Click here to continue 1 / 13 This week, for Catch a Cure, I was excited to preview one of the most well-known events in the world of fishing, the Bassmaster Classic, being held this year at Grand Lake O’ the Cherokees, near Tulsa, Okla. I’ve always wondered how these professional anglers turn something as fun as fishing into a living. When there are cash prizes of up to $300,000 on the line, you’d better believe that the B.A.S.S. pros know exactly what they’re doing in a way most of us never will. My trip to fisheries across the country is raising funds for the Melanoma Research Foundation, and you can help, too, at http://events.melanoma.org/catchacure. Click through to see how my trip to Grand Lake went in anticipation of the 2016 GEICO Bassmaster Classic presented by GoPro. Photo: Rick Bach 2 / 13 Arriving in Tulsa and checking out the area near Grand Lake O’ the Cherokees was exciting. There was a buzz around the whole town the week before the event, as tackle shop owners, anglers and visitors got excited for the sport’s biggest event coming the following week. The towns surrounding the lakefront are beautiful communities whose residents are clearly dedicated to the sport that is bringing so much fanfare to their town this year. Whether it be largemouth mailboxes, or tackle shops selling Bassmaster Classic T-shirts, there was so many indications of the tangible enthusiasm the town had for this sport and the anglers who competed on the B.A.S.S. tour. Photo: Rick Bach 3 / 13 When it came to getting on the lake to fish, I was able to get one of the best. Clint Baranowski is one of the most experienced guides in Oklahoma and has been fishing this lake for decades. Baranowski’s Infinity guide service runs more than 200 trips per year, so as you can imagine, he’s pretty dialed into the Grand Lake bite at all times. And aside from being a great fisherman, Baranowski is a helpful guy who was more than willing to help me have some fun fighting for a future free of skin cancer. Photo: Rick Bach 4 / 13 On a spring afternoon that still had a little bite in the air, Baranowski and I bundled up to see if we couldn’t find some fish in this legendary lake before the pros got their official crack next week. As the boat tore across the lake’s calm surface, the 50-degree February air reminded you that, if spring was coming, it wasn’t quite here yet. Photo: Rick Bach 5 / 13 Though, if you could keep warm, Grand Lake in Oklahoma is truly a beautiful body of water. Whether it was geese flying overhead, this loon gliding across the lake’s surface, or simply some of the stunning shoreline homes that surround the water, there’s no doubt that Grand Lake is one of the more beautiful Southern bodies of water I’ve had the pleasure of fishing on. Photo: Rick Bach 6 / 13 Before we even to fishing, we got a good sign in the way of a fellow fisherman Baranowski knew. He showed off a few nice fish that he’d caught earlier in the afternoon, and it gave me hope that even if the cool air and water temperatures had the fish a little slow, they were still feeding. Photo: Rick Bach 7 / 13 The fish appeared to be healthy and chunky, and we got the word that they were feeding on crawfish-patterned crankbaits. Baranowski had thought of marking the underside of his crankbaits with some orange marker earlier in the day to simulate the coloration of a crawfish, but now we had crawfish-colored baits to borrow to mimic the real thing. We exchanged updates on the fishing, borrowed a few of the orange crankbaits that were working, and we were moving on. Photo: Rick Bach 8 / 13 Here, Baranowski adds some orange color to the bottom of a crankbait to give it that crawfish hue that the bass seemed to be craving. I’d never seen anyone make a color adjustment on a bait mid-morning, so this was impressive. He added an orange underbelly to our baits to see if it’d make a difference. Photo: Rick Bach 9 / 13 One interesting and inspiring thing on Grand Lake was the kindness I saw between guides and friends, trying to help one another find fish. A few times, Baranowski made or received a call from a fellow angler, and the advice sounded honest each time. Guys were finding a few fish, and working for them in each place. This wasn’t a competitive network of secretive anglers; it was honest, helpful guys each hoping they were all catching as best they could. Photo: Rick Bach 10 / 13 While fishing the side of a bank that descended into deeper water, we got our first strike. To have the rod bend for the first time on Catch a Cure was a combination of joy, excitement, relief and that sheer 11-year-old enthusiasm we all have inside of us that surfaces every time we hook a fish. Photo: Rick Bach 11 / 13 That’s pure, absolute, frozen-Oklahoma happiness right there for you. After driving 20 hours, sleeping in strange motels, contacting numerous guides, finally getting on the water and wetting a line, that’s fish No. 1 for Catch a Cure, and it meant the world to me. Photo: Rick Bach 12 / 13 Even though it would prove to be the only fish of the afternoon, sometimes that one fish can be the difference between a day of working the water toward an ultimate end… and a day of futile frustration. As we hauled the boat out of the water with the sun setting, I reminded myself the difference a single fish can make. As a child, I didn't dream of 100-fish days, or exotic locations with remote species; I dreamt of that one fish, whether it’s a first fish, my personal best, or just my next fish. On this day in Oklahoma, that single bass was the difference between frustration and ultimate success. Photo: Rick Bach 13 / 13 The sun was sinking over the plains, and I had “miles to go before I sleep,” to quote Robert Frost, but the journey had now begun in earnest with the first trip of Catch a Cure. I try to stop, every so often, and remind myself how blessed I am to be fighting melanoma in such a fun and unique way. I think about how fortunate I am that these pieces came together, whether it’s the generous sponsors who’ve gotten on board, these great people at B.A.S.S. who’ve helped share the project, or guides like Clint Baranowski (www.infinityguideservice.com) who have been so tremendously helpful. To learn more about Catch a Cure, visit events.melanoma.org/catchacure. Photo: Rick Bach To learn more about Rick Bach's Catch a Cure project, read One More: On a mission to fish (and cure cancer).