KY Lake Everstart Part 2, The Drama continues...
When the scales closed on day 2, I was sitting in 2nd place with 44-3 for two days. Curt McGuire was leading with 47 pounds and I was about three pounds ahead of third. As I sat through the top ten meeting, I was exhausted. I figured that I had slept about six hours total in the last two nights. When the meeting wrapped up, I gassed up the Triton and worked on my tackle. I stayed with my friend Mickey Beck at a house close to the ramp. Mickey was in fifth place and as we spooled up reels and sharpened hooks, we chatted about our plans for tomorrow. I did look at my motor due to my loss of speed on day 2. When I mentioned it to Mickey, he told me his Triton had done the same thing. We concluded that it must have been current, that there was no way that both of our motors would be acting up simultaneously.
About 7:30, I got a burger and was in bed very shortly thereafter. At 2:00AM, I woke up, looked at the clock and tried to go back to sleep. It wasn’t happening. It’s not that I was terribly nervous or terribly excited about the day. My mind just started working and I couldn’t turn it off. I prayed for wisdom to make the right decisions during the day, and Proverbs 3:5 popped into my head: “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him and He will make your paths straight.” I promise not to start preaching in this blog, but my faith means everything to me. I know a lot of tournament fishermen that praise God when they catch fish and curse when they don’t. I know that God takes care of me win or lose, big bag or zero. I used to ask Him for wins. I don’t anymore. That’s not what is important. I just want to be the man He wants me to be regardless of my situation. I want my successes and failures to bring Him the glory. So, when that verse came to me, I decided that I would try to live this day, win, lose or draw, trusting in Him.
The minutes ticked by slowly until my alarm went off about 3:45AM. I grabbed a bite to eat, drank my morning coffee, and headed to the ramp. The past two days, we took off from the Ken Lake ramp at the 68-80 bridge. Due to another tournament, today we were putting in at a ramp in Jonathan Creek. This added about 7 miles each way to my run. After our national anthem and a prayer, we headed out at 5:15. Since I was boat two, I knew I’d be at the front of the pack pretty easily, but I wasn’t. I got passed by three or four of the five competitors that were headed south. My boat was running terribly slow again. The motor never sputtered or missed, it was just not turning the RPMs like it had on day one. Oh well, an extra five minutes of run-time wasn’t going to kill me. Thirty minutes into my run, I could see the promised land: the old Danville Bridge. Once I got past Danville, I was in the home stretch, only 15 miles to go. As I neared the bridge, my already slow boat suddenly lost 1000 RPMs. I immediately knew what had happened. I had lost a cylinder. The motor was blown.
I was sick. I’m fishing for $40,000 and I’m broken down 45 miles from take off. It wouldn’t even idle. I was dead in the water. Under normal circumstances, if you have a break down in a tournament, you just chalk it up to bad luck, try to catch a few fish, and put it behind you. I couldn’t do that. If I could somehow keep myself together, catch a halfway decent limit, and stay in the top two or three spots, I was going to win $10-15K. But, if I just train-wrecked mentally right now, I’d go home in tenth place with $3000. I had to keep it together. My 2:00AM wake-up call popped back into my head, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him and He will make your paths straight.” I had to hold this ship together.
Immediately, I was on the phone. I called Kevin Woodside. Kevin is a good friend that lives in Waverly, TN. He and his partner Matt Nix were sitting in New Johnsonville in Kevin’s boat getting ready to blast off in a team tournament. As soon as I told Kevin what had happened, he told me to hang on, he was on the way. Kevin dropped Matt at the dock and raced north to come pick me up. Meanwhile, I called the tournament director, Ron Lappin, and told him of my plight. He told me if I could get another boat, they had to check it before I could go fishing. Meaning, I had to turn around, run back 45 miles north, get the boat checked and then run back south another 60 miles to my fish. My mind was racing at a blistering pace. My co-angler, Brian Carroll, was extremely helpful. We corralled a few rods, a couple boxes of tackle, and all the necessities from my boat into a big plastic sack and were ready when Kevin came flying around the bend in the river. He had that boat peeled back and wide open.
It only took a couple of minutes to swap everything over and we were off and running North as fast as that boat would run. By the time we got swapped it was about 6:25. Thankfully, the wind was non-existent this morning, which is a rarity on Kentucky Lake. I ran 76 mph and never let out of the throttle until we reached the Ken Lake Marina. After a quick boat check, we refueled, bought a gallon of oil and blasted out of there like rocket. Brian teased me that he felt like Clark Griswold in European Vacation, “Look kids, Big Ben, Parliament.” Only it was, “Look kids, Blood River, Paris Bridge!”
I drove that boat like mad for another forty-five minutes. Staring at the clock, doing the math in my head, and praying that I could hold it together under the pressure. We had to check in a 2:00PM. I figured I was going to have four and half hours to fish. If I could just get one school to fire, I could catch 20 pounds in 20 minutes. Those were the positive thoughts. The negative voices were screaming at me too. This was Saturday. There were a lot of other tournaments on the lake. My fish didn’t bite well yesterday. I had to hold it together. I had to catch them. When I rounded the final turn at 76 mph, I could see my spot where I wanted to start. There was a boat on it. When I set the boat down, my co-angler looked at me and said, “I don’t know how you can fish after torqueing the steering wheel like that for the last two hours. You really are driving it like you stole it!” I didn’t even know I was doing it. I was so focused on getting to fishing that everything else was somewhat of a blur.
