Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Fishing Report for Wilson 10/6/18

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As we have done every year, we drew out the lake for our club classic. Wouldn't you know it, Wilson was pulled. That would mean we've fished Wilson twice and Guntersville twice, I wasn't going to complain. The last time we had the classic on Wilson, Brad and I weighed in over 20 pounds and took a win. It was truly the most eye-opening experience I have had, in terms of executing a game plan. You can read about that 20 pound bag and watch the video by clicking the link below. 


Unlike previous years, a new rule had been passed where the lake was off-limits after the draw. That kinda sucked. But on Wilson, the game plan for fishing the back end of summer (even though it was October) was to fish the dam. Really, the only question was, would be spend any time anywhere else? Without being able to pre-fish, we were really limited to what we knew.

So, at blast-off, we headed to the dam. There wasn't any current early in the morning and the recent pattern was that TVA would cut some one around 10-11AM and then a good bit more around 12-1. So, we spend the morning fishing around the face of the dam, looking for schooling largemouth.

Largemouth on the face of the dam had been the only pattern we had found just a few months ago on our last tournament on Wilson and with water and air temps just as hot now as they were then, it was a reasonable assumption that nothing had changed. 

It seemed early on that our assumptions were right. I hooked up with a keeper largemouth on a pop-r really quick, but lost it. I was able to catch a good sized largemouth soon after. A few misses here and there and the bite went away. I went to work with a shakey head and a jig, just as I had a month ago, but unlike then, I wasn't able to get a sniff.

Around 9AM, we hadn't boated another fish, so we decided to run down to the mouth of Bluewater Creek to see if we could find some active fish. We began on the very far end of the rock piles and I caught a small smallie on the very first cast and I thought maybe we were on to something, but that turned out to be fool's gold. We didn't waste very long on this because when that spot had been on, it happened quick. 

Around 11AM, the current did kick on, but not nearly to the level we thought it would be, It went from 18,000 CFS to around the mid-20s. Again, no bites. Not only for us, but none of the other boats around us were catching fish either. 

At 1PM, the siren sounded and the current kicked way up. Then people started catching fish. 

We boated one keeper, then another, then another. Then we hit a cold streak from 2-3PM. Truth be told, I hadn't caught another measuring fish while Brad had caught all three of the fish on a crank while I alternated baits. Even though I did eventually catch a few shorts on a worm, I decided to pick up the crank and start hammering away with it. Eventually, I did catch our 5th fish, a nice smallie at that, and culled up a small keeper with another sizable chunk. 

We did catch several fish in short order including a lot of drum, but the size went down after the initial flurry.

We knew how tough it had been, but the boats around us had caught enough fish that I knew it would be tight. I didn't think anyone not fishing the dam would have a chance. When the water temps are in the 80s on Wilson, it seems the only consistent bite is at the dam, even though it may take you all day to get five bites.

We arrived back at the ramp a few minutes early and we decided to crank the rip-tap along the ramp. On one of my lasts casts, I set the hook on something big and I was really excited.....only to find out that it was a turtle. I didn't bother getting my crank. 

Turned out that my assumptions had been right. No one from down river had anything of note. We had 10 pounds, which was good for second, just behind a slightly better bag that had also been caught in the near vicinity. 

It wasn't the day we dreamed of, for sure. But we ended the year super strong! I believe Brad didn't get a check in only two tournaments in the club while I did slightly worse, but not by much. He even managed to win one without me!

In all, we caught less than 10 fish with the biggest being a touch over three. The big fish of the tournament didn't break four pounds. Water temps were in the 80s all day with good visibility. 


Tuesday, October 2, 2018

Fishing Report for Wheeler 9/28/18

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After taking a week off of our little wildcat to fish the last stop (or first, which was moved) of the Alabama Bass Trail on Pickwick, Josh and I were both....hungry......to get back on the water as soon as possible. The ABT on Pickwick was brutal, and not just for us, but painful enough that we needed to get back to catching fish. 

If you recall, we had won back to back weeks on the upper end of Wheeler lake. We had done it without really catching a good bag. It's been super tough due to high water temps. You can read about the two trips by clicking the links below.
With that said, the two wins came two completely different ways. The first tournament was easy to catch fish and it was a question of finding the better fish. We had about three spots around Ditto that we were catching good numbers. We weren't doing anything special, just junk fishing around. It was a question of which spots held the better fish.

