MAKING   THE   TRANSITION



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Making the Transition  by Ken Dixon

 

Weekend   Fisherman

To   a

Tournament Fisherman

 

Prior to March of 2001, I was content with going to a local pond from time to time to try to catch a few fish.  I didnít really care what I caught.  I just wanted to relax and have a little fun, and if I was lucky enough to catch a couple of nice crappie for supper, that was even better.  Iíve fished from boats, shore lines, and docks, and just about any other means you can imagine.  I even owned a bass boat back in the early 80ís. and prior to that, fished from a tube for a while.  When I had my boat, I spent many hours fishing under lights, after dark for sand bass and crappie, and we would catch them by the boatloads. 

 One evening, I was minding my own business, watching TV with the wife, and the phone rang.  It was my long time, but long lost friend from high school.    We were inseparable for a lot of years, but we gradually started going our own ways.  He called a couple of years ago and we went fishing a time or two, and then for different reasons, we had a hard time getting back together again.  That is, until the phone rang that evening.

 ďHeyĒ, he said.  ďIíve got a proposition for youĒ.  Weíve always got along well together, and we make good fishing partners, and our competitiveness always reached itís peak when we were fishing.  ďHow would you like to join a small bass club and be my partner and fish bass tournaments?Ē he said.  I should have never picked up the phone that night!  At least that is what my wife thinks.  As for me, that was the start of an adventure.  My idea of fishing was about to change forever!

 At the time, I had only two reels I felt were fit for serious bass fishing, and they were Garcia 5000Cís bought back in the early 70ís, and the rods were around the same vintage.  I had some spinning stuff, and an ultra-light outfit I really liked to use when messing with the perch and crappie, but definitely not designed for large bass.

 Well, it just so happened the next tournament was scheduled for a Saturday 1 Ĺ weeks away, and that was the weekend my family and I were headed for Branson, Missouri for a mini vacation.  I missed that first tournament, but that gave me a reason to go up to Springfield while we were that close and go through the Bass Pro Shop.  That was just the beginning.  Since that time I have spent a small fortune on reels, rods, spinnerbaits, soft plastics, crankbaits, etc.   Now, I usually take 8 Ė 10 rods, none of which are the two I started with, and, I can hardly lift my tackle bag into the boat.  Is all of that necessary?   Probably not, but you never know what the preferred diet will be on any given day/lake, so itís nice to have just a large variety to choose from, and I prefer to have as many different choices tied on ready to go on the different rods.  Time is critical, and you donít want to waste time re-tying all day long.

That first tournament I went to was scheduled for Lake Hugo.  I had never fished it, nor had I heard much about it.  Of course the same thing was true of most of the lakes we were about to fish.  Since I had sold my boat back around 1983, I mostly fished farm ponds.  Never the less, I was ready.  At the time, I was still only sporting the two old Garcia 5000ís, I loaded up my new, but only half full tackle bag stocked with new artificials, hard plastics, soft plastics, spinnerbaits, and more.  I was ready for anything,,,,,,   I thought! 

 We pre-fished on Friday, and aside from a little bit of a wind problem, we did pretty well.  We found some fish, but had to go up the river to do so.  Later, when we got to our hotel, we prepared our gear for the next day, and hit the sack, only to be awakened an hour earlier than our alarm was set, (which was already way too early in my opinion).  Yep, you got it!  One major thunderstorm was rumbling through southeastern Oklahoma.  I was so wet before the day was out, there was not a stitch of dry clothes on me.  The bad part about it;  I had a rain suit on, and my soaking did not come from the rain.  When we left to go back up the river, the wind was up even more, and as we snaked our way through the standing timber, wave after wave of water came across the bow of the boat.  Boy am I having fun now!  Soaked to the bone!  So cold, I could hardly move! And to top it all off, no fish to weigh!  Yep, Iím definitely having fun now!  Or at least, I tried to convince myself I was!

And to think, all of this started when I was warm, dry and cozy, sitting next to my wife watching TV.  What was I thinking!  Actually, believe it or not, even with all of the mishaps on that first trip, I WAS having fun, and it hasnít stopped yet.

