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As American's, we are used to winning big. We want our football to score 70 points on our rival team. . We want the fastest car. We want to win the lottery. But, I am learning that we, as a society, don't want to grit it out when things get tough. Sometimes it's easier to make an excuse and accept mediocrity than it is to buckle down.
How does this translate to fishing? Well, everyone wants to catch 100 fish and have a best 5 that weighs in 30 pounds. But, that isn't how it works, is it? In the last year, I feel like I have grown exponentially as a fisherman, particularly as a tournament fisherman. What I have found is, when the fish are biting, it's easy to catch a ton of them. But more often than not, that's not how it works on tournament days. What separates the pack, besides a little luck, are those guys who are willing to grit out their game plan to the end. They are only looking for 5 bites. Take my trip with some of the local guides during the Alabama Mountain Lakes Media Day on Pickwick. We had maybe 6-10 bites all day. The result? 32 pounds of small mouth. Why? Because these guys knew what worked for the magnum fish and they had the faith in themselves and the work ethic to grind it out when most people would start panicking.
Take the Classic on Guntersville lake a few weeks ago. As you know, my last few trips on the Big G have been tough. Like this trip a month back. While I have consistently caught fish, I have struggled to catch measuring fish. And the last time I was there, I actually loaded the boat up and went to Wheeler because I was tired of working so hard for so little a return.
As the Classic loomed, I found myself dreading what the Draw would pick as the lake of the Classic. We had 4 lakes to pick out of a hat. Guess what was picked. Even though I knew where some fish were and what they were biting, I just didn't know about spending all the effort to grind that hard. But, the dollar signs made me go even when everything told me not to.
The day started off rough. There was a ton of fog and I couldn't leave Roseberry until it burned off. The only thing I managed to catch was my hand. I had thrown a Sammy into a tree and when I grabbed the branch with one hand and the bait with the other, the branch slipped and the hook went right throw my hand. Adding insult to injury, I caught it on video!
When the fog burned off, I ran down river to where I knew some fish were. Amazingly, despite the ridiculous traffic on the lake that morning, there wasn't a boat near me. I had caught them the last 4 or 5 trips, but nothing big. However, I knew the lake had been rough on most everyone and I figured I needed a small limit to win. Worst case, maybe I could cash a check with 5 small fish. I was using my new technique called Skitter Shading with the PowerTeam Lures Swinging Hammer swimbait. It didn't take long to get a hit. The fish short struck, though, and pulled the tail off. Despite being de-tailed, I tossed it back in and received another hit. And another. 4 times in a row and no fish.
So it went all morning. Hits and misses. I did manage to boat several fish, but not a one measured.
I had told my wife that if I didn't have a limit by 10, I would come home. At 10, I didn't have a fish. It had gotten hot and I was frustrated. I had quit getting ANY hits. Everywhere I went there were boats. They would plug the water for 5 minutes then haul water.
I sat down to gather my wits for about an hour while munching on some crackers. I got a laugh out of a marine plane that skimmed UNDER the BB Comer bridge...scaring me to DEATH because I thought I was about to have to save some poor souls.
I tried some other things with no luck, though I did notice that I would get bites wherever the mat was popping the loudest and none if there wasn't any popping.
At 12:30, I decided that I had enough. It wasn't worth getting aggravated over, or wasting gas, or showing my face at weigh in without a fish. I started easing my way back towards the ramp with my tail firmly between my legs, even though I had another hour and a half.
As I neared the ramp, I spotted a pocket that didn't look like it had been frogged to death. In fact, it didn't have a track mark in it. I decided at 1pm that I would pull up and listen. If it was not popping, I was going home. If it was popping good, I would give it a try. As I cut the motor, I noticed that it was popping louder than any mat I had been to that day. More importantly, there were no line marks or drag marks in the mat at all. I had thought that was an impossibility on that lake. Every square inch of Guntersville is fished every day.
I tossed out the Swinging Hammer and recorded a quick strike, but lost another tail. I tied on one, cast to another spot, same result. That's when I figured it out. I had been through 3 packs of that bait in a morning. So, I pulled the tail off the fresh one and tossed it to a new area. BOOM! I caught a fish. But, it was about an 1/8th inch too short. But at least I had caught a fish.
Made another cast, another solid hook up. This one DID measure! I tossed him in the box. I made another quick cast, but a nasty birds nest made me put the rod down. It was 1:15.
I picked up my frog rod, topped with a Spro Bronze Eye and made a long cast. One thing I had noticed so far was that the fish wanted the bait burned over the grass. So, I burned the frog.
The sound and wave the fish made might as well have been from an atomic weapon. The fish absolutely EXPLODED on the frog. The hook set was solid and I reeled in a NICE fish. Probably the nicest fish I have caught in the last 5 trips on the G.
It gave me hope. Even if I didn't have but 2 fish, this fish gave me the HOPE that maybe I could take home big fish.
I continued to catch fish for the next few minutes before it was time to head towards the ramp.
As the boats gathered, I noticed that no one was making a move to the scales. Only 1 boat did, weighing in a small limit of fish. I looked around, asking others if they had any measuring fish. No, was the response. Surely it wasn't THAT tough on EVERYONE....right? Well, it had been.
I weighed in my two keeper fish and took home 2nd and Big Fish.
I don't try to take credit for any accomplishment as a fisherman for that. It was a tough day and anyone could get lucky enough to throw on top of that fishes head. The difference was, I had all but given up. But I wasn't and never will be a quitter. I learned that day that sticking it out MIGHT send you home with nothing, but so will loading up early. You might as well give it your all. It's like my wife always says:
"Can't never could." and "Whether you think you can or think you can't, you're right."