But the very next week, we couldn't buy a bite at any spot within two or three miles of Ditto and eventually decided to run all the way to Guntersville dam. Once there, we had about two hours to find five fish, which we did. It wasn't pretty and essentially it only took a limit to win. 

With that knowledge, we still debated what to do considering the high water and high current we would be fishing. We had thought that surely the fishing down river around Ditto would be good and considering the amount of trash floating in the water, a trip back from the dam in the dark wasn't appealing. The water temp wasn't as low as we thought it would be. It was still in the 80s, but at least TVA was pushing 100K CFS through Guntersville. 

At 7PM, we hadn't had a single bite. Not one. We had covered a lot of water and thrown a lot of different baits but it didn't matter if it was a rock pile, a point, or the back of a pocket, the fish weren't biting. So began the discussion. Was the risk of hitting logs worth a piddly $20 bill? Catching fish and winning is fun, but we both knew the risk.

So, we decided that would go to the dam, but pay special attention to where the trash was and take extra time getting back in the dark.

By the time we got to the dam, it was almost completely dark and the current and waves due to the flood gates being opened was kinda scary. But, we went to work.

Based upon our experience, we knew there is about a 50 yard stretch that would hold a lot of fish, but never seemed to hold quality. But that this point, we figured just having five would get us a win and if we could get a few above average bites, it would likely seal the deal.

So, we went to work with a PowerTeam Lures 7" tickler and the bites began. The only issue we had was that this spot is extremely sticky and I was averaging about a fish per shaky head. Eventually I just sat two packs of heads and the bag of worms on the deck. In about an hour, we caught around 15 fish. Surprisingly, only two didn't measure and we began to cull. It wasn't big culls, but ounces would matter. 

During the flurry, I set the hook on a fish and when asked if I needed the net, I told Josh that it wasn't any bigger than any of the rest of the fish we were catching. About the time I boat flipped it, I realized it was actually a really good river fish. 

The funniest part of the day was when Josh boated a fish on the jig. When it hit the carpet, it threw the jig and went to flopping. Josh tried a kick-save it but it just sent the fish back in the drink. It was a solid two pounder and it hurt to lose, but we couldn't help but laugh.

We made a slow steady run back to the ramp to find that no one had caught anything. The big fish I caught ( a little over three pounds) weighed more than all the other fish combined. We took home a win with just under 10 pounds, which was shocking considering we went the majority of the evening without a single bite. 

A lot of people will read this and scoff about winning a little buddy tournament. I get it. This isn't about bragging. This is about staying sharp and focused on fishing, especially after getting your rear end handed to you all season by the best fishermen in the southeast. Sometimes you need a little confidence booster, and this was certainly that. 

Tuesday, September 25, 2018

Confessions of a Travel Softball Coach Part 5: The Valley

Make Sure to Read All of My Confessions of a Travel Softball Coach

Part 1: About Me, But Not Really

We moved to Hazel Green in the middle of February. We continued Aubree's hitting lessons, but one thing was now set in stone and accepted. Until she grew, she was never going to drive the ball out of the infield nor was she going to beat any throws out. This isn't anything new, if you've been reading. It was just tough to accept until that moment. Finally speaking it gave it life and acceptance. Don't work with the tools you want, work with the tools you have. 

This presented a problem. She was a good second baseman, but she was an absolute liability hitting. Perhaps if she could play other positions, teams might show some interest. There was still that arm. In the end, we had to address the underlying issue, something she couldn't help: her size.

Aubree had always been on the bottom of the growth chart. That wasn't shocking. We are short people. I was barely on there, myself. I was stocky so at least my weight would put me in the 25% range. Aubree wasn't on the height or weight chart, at all. We didn't realize that was such a big deal. But we knew we wanted her to grow and the doctors, for years, had said that they considered putting her on artificial hormones to get her to grow. So, we scheduled a meeting with the doctor, primarily to get them to get off the fence about it. 

He asked about her playing sports. At that point, she was still playing rec softball but also soccer with the local league. Between four to six days a week, she was playing. On weekends, she was traveling for soccer and playing several games a day. We were shocked when he told us that she had to quit playing two sports, for sure, but possibly even all sports for the time being. She was burning more calories than she was taking in and she WOULD NOT GROW if we couldn't fix this issue. Based upon the two sports she played, we knew that she was burning the calories in soccer. So, soccer had to go.

