High and Lows - Everstart, Part 1
If you read any of my blogs for the past few months, you know that I’ve been lucky enough to have found a few fish and done well in a few tournaments. Having won three tournaments on Kentucky Lake in the past few weeks, the calls and texts started right after the Triton Owner’s Tournament. “You fishing the Everstart?” My reply was a confident and resounding “No!”
The Everstart is FLW Outdoors AAA Pro League. They are very well run tournaments that touring pros and “local pros” alike fish all over the country. My reason for not fishing the Everstart on Kentucky Lake was not a lack of desire, but a lack of time. I’d been fishing a tournament every Saturday for weeks and I run a full-time business. I felt stretched to the max just to fish on Fridays and Saturdays and work the rest of the week. I thought about the Everstart, but just decided that I couldn’t put in the practice time I needed to be as competitive as I wanted to be.
I fished a tournament out of Paris Landing on June 8th with my buddy Brent Anderson. We had 21 pounds and finished 3rd. The following Tuesday, I had agreed to fish in the Homebuilder’s Tournament out of Mason’s Dock on South Kentucky Lake. I had blocked out my work schedule a month ago to fish this event, but work was so busy, I almost backed out. Despite knowing what was good for me, I worked all day Monday, got up at 2:30AM Tuesday, met my friend John and headed to the Homebuilder’s tournament. Having been on the lake a lot in recent weeks I knew some places that were holding fish. We hit several places during the day and caught a good limit of fish for 23.3 pounds and second place.
At the weigh-in the questions kept creeping up, “You fishing the Everstart.”
“Nah. I need to work.”
On the way back to Mt. Juliet, John asked me, “What do you think it will take to win the Everstart?”
“My guess would be 63-65 pounds for three days,” I replied.
“Don’t you think you can catch that?”
For the first time, I really thought about it. “Yeah, I think I can.” The wheels were spinning. The texts and questions kept coming. The tournament started in two days. First place would shell out $40K and the top ten would take home at least $3000. My good friend and former FLW tour pro Adam Wagner called me on the way home. “You’re crazy if you don’t fish. You could win that thing.” More spinning. By the time I got home my stress level was through the roof. I needed to work, but I hated to miss this opportunity. I truly felt like I could do well, and if everything fell into place, I might just have a shot. I talked to my wife about it that night. We looked at my work schedule and crunched the numbers. It made sense. On Wednesday morning, I called the Tournament Director. He said that they needed five more Pros or to get all of the co-anglers in the tournament, I ponied up the $1000 entry fee and starting making plans.
I worked until 6:00PM on Wednesday to try to wrap things up at the office. When I got home, and I spent a couple of hours working on my tackle and organizing my boat. By 8:30PM, I was loaded and ready to go. I decided to just sleep in my bed and get up early and make the drive to meet my co-angler in the morning. I didn’t get to sleep until about 11:30 and was up with the alarm at 2:00AM. This is going to make me an old man fast!
On the two hour drive to Kentucky, I gathered my thoughts. My goal was to catch 22-23 pounds per day. I wasn’t sure I could do it, but I felt like that would put me where I needed to be. The trip and launch were uneventful. We blasted off at 6:00AM and when my number was called, I pointed the Triton south and let her run. I passed every boat in sight.
I sat the Triton down about 60 miles later, and made my first cast about 7:00AM. “Got him!” First cast? Really? It’s supposed to be bad luck to catch one on the first cast. It wasn’t. I had a limit within ten minutes with a couple of four pounders. After exhausting that school, I moved to stop two. Within 15 minutes, I had two five pounders. This was going well. On my third stop I lost two big fish. On my fourth stop, I caught two more five pounders. I reached in the livewell, culled a 4.5 and looked at my watch. It was 9:00AM.
I set on the front deck for a couple minutes doing the math. I figured I had at least 24 pounds, maybe 25. I couldn’t have scripted it much better. I hadn’t really worked my fish over. I was well above my goal for the day. No other boats were on my best places, and now I had the rest of the day to find some more fish. I spent a lot of the day idling until the wind just wouldn’t let me do it anymore. The wind went from 5 mph in the morning to 25+ in the afternoon, dead out of the north. The 25 mph north wind pushing against the 100,000 cfs current out of the south made for about 19 ft waves, or at least that’s what they seemed like. By noon, I couldn’t even look for fish on the main lake. There was no way to idle the ledges, the boat would just fill with water from spearing wave after wave at idle speed. I hit some more protected stuff, but finally decided that I had seen enough. I had a big limit in the box. Rather than risk not getting back, or a fish-care penalty, I headed in an hour early. When I pulled my phone out of hiding, the weather report said the wind was gusting to 32 mph.
All-in-all it had been a glorious day. Other than a couple of lost fish, everything went almost exactly according to plan. I caught them early. I had time to practice. I found a couple of other places that had some potential, and I really didn’t feel like I hurt my fish at all.
When I stepped up to the stage with my bag, 19 pounds was leading. When I walked off, 25-1 was leading. I was on top of the world. It had been a great day and I was confident I could catch them the next two days. I ended up getting bumped out of first by one ounce by Curt McGuire. The two of us were three pounds ahead of the closest competitor. Things were looking good. I headed to the hotel, rigged my tackle, ate a good meal and got in bed early trying to make up for the two hours of sleep I got the night before.
Day two dawned clear and with much less wind. That was going to make the long run a little easier. I met my co-angler at KenLake and we floated around until our number was called. The Triton was a little slow out of the hole on blast off and strangely slow on the run up the lake. Whereas on day 1 I had passed everybody, on day 2 I was getting passed. I don’t like being passed, but that was not my biggest concern. Was there something wrong with my boat? When we reached our first stop, I mentioned it to my co-angler. He said, “It’s probably the extra 80 pounds of tackle sitting here in the floor.” That kind of made sense, so I didn’t worry about it anymore. I eased the boat into position and made a few casts before I got to my waypoint. I looked at my co-angler and said, “This cast should get him.” I was honestly surprised that I hadn’t had a bite as my crankbait neared the boat. “I should’ve caught one on that cast!” I barely got the words out before a fish crushed my bait. “Net! Biggun!” I hollered. I worked the fish around the trolling motor trying to keep her from jumping. He netted the big girl. First fish- six pounds. I felt like I was taking right up where I left off. I caught a couple more keepers in the next few casts then I set the hook on a good one. She jumped- five pounder! My mind was racing. I knew I was on the way to another big bag. She jumped again and the line went slack. That was it. They just quit. Losing a fish in a school like that tends to kill the bite. But I just felt like there were so many fish in that school that they couldn’t just disappear. They did.
I jumped around to my other schools and caught fish, but I just couldn’t get another quality bite. Everywhere I went on day 2 my fish were smaller. Unlike the first day where I could do no wrong, today it seemed that I just couldn’t get it going. I felt like I was letting this tournament slip away. I fished until the bitter end on day 2. I culled plenty of three pounders, but never caught another one over four. I checked in at 3:00PM disappointed.
My limit weighed 19-2. That’s really not bad by most standards, but I was deflated. I knew I needed to catch 22+ to keep pace with Curt. Sure enough, he weighed in a 22 pound limit and took the lead by three pounds. I settled back into second place and knew I had an uphill climb to get back into this thing.
I’ll leave you hanging ‘til next time…
Keep chunking and winding!
BoatUS ANGLER Pro-Staff
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