Thursday, October 30, 2014

Preparing on a Budget: How the Middle Class Can Become Prepared

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Whenever the topic of prepping comes up among friends, acquaintances, or even people I  just met, I almost always cringe. Usually, they have read some of my posts, whether they subscribe to the blog or see it on social media. And, because of that, they have an opinion of me and they want to see if it is true. When they bring it up, they almost seem to readying themselves for hearing what I have to say just as much as I am readying myself to deliver the answer. That is to say, am I as crazy as they think I am? 

We all know that "prepping" is an overused buzz word that TV has exploited for shows. And, these shows have frequently done a disservice to people like myself. It has taken this buzz word and relabeled all of us under one umbrella term.  But, even like the characters on those shows, preparing yourself is a very unique process and everyone goes about it a different way. We all live in different geographical locations, in different social structures, and we all have an IDEA of what it is that we fear will cause the need to prepare. 

If you did the math on the different locales, social structures, skill sets, family sizes, resources, and different End of the World as We Know It scenarios, you would find millions of possible combinations. And though these variables create a statistics base that says that there is no way to provide a roadmap to help others in different walks of life to prepare, there is one statistic that most all of us fall under. 

Looking at the statistics, almost all of us reading this post fall under one critical and similar statistic: We all have a budget. And not only do we have a budget, must of us are under a pretty similar one. If you eliminate the top and bottom 10% of people who have an income, you would find the rest of the 80% within an order of magnitude for gross income and disposable budget. 

Like most of the people in this country, I have decent income. I have a mortgage, car payment, student loans, 3 kids, and lots of hobbies. And, like you (since you are reading this), I have a desire to take care of my family during dangerous and dark times, whatever that may be. Because of my desire to be prepared, I made "prepping" one of my hobbies. But, like all hobbies, one must exercise prudence and be a good steward with ones income. That is to say, not putting yourself in a financial bind by buying prepping supplies without regard to your budget.

When people ask me if I am a "prepper", the very next question is usually about what I have and how much I have stored. When I say "a fair amount", people figure they have labeled me as what they expected, and commonly launch into their next round of questions.  Do you have hundreds of acres in the woods and how did I set up my underground shelter?  Does it have a water recycler and some sort of high end filtration setup? How many years of food do I have? Do I have 5,000 rounds of .223 in crates? How did I afford to spend thousands at a time to feel comfortable. No, I tell them. I have a budget, unlike the people they show on those aforementioned shows. And while I don't have a full underground shelter buried in my backyard with years of free dried food, I do have a significant storage and I do have a plan to grow that storage. And, this is a plan that anyone can follow. That usually takes people aback, and to be honest, they are usually genuinely interested in what I have to say NOW than they were when they first approached me. 

No, I don't have years worth of food stored up. I don't have THOUSANDS of rounds of ammunition. I don't have a full self-sustaining water treatment facility. Shamelessly, I admit that I am nowhere close to having the supplies I would like. But I am slowly working towards being self-sufficient, at least for a set period of time. And I am doing it on a budget. How am I doing it? I have identified what is truly necessary to survive and just how much I need of that particular supply. Then I put in place a schedule of how to obtain it.  I admit that the easiest and cheapest way for you to fill your storage with all the essentials is to buy in bulk. There is zero question about it. Buy once, buy cheap, and be done. And though I do believe that there is a very real chance that we will have a socio-economic breakdown in my lifetime, I don't believe there is adequate risk vs reward to go to one of the websites and order an entire year's worth of goods. And, to be honest, I couldn't afford it anyway.  But I have a structured plan that I am following that will get me to where I want to be in a pretty short amount of time by prepping on a budget. And, I like to point out that I don't have to have enough food to last the rest of my life. Just enough to last through my neighbors lives. Let's be honest, if it is an environmentally destroying EOTWAWKI type event, count me out. I'd rather get it over with quick. The other fear is a full out social breakdown, which can encompass everything from zombies, to the Red Army, to simple power grid failure during the winter. But, since I live in a pretty temperate climate with game readily available and soil that will produce, I just have to outlast everyone else by staying inside. Then I can get back to doing what I know how to do: hunting, gathering, building, and growing. But I have to make it through that roughest stretch, which most experts would agree is the first 30-90 days. 