This was a hard thing to accept. I believe kids should play multiple sports. 

In the meantime, we had decided that we would move her to the other side of the plate and make her a slapper. Power would no longer be an issue since slappers aren't typically going to be hitting out of the infield, anyway. More importantly, it put her at least two steps closer to first base. Of course the issue was that travel ball teams were hosting tryouts and she would need months before she was game ready. Still, she had to start trying out. 

This began the most frustrating part of her young softball career, at least to date. We started out trying out for an elite travel team. I knew that she probably wasn't good enough, but I thought she could ball out and maybe get lucky. I spent the entire ride trying to hype her up, or rather telling her not to screw up. 

By the end of the warm-up drills, the writing was on the wall. She wasn't in the ball park with these girls. To me, she wasn't showing any urgency, either. Like she couldn't tell she was out of her league and that angered me. I felt she wasn't going to extra distance to make up for her limitations. 

And I told her that, after tryouts......for the next hour.

So, of course, when we get home, I've got her out in the back yard practicing like it was her fault she wasn't prepared. And as I am yelling at her as if that will make her walk back to tryouts to get her on the team, I've got her running over the yard like it matters to those coaches. Just to be clear, this is a really bad habit that I know I have and even though I try to fix it, it still comes out. At least I was out there working with her now, taking some responsibility. 

Ball at the park was taking sign ups and Coach J wanted me and Aubree to play. Even though I had kinda sworn off the rec ball and we weren't even living in that area, I agreed for a few reasons. First, Aubree needed the practice. Second, I had doubts if we would find a team in time, so this was cheap insurance to ensure she would play. 

Over the next few weeks, we tried out once, twice, or sometimes three times a week with different teams. On the off nights, we practiced with the rec ball team. Seeing those girls at tryouts and just how amazing they were put a lot of doubt in my mind about Aubree's future.

Eventually after we got the "we will pass" from the coaches, my frustrations began to bubble over and I know I let a lot of it spill over onto Aubree. Even when she had great tryouts, she just wasn't good enough. She began to give up, I could see it but I sure didn't help with my negative reinforcement. I was positive to the coaches and I would basically beg them to take her. I would say things like "someone is going to take a chance on her and get an amazing player." I don't know if I really believed it. 

We even made a team only to find out they decided not to have a 12U team.

I can't describe to you how difficult this was, as a parent. Even at her best, it wasn't good enough. We even had coaches refuse to let her try out when they saw her size. We were literally told "not to bother." And yet, when we would practice with the rec team, she was better than most of the team, if not all of them, from a technical perspective.

At this point, I had accepted that Aubree just wasn't cut out for this life. The only thing that kept me pushing forward is that I refused to believe that anyone's ball career was over at 10 or 11 years old. It was the valley, the low point for us. Still, I don't think Aubree had given up. Maybe she didn't know that was an option. Maybe she didn't understand the gulf between her and the other players.

It was at this point that I finally got it. Dropping her off at hitting lessons wasn't enough. Getting mad and making her work when her head wasn't in the game wasn't enough. We had to work, every day. I had accepted that she wasn't going to play travel ball, but we work over the season and make one next season.

In her short time at her new school, she made friends with a group of players who all played on the same travel team. Guess what. They needed another player and we needed a team.

We had to get out of this valley, some how. At this point, it didn't matter how. 

Monday, September 24, 2018

Alabama Bass Trail 2018: Year in Review


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This first year in the Alabama Bass Trail was humiliating at times, frustrating most of the time, and occasionally fun. It was certainly rewarding, and not in terms of  checks cashed, 'cause there was only one of those. 

Entering this year, the game plan was to cash three Top 40 checks. I had Pickwick, Wheeler, and Logan-Martin circled. Why those lakes, you ask? Pickwick in February can be tough, for sure. But I've spent a fair amount of the winter months on February and the lake sets up well for a versatile fisherman. Of course, that tournament was moved until this weekend. More on that later. 

Josh and I fish Wheeler typically once a week. I've also had a lot of success on Wheeler in 
April. We know that lake. We've been very, very successful fishing it. Of course, my engine blew up on the run to the dam for a pattern that the tournament was won doing, we ended up having to be DQ'd. Then there is Logan-Martin, which actually went exactly like I expected and we almost cracked a Top 20 finish, hitting 13 pounds and a 21st finish. 

