As my season on the 2018 Bass Pro Shops Eastern Opens circuit came to a close, I realized a number of things. First, the value: Think about this from a co-angler perspective. For $450, you get two 8-hour days on a premier bass fishing lake. And you're fishing with, at the very least, an experienced bass fishing tournament angler, and just maybe, a top Elite pro like Brandon Lester or Ott DeFoe. Or it could a true legend of the spot like Roland Martin. Or Bobby Lane or Terry Scroggins or…the list goes on and on. Now, are they out there to make sure you have a good time and catch fish like a guide? No. But do they go out of their way to be great. Maybe they offer a little advice and even a bait once in a while. Well, the eight guys I fished with this year certainly did.
And, what an education, watching the pros put together a tournament strategy. And the boats…oh my. Every rig I fished out of was state of the art with more electronics than I would put on my boat, and in most cases, beautifully organized. I have been a tournament fisherman since the early 1980s; from the front of the boat, the back of the boat, in individual and team events. And I still picked up many tips I’ll use back home.
And as a side benefit, you just might pick up a little cash as well. Now, I didn’t make a check this season, which is quite humbling. After all, how hard can it be to make the top 40 out of 200? Well, for me, it was hard. But in two events, I was a 2-pound bite away from cashing. In those events, I had the money fish on the line and didn’t land them. That’s on me.
My two best days were my first and last of the season. I was 28th on Day 1 at Kissimmee and 18th on Day 2 at Douglas. It was like birdieing the first and last hole of a round of golf, leaving you with a burning desire to return to the course. Unfortunately, I paired those two days with a couple of skunks preventing me from that “Cashing with Chris Bowes” moment.
Speaking of Chris Bowes, what a great job he and his crew do staging these events. And what a thrill to stand in the tank line with Wesley Strader or a guy like Gary Clouse, the man behind Phoenix boats and a damn fine fisherman himself, and talk about the day as we wait to weigh in on the Bassmaster stage.
But the biggest takeaway for me was the cadre of young guns out there who really get it. They know how to catch ‘em! Along the way this year I fished with Daniel Martin, Kurt Mitchell, Cody Pike, Sam George and Nick Hatfield. All young enough to be my sons, and all skilled enough to be major Bassmaster stars. Good looking, well spoken and extremely skilled, these guys all have bright futures ahead. They will be a sponsor’s dream, and even at a tender age, all have been well trained in the entertainment aspect of our sport. I am so excited to see what these guys will do in their careers.
Finally, I really enjoyed fishing with guys I would consider my peers, in terms of years on the water. Terry Seagraves, Rob Digh and Walt Bowen, all very good fisherman, whom I could reminisce with about the days of Flashers and Pistol Grip rods, and 150 max horsepower tournament rigs. What a blast this season was, and I can’t wait for the Harris Chain in January. And next year, I am cashing!