day.
Complicating the matter was that Maisenbacher had paid for an all-inclusive vacation trip to Cancun with his girlfriend that same week.
“I was so dumbfounded I didn’t know what to do, and my friends were laughing at me at the boat ramp after the tournament,” Maisenbacher said.
“I called my mom on the way home. She has always been a big supporter of my fishing. She basically laid it out that I had been working 10 years for this opportunity, so go fishing.”
Maisenbacher cancelled the Cancun trip and headed out the next morning for Lake Dardanelle for the BNC.
“She was a pretty unhappy girl,” Maisenbacher said, referring to his now former girlfriend.
The drive to Dardanelle also turned into a fiasco for Maisenbacher when the GPS of his iPhone and iPad both routed him to the wrong destination.
“I was overwhelmed by the whole thing by then,” he said. “I wasn’t thinking clearly. I remember thinking on my way there that something doesn’t seem right.”
When he finally stopped at a gas station and asked where he was, Maisenbacher discovered he was in Russellville, Alabama — a six-hour drive from where he was supposed to be, in Russellville, Arkansas.
Once he settled in at the BNC, Maisenbacher’s string of bad luck continued.
“When they dumped me into the river for practice, I didn’t know which way was upriver or downriver,” said Maisenbacher, who discovered on that day that Arkansas waters weren’t included on his GPS mapping card.
The Illinois angler said he enjoyed competing in the BNC even though he finished 46th out of the 50-man field.
“I didn’t feel like I got the opportunity to give the championship a fair run,” said Maisenbacher. “It just wasn’t a fair fight.”
Terrible luck followed Maisenbacher back home where, in December, he suffered a stroke at work and was hospitalized for 42 days. After months of physical and occupational therapy, Maisenbacher returned to work and started fishing again in March 2014.
He now claims to be fully recovered and is working toward another shot at fishing the BNC.