ABT on Guntersville was a roll of the dice and we came up snake eyes. No big surprise. One day I will figure that lake out. 

ABT on Weiss wasn't great, but we did OK for our very first time on the lake. Heck, at least we had five!

Anyway, months passed and Josh, Brad, and I had teamed up for a pretty solid tournament year outside of the ABT. Heck, the last year has been fantastic, in terms of our growth as tournament fishermen. I've hit a lot of personal bests. 

But these bigger tournaments have been another beast for me and this Pickwick tournament was probably the biggest and best learning experience I've had. So let me tell you our plan, what we did, and what we learned.

The first thing we learned from the very first ABT/Guntersville tournament was that a single day of prefishing before the tournament isn't enough. You really need three consecutive days on the Tennessee River to be competitive, especially if Guntersville isn't your lake of choice. Now, for you older gentlemen, you can rely on decades of experience, something that we don't have. We have to have time on the water.

Second thing we learned was, you have to read the conditions. For example, we had two solid spots for the Guntersville event. TVA dropped the water level several feet over night and we didn't pay it any attention. As a result, we were shocked to find that our submerged grasslines were now completely out of the water. Our game plan was busted before we even blasted off as boat number seven and we didn't even know it. 

Third thing we learned was, you will never junk fish into a win. We've won a ton of little tournaments "just getting a limit." There is no winning a 225 boat tournament against very competitive anglers by "just getting a limit." So, with that said, have a game plan and live or die by it, cause you ain't gonna luck into 20-plus pounds "just winging it." 

On a related note, you can't have too many spots and you need to vary them. Again, in the former case, our two spots were essentially the same pattern and so both were equally effected by conditions. Had we varied our pattern, we might have had a few options. 

Lakes like Weiss, Neely-Henry, and Logan-Martin can give you a false sense of security because the difference between average and great isn't much. An average fisherman can catch 8-10 pounds without a problem and a good fisherman catches 10-12 pounds. But a great fisherman comes in with 12-16 (or more). That doesn't seem like much, especially for Tennessee river fishermen who are used to seeing the spread in weights go from 10-30 pounds. Because of this, we believed we were more competitive on the Coosa than we really were. Still, we were at our best on lakes not predicated on current.

Current-driven lakes were bad to us this year and led to some terrific lessons, such as those we learned on Pickwick.

Off the bat, you can't help your blast off and weigh in times, but it is something that you have to plan around, and not just in terms of your first spot. That's because of the other unknown: TVA. In the case of Pickwick, we found some schools of fish, but because of our weigh in time and when TVA turned the current on, we had lost that tournament before we left the harbor. Instead of kicking the current up at 9AM, they ramped up at 11 which meant our fish wouldn't have turned on for several more hours, potentially even AFTER our weigh in. 

So, that's a contingency you have to plan around. We saw a lot of that during the ABT/Pickwick. More than 30 boats were sharing three places and we wondered why that was, when there were tons of good ledges another five miles down river. The answer is, it's better to share 20 biting fish than to have 100 fish that refuse to bite. 

I had a great time fishing this trail and I am signed up to do it against next year. This isn't the first time we've faced a learning curve. Just a few years ago, Brad and I joined a larger club than we used to fish and got kicked in the teeth all year before slowly becoming one of the most competitive boats in the club the last few seasons. I expect us to do a much better job, though we can't much help how much time we will have on the water. Until then, we will get as much time on the water as possible.
By February of next year, there will be seven kids between the three of Josh, Brad, and I. My fishing time has dropped dramatically since we had three kids playing sports, two of them playing two sports at a time AND I am coaching a travel team, which you can read about in my Confessions of a Travel Ball Coach
 


Fishing Report for Alabama Bass Trail on Pickwick 9/22/18

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If you keep up with me on Facebook, you already know what's up. If you don't, well, click that link, follow me,  and then read on.

I hope you guys that read this, and there are a lot of you, understand why I write these reports and you know that I don't think of myself as very good at this sport. If you don't know this, let me enlighten you.