 Every tournament we have had new opportunities to overcome.   There is one phrase I have burned into my memory, and I robbed it from the Boy Scouts of America;  Be Prepared!  If the weatherman says it will be 85 degrees and no chance of rain, youíre and idiot if you do not bring long johns and rain gear.  Our wives make fun of all the gear we bring each time we leave, ďAll that just for two days? Ha, ha, ha!Ē, they would shoutÖ

 Oh, I almost forgot to mention our mode of transportation.  Neither of us are anywhere near rich.  The bass boat I had in the early 80ís is long gone, and my partnerís boat, even though there is nothing wrong with it, gets plenty of laughs.  It is a 17.5 foot aluminum bass boat with a 75 hp engine, but we were the slowest boat in the club and everyone would pass us before we were out of sight from the ramp.  We were extremely lucky that first year on our draws for take off positions.  We rarely were lower than the top five places, but because of our speed and even though my partner had been in the club a while, as a team, we were the rookies, and as such, we found ourselves the center of a lot of practical jokes.  I remember one tournament where some guys went to a restaurant to have seafood.  The next morning we were waiting our turn to launch, and the tournament directors were checking live wells, as usual,, (just to keep everyone honest).  As a joke, they told us we were disqualified from the tournament Ė we already had fish in the live well.  Needles to say, we didnít know what was going on, but we werenít going to just stand there and take it either!  Then they disclosed the evidence;  leftover crab legs from the seafood restaurant.  Everyone laughed!  Everyone but us, that isÖ.But we did get to fish that day.  On our next trip, we had learned our lesson with the crab legs, and we had started checking our live well every morning before we left for the ramp.  My partner went to check the well one morning only to find about a 25 pound spoon bill laying in the floor of the boat.  We suspect they tried to get it in the live well, but it was just too big to get it in the small well on the boat. 

 Tournament fishing is not for everyone.  Itís hard work!  I know.  Youíre sitting there saying to yourself, ďfishing is hard work?  How stupid does he think I am?Ē  Well it may not be the most physically demanding sport in the word, but it does have itís demands.  I donít know how many times I had to set the alarm for 2 AM just to get dressed, get loaded  and get to the lake in time to pre-fish to check out the early bite.  Or by the end of the day, when my arm is so weary from casting, Iím wondered just how many casts I had made that day; 2,000, 3,000, maybe more? Or how many times I was chilled to the bone, and I couldnít feel my fingers any longer.  Or maybe every stitch of clothing I had on was soaked from the rain.  Or the times I was burnt to a crisp by the sun after fishing two days in 100 degree plus weather.  Or maybe the times I was so sleepy I couldnít keep my eyes open to drive home, so Iím trading off with my teammate every 30 minutes for 200 miles.

 No, tournament fishing is not for everyone, but if it is right for you.  You will know it immediately.  It wonít matter if the live well has a 5 fish limit and theyíre all over the slot, it wonít matter if youíve got a 8 lb. black just waiting to bring out at the last minute to grab big bass, it doesnít matter if you only have one little barely a keeper bass to weigh.  You will be having fun.  You may be like me and rekindle a friendship that had been dormant for several years, or maybe strengthen an existing one, or perhaps start a brand new friendship.  Plus the new friends you make from all the other teams in the club.  The camaraderie and fellowship, and the competition, all make up what can be one of the most satisfying things a guy can do in his life. 

 I no sooner get back from one tournament before I start preparing for the next.  I may be so tired I canít keep my eyes open, but Iím already thinking about what baits to tie on, or where would be the best place to start, or I need to get a map to start studying the layout of the lake, etc.   Every tournament presents new memories, that will last a lifetime, and as Iíve grown older, Iíve discovered those memories are treasures.  Time lost is time gone, and when you start to roll down the other side of that hill, you want those memories to ring loudly in your mind.  There are very few things in life more enjoyable than taking off for your honey hole, fishing as hard as you can all day, weighing you fish, and hearing your name called when they announce the teams that placed.  That is what it is all about.  Not beating the other teams!  Beating the lake!  The satisfaction of knowing you had a successful day, and you beat the lake. You donít compete against the other fishermen, and they donít compete against you. We all just try to get lady lake to give up more for us than she does for the other teams out there. 

 If you think youíve got what it takes to become a tournament fisherman, get out there and find an organization you think you will fit in with, and get ready for some of the most fulfilling times of your life.  God Bless, Good luck, and good fishing!

 

 
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