I came off pad about 75 yards from the other boat. I decided I would just start fishing, keep my distance, and see what the other boat was doing. Immediately, he pulled up his trolling motor, idled over to me and told me that I could have the spot. That was unexpected. Even in Kevin’s boat, he knew who I was and kindly yielded that spot to me.
It was about 8:30 when we made our first casts. I fished through my number one spot without a single bite. At 9:00, disgusted, I pulled up the trolling motor and headed to my second stop. I couldn’t seem to get the fish going, so rather than crank, I decided to fish slowly with a worm and try to catch every fish I could. Within about five minute, I caught my first keeper. It was a 2.75 pounder, not something I wanted to weigh-in, but anything looked good after the morning I had been through. I fished for another 10 minutes or so without a bite, slowly dragging that worm over every pebble. I made a long cast and as soon as my bait hit the bottom, the line tightened and a fish started going the other way. I set the hook and immediately hollered for the net. It was a good one. The fish jumped, and I figured it to be a four pounder. My co-angler was ready with the net as she neared the boat and jumped again. It was much bigger than four. I eased her around the other side and she swam safely into the net. It was a six pounder.
The relief I felt was tremendous. I knew now that if I could catch three more average fish, I could at least salvage this day. I made a couple more casts and my line jumped about half-way back to the boat. I set the hook. It was another good one. After a short battle, the 4.5 pound bass was safely in Kevin’s starboard livewell. My emotions were off the charts. I simply couldn’t fathom that after the day I had experienced and the stress that I had been through, that God was still taking care of me. I had two fish that weighed ten pounds together. Three 3-pounders and I would have 19-20 pounds. I doubted anybody could pass me if I caught 19 pounds. I knew I needed 25+ to win, but at this point in the day 19 sounded really, really sweet. I was completely overcome. I literally had to wipe away the tears from under my Oakleys for the next few minutes. My friends had come to my rescue. God had shown me that He was still taking care of me. It was the first time since the motor blew four hours ago that I could breathe.
For a few minutes, I thought it might happen…two big ones within a couple minutes of each other, maybe there were three more living there. But I just couldn’t make it happen. I hit spot number three and both my co-angler and I finished our limits with two pounders. I ran back several times to where I caught the big ones, but I think I had taken all that spot was going to give. It was now 11:00AM. I had basically two hours to fish and three fish to cull. We went into full-on scramble mode. The only problem was that I had no waypoints and no side-imaging, just sonar, so finding a new school was no easy task. I jumped around from spot to spot and just couldn’t seem to find them. Around noon, I idled over a ledge around Paris and it was loaded. I could see the bass lined up like little soldiers on the bottom in about 19 feet. This was it! I just prayed that they were good ones. They weren’t giants, but I did cull the three little ones with fish that were all close to three pounds. I had thrown back so many three pounders in the last few weeks, but these little babies were like gold.
After catching about 15 bass, I decided I wasn’t going to make any more real upgrades. I made the choice to gamble on new water and just idle over as many places as I could in the final hour. None of them paid off, then it hit me like a ton of bricks. I used to catch big bags in Jonathan creek in June, but I hadn’t been to any of those places in five years. I had to run right by them to check in. It was 1:15 when I set off full speed for Jonathan. I made about five casts on the first spot, then yanked up the trolling motor. When I set the boat down on the next spot, I had 20 minutes to fish. They were there. Every cast! I caught about four 2. 5 pounders that didn’t make the team. I kept watching the clock: seven minutes to fish. My crankbait loaded with a good one. “That’s her, get the net!” The fish had a big slow head shake and started pulling drag. I had to run to the back of the boat to keep her out of the Mercury. Just as I got her near the boat, she pulled off. The emotional roll-coaster of this day continued. Just when I thought it was all over, I get a good one on, my attitude sky-rocketed, then just as quickly the coaster dumped me back down. I glanced at the clock again: five minutes to fish. The rod loaded again, another big one. I fought her all the way to the boat and once again, the line went slack and I felt my crankbait start wobbling again. I made two more casts and we had to go.
When I finally put the boat on the trailer and Brian pulled us into the parking lot. I just collapsed. I was 100% spent. I had absolutely nothing left in the tank. It was all left out there on the water. When all the bass were weighed, I maintained my second place spot, just barely. My limit weighed 18-10. Those last two lost fish would’ve been fantastic, but I still would not have won. As I drove to New Johnsonville to get my boat, and on to Mt. Juliet, it was hard to keep my emotions in check. Although so many things went wrong today, so many things went right. If I had blown my motor one mile further south, I wouldn’t have had a cell signal. If Kevin and Matt had not already been in the water, I would have lost another hour of fishing. Not only did Kevin and Matt save me, but they had talked about it before I ever had engine trouble and already decided that they would drop everything and bring me a boat if needed.
There’s no good way to wrap up this drama other than to thank God and my incredible friends. It was an adventure, I’ll never forget.
Until next time, keep chunkin and windin,
BoatUS ANGLER Pro-Staff
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