First, I love writing. Plain and simple. It's something that I actually like AND I think I am pretty good at doing. Why do I write? Well, because the sport of bass fishing is full of guides telling you how awesome the fishing is right now, how this or that bait and technique catches all the fish, and how everyone is catching giant fish. 

The truth is, and you guys know this, fishing isn't easy. Tournament fishing, especially on a bigger stage, SURE ain't easy. Reading from someone that puts those struggles out there in the public eye puts things in perspective, at least I think so. I'd love to hear what you guys think. 

Due to time constraints, I was limited to one day a few weeks ago and Friday before the tournament. Josh had gone out two other times, but had failed to find anything of note. I had high hopes that the ledge fish that Brad and I had found back in July, which you can read about by clicking the link below. We finished second in our club tournament. 


With the continued heat, I had hope that we would find ledge fish once again, but all evidence was to the contrary. Friday, we put in at Brush creek and ran down river. The thought was that we wanted to be away from other boats and we were willing to make the run to be alone and not fight over fish. 

We found some ditches and drains and marked fish on them, right where they needed to be. Five minutes later, we had caught two fish. We marked several other promising ledges, but couldn't really catch fish. That Friday, the current wasn't great, but it was around 25-30,000 CFS pretty much all day, and was kicked up around 50-60,000 later in the day, which turned on some schooling fish. The issue was, we didn't catch any measuring fish on Friday, but at least we were catching multiple fish in spots instead of junk fishing around for one here and there.

We were boat 60 and we ran all the way to this spot, which was past Waterloo. This did include two stops of grasslines which produced one measuring fish and several non-committal blow ups on top water. 

When the sun got over the trees, we made it to our ledge spot, but remarked that there were at least 25-30 boats centered around three different spots around Koger island. 

The current was awful, starting out between 15-20,000 all morning and while it did get a bump around midday, it was a modest bump. The water temp was 84 and made its way to 85 by the end of the day. 

We didn't catch any more measuring fish for the rest of the day and at noon had abandoned our game plan. The fish were still on the ledges but they weren't grouped up and they couldn't be made to bite. We fished hard as we could and hit everything we knew to try. Nothing seemed to work. 

We had the first weigh in slot, so we just put in on the trailer and left, but as we headed home, we noticed how pitiful the first flight weights were. Eventually, the weights for the later flights went way up and it ended up taking a good bag to win.

Here's the long and short of it: we out-thought ourselves. Running from everyone is great, provided that you eventually get current. That means waiting all day for that current. In this case, since we had the earliest weigh in time, it wouldn't have mattered if we had been there the second the current hit our ledge, we wouldn't have had enough time to fish. That's partly on us, but also a testament to how you can't control things such as TVA and your blast off/weigh in times. 

The reason so many boats were clustered on similar ledges wasn't because they were that much better. It's because the current would actually get to them with enough time for the fishermen to catch the fish. We know from friends of ours that recorded a top-10 finish that they caught their fish about the time we pulled our of McFarland. 

We also noted how we were fishing the "obvious" ledge stuff while a lot of people were fishing a lot less "obvious." The same friends showed us just how subtle the difference between 10-12 pounds and 16-18 pounds can be. 

In the end, you need to have a ton of spots and you need to start up river and make your way down river, based upon the current and the bite. 

Anyways, here is a link to the year review.

Monday, September 17, 2018

Confessions of a Travel Softball Coach Part 4: Kid Pitch

Make Sure to Read All of My Confessions of a Travel Softball Coach

Part 1: About Me, But Not Really



We moved up to kid pitch the next year, but Coach J didn't coach because his daughter had Seiver's Disease (sever inflammation of the growth plates in feet) and was on doctors orders not to play. In his place was Coach Bob, whom had played with us on Coach James' team.  And, wouldn't you know it, the rules for drafting were now completely different than the year before. I found myself with the exact team as I had the season before, more or less. Lo' and behold, that other team was back and they ALSO had the exact same team except suddenly they also had the best pitchers and we had no one that could get the ball across the plate. I requested we trade a player so that we had a chance to be competitive, but that didn't happen. I also noticed that one of the elite player that had been on our team was not on the roster. She had moved on to travel ball.

