Thirty minutes left

By Cal Culpepper

It was 2:15 on a windy Saturday afternoon during the 2016 Costa Bassmaster High School Southern Open. One of the best lakes in the country, Lake Guntersville, was fishing very tough for a lot of people, us included. With just one 5-pounder in the boat, my partner, Parker Marshall, my boat captain, Todd Culpepper, and myself, knew we had to make some adjustments.

For a lot of people, this is a time you would just say to yourself, "We have thirty minutes left, there's no way we could make anything happen in that short amount of time."

Well, I beg to differ.

When we launched our boat at 5 o’clock that morning and began to work our way towards the Guntersville City Harbor, where we would be taking off from, we had no idea what the day had in store for us. We were boat 203 out of 322 other high school teams from across the country, and I couldn't put into words the adrenaline rush I had pumping through my veins while we waited for our names to be called in the biggest tournament I've ever fished. Finally, Hank Weldon goes over the microphone:

"Boat 203, from Harris County High, Cal Culpepper and Parker Marshall."

It was game time.

The morning didn't start off as we would liked. We fished a row of docks and broke off a fish in the process. After about an hour of dock fishing, we proceeded up the river and began to fish a grass flat that surrounded a small island. Guntersville is a bass factory, no doubt about it, and a Saturday in April brings many fisherman to the lake. 

As I dropped the trolling motor and grabbed my chatterbait rod, I couldn't help but notice the many boats that were in the area. It overwhelmed me, but at the same time made me realize that it's something we have to deal with. I then launched a few casts into the wind with my chatterbait, waiting for that first bite. That first bite came shortly after. I feel a thump and suddenly slack goes into my line.

As I fight this fish, it feels nothing like the bass I know so well.

"No way is this a bass," I say to my dad and Parker, "I think it's a catfish or a drum."

When the head of a 5-pound largemouth bass surfaced, excitement filled my body. Parker netted the fish and in the boat she came. I was more than pumped about boating our first fish of the day. But, with the other 10-plus boats around, I stayed quiet as possible.

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