This year, instead of the "over throw rule", their new game was to have base runners go halfway between the bases and stand. For example, a runner would go halfway between third and home. If the pitcher threw it to 3rd, they would run home. If the pitcher threw it to the catcher, they would just stand there until the catcher came after them. When the catcher stopped and threw it to the pitcher, the runner would run home. This play would go on for minutes at a time. It confused the infielders something fierce and since they were young and couldn't really catch well, this meant that essentially every base runner scored.

This led to my first argument with a player's parents. One of the parents had seen the flaw in our game. We coaches knew it existed, but I refused to play the other team's game. It taught terrible base running and I didn't see the value for the fielders. It also meant we were run-ruled every inning because we would walk every batter, as it was. The parent no-so-politely blamed me for the inability to coach the kids to catch and throw the ball. In their mind, if the kids could catch and throw, we could get the base runners out. If they couldn't, it was my fault and they had no problem pointing out that fact.

There's truth to that, of course. Initially, my argument was that I wasn't going to play their game because it wasn't teaching anyone to do anything other than to win the wrong way. But it did call out something important and that was about the fundamentals of the game. I came to the conclusion that while our girls were struggling to throw and catch, it shouldn't be me that bears the responsibility for teaching them that at practice. There just isn't enough time in the day for a coach to teach that kind of minutia as well as the game itself.

Perhaps the way I told this parent that our problems were actually THEIR problem wasn't the best. Tact has never been my strong suit and because I prefer people tell me what I am doing and how to fix it doesn't mean others like hearing it that way. Regardless, when I said what I said, two things dawned on me:

These girls were playing 10U ball and couldn't throw or catch, my daughter included. Why was this? First, the premier talent was disappearing yearly from the league and somehow I had completely missed this. Secondly, those that remained, such as my daughter, were not getting the work they needed at home. These players needed more time, not less.

Eventually we took our two most fundamentally sound players and made them a third baseman and a catcher that could throw and catch and we were at least competitive. We could at least keep baserunners on third. As an aside, this was the revelation that catcher wasn't meant to be the big kid that couldn't run, despite my premonitions from my own past. I began to think that the best athlete on the team needed to be behind the plate and while this was true for just this league, it did change my outlook on the game and called into question my belief that softball was just baseball for girls. 

It was really around this time that I began to wonder if this game was for Aubree. She couldn't throw, couldn't catch, and even though she could put the ball in play, it wasn't going anywhere and she couldn't beat out throws. Add in that I was wondering if EVERY park was like this and if they weren't, maybe we were in the wrong place.

Changes had to be made and I didn't really know how. I did luck into several important things. First, I attended a coaches camp by local legend Dale Palmer, who has coached Sparkman High School to a handful of state championships. He has put untold players into college. I knew Dale from before all of this when he was coaching me on the football team. We also went to church together for the better part of a decade or more.

I came away with a few bullet points. Coach Palmer stressed tempo at practice. Have several coaches. Break kids into groups. Drill them over and over. This flew in the face of everything I had ever known. We practiced situational defense constantly as a kid. That is, put kids in positions and hit one ball at a time. This was the opposite. Keep them moving and hit them as many balls and make them throw as many as possible. 

Next, he directed me to his hitting facility and his hitting coach. It was really more than I could spend and I didn't think I really needed a coach, but I quickly learned that they had facilities that I did not and Aubree could therefore hit more balls in a shorter amount of time. He knew more drills and while I could pick that up fast enough, Aubree listened to him better than me, which I know now that players are all like that. They will listen to a complete stranger more than a parent. I hated paying for lessons and we didn't have a lot of money, still don't, but we needed to do for her what we could.

That included buying a $75 bat, which I thought was just the dumbest thing, ever. With that said, I am a very frugal person, by nature, and it seemed asinine to spend the money on lessons and on a bat. The thought of spending $500 or more per season for travel ball seemed excessive. Perhaps the most eye-opening part of this is experience was the hitting coach almost immediately moved Aubree to the right side of the plate to hit left handed. He believed she saw the ball better from that side and it was pretty evident she did, although she had issues with mechanics, obviously. I was worried that working left handed would just set her back even more than she already was. I rolled with it.

Lastly, he sent us to his summer camp, which was only a few days, but was excellent for Aubree to see girls of different ages and talent levels. It made her work in a different environment that was outside of her comfort zone.

That time spent wasn't just about getting her better but building contacts and learning philosophies. I was shocked at how wide-spread travel ball was, but I came away knowing that that was the future, but Aubree probably wasn't ready yet. I did have her start playing up to 12U whenever we could. She was already the smallest player in 10U and now she was the tinniest player by feet, not inches. But, she rose the the occasion, something that I knew would pay dividends later, if I could harness it.

At the season's end, coach Bob signed us up for a "rec ball only" tournament nearby. Bob had older daughters that had played travel ball and I guess he knew what needed to be done. Our eyes were truly opened that day. Not only were we way off the pace fundamentally, but the style of play we were having to bend to at the park had pushed us down the wrong path. Of course, it didn't help that none of these teams were real rec ball teams. They were all All-Star teams.

We knew, right then, our days of rec ball were over, at least at this park. That was driven home by the fact that we moved to the other end of the county and we couldn't play at that park, anyway. It didn't matter. Travel ball was the future, but with whom would she play with? It was a brave new world that I had no idea how to tackle. But we had to start somewhere.

Lesson's Learned


  • Softball is an evolutionary game. If you limit your exposure, you limit the data and adapt to it, which may push you down the wrong path. 
  • Fundamentals should be learned at home. 
  • Parents are going to disagree with coaching and umpires, it's a fact of life. Prepare yourself to deal with both. 
  • People who push boundaries will always push boundaries.
  • Players listen to coaches that are not their parents. 
  • Practice, especially at an early age, doesn't have to be long but it should be high-tempo. Get them reps, as many as you can. 
  • Attend camps, not just for players but for coaches, even if you aren't a coach.
  • When your player quits adapting and growing, its time to move on. 
  • Push your player to play beyond their level. For some, this is just within the game itself, to make plays they don't think they can make. For others, that's playing up. 






Fishing Report for Wheeler 9/15/18

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Last week wasn't so bad. I got off the slide and we won a wildcat. In case you didn't know, I haven't been fishing a lot since I've been coaching our 14U travel softball team. You can read about those adventures by clicking the link to the first article and linking to the rest through there. 


It was nice to get back to some winning ways, even if it wasn't a big bag. You can read about that bag here:


Anyway, we felt like we had the upper end of Wheeler pegged. Of our 15 or so junk fishing spots, there were three that seemed hot. So, we started out on those three. 

Ice. Cold. Like, we didn't get a single bite on the first two. 

The third spot is a ledge-like spot that has running current on top of some submerged rock in about 18 feet of water. TVA was pulling over 60CFS due to the hurricane so we thought we should get bit. The week before, we caught our three biggest fish, which included a largemouth, a spot, and a smallie that ended up being the big fish. We did get bit, but none would really chomp on the bait. They would thump jigs and shaky heads, but wouldn't commit. Eventually we decided that we needed to run to the dam, since the current should have the fish turned on real good. 

So, we made the trip up to the dam at around 7. With the sun going down, we struck out on our first spot, then we managed two keepers on crank baits on our second spot. The third was a complete bust. 

It was around 8PM and we had two fish. As tough as it was, we kinda knew all we needed to do was get a limit. So, we went to the place we knew we should fish, a spot we call "the nursery." 
This is a current break near the damn that a back flow creates an area that bait piles up, and so do the bass. The issue is, we've never caught any big fish there and it doesn't turn on until dark-30. Even then, there is a tiny stretch that holds bass. 

Luckily, it was dark and we hammered on this spot for the last 30 minutes. We quickly began to catch fish and while we got up to four real quick, the size went down and we began to catch a lot of shorts. I did lose one at the boat that would measure and broke one off on the next cast. At that point, I thought that was probably going to be the end of our chances to win. The fish were in 14-18 feet and were all on chunk rock. Additionally, they didn't want to eat the bait. Some would thump the bait for 30 seconds or more, but when you leaned on them, they weren't there. 

Luckily, I was able to set the hook and boat swing a super chunky spot in the last five minutes or so before we started our way back down river. 

We ended up winning with a little over seven pounds. The spot went 2.5 and was the big fish of the tournament. Once again, that end of the lake isn't fishing very good, probably because the water temps are still in the mid-80s. Seems like it doesn't matter how much flow there is on the river, the water temp dominates the fish. 

We caught around 10 fish, total. Nearly all of them on shaky heads. The other boats had one limit among them, many of them not even hanging around for weigh-in. 

It's time to get on Pickwick for the last ABT tournament!