Before we venture too deeply, let's consider what we are really after. As we noted above, the reality of my situation is that I really only need about a month to 3 month's supply of the necessities. That is, the ability to lock my home down and to wait it out for a month or so, 3 months at the most. I need food, water, and heat most of all, and in the quantities we are talking about. Do I need the aforementioned air filtration system? Well, if it comes down to it, my chances weren't so good anyway. Do I need 50,000 rounds of ammo? Certainly not. I need to eat, drink, and stay warm and dry. Don't get me wrong, it's nice to have all the extra things. But I have to face the reality of both the future and current situation. I have only so much money now and the chances to survive a situation greater than what we have referred to are quite remote. 

Lets talk about perhaps the most critical resource you may need when you lie low, which ironically is the cheapest. We talked months ago about the shear volume of water that a family of 5 would need in our Water Management post. Can the average prepper-minded American, with all their bills and hobbies, afford to buy an off the shelf a water reclamation, filtration, and storage system? Let me rephrase that: are they willing to drop one lump sum, probably requiring them to save for awhile, to drop on this system?  No. But, this person can buy 2 cases of water every two weeks when they go grocery shopping. You can frequently find a 24-bottle case of bottled water for $4 on sale at most retailers, but usually around $6. For me, I erected shelving and have slowly filled it up. We calculated that my family of 5 would need 3 gallons a day. That means that each case you buy is exactly 1 day of water for a family of 5. With one 7 foot, 3 row shelf, you should be able to easily store 12 full days of water, minimum. And, it cost you $60 total including the shelf.  For a good metric, a month of water would take you right at half a year to stock up if you bought 2 cases of water every two weeks (we shop on paydays) and a total of around $180. That's hardly breaking the bank. This isn't the most efficient technique for prepping, by any stretch. Cases of water are heavy, they take up space, and it's more expensive in the long run than it would be to buy an off the shelf closed water system, a filtration, or reclamation system. But buying a few cases for between $20-40 a month is doable for anyone. 

Food storage is probably the most considered aspect of prepping. Let's take a look at how this translates. A year supply of typical canned food supply (222 cans) will cost your $1400 at a major retailer. I don't have $1400 to spend on ANYTHING in one lump sum, especially 222 food cans. I wish I did, but I don't. It would make a lot easier to be able to pick out everything I would possibly need for the EOTWAWKI, but I don't. But, I can apply the same principals as I did with my water supply. Every pay day, I can buy one of the 1-month buckets every pay day. These buckets will cost around $150 per bucket, which drives the same cost-per year to $1800, $400 more than buying it all together. 

Buying batteries is another resource that I have started collecting over time. Anytime I am in a retailer that is reasonable on price, I pick up a different cell-class pack. It's hard to forget as Wal-Mart, Lowes, and even Academy Sports have a stand at every checkout aisle. Most brands have fairly large packages that are between $10-15 dollars for 12-24 individual batteries (depending on what cell class). Yes, it's an additional Franklin on the end of your bill, but batteries are one of the most useful and certainly most forgotten items on the prepper's list. 

 I can think of several other necessities that make the list that are much cheaper to buy in bulk, but may be a stretch for the cost minded individual. A typical "necessity" to the average prepper is ammunition. The average person can't afford to buy the 5,000 round case, but they can afford the 440 round case for $140. An item that may not make the list, but is an item that a household would need to have good stuck of, is candles. The average house will have under 20 candles in it, which wouldn't last more than a few evening. You can source a small case of 72 candles on Amazon for $20. Each of these candles will supply 10 hours of light. using 1 per room in a 4 room house, you have about a month of candlelight in each case. If you were to buy one case a month, you could easily have a solid stock of candles with little to no financial stress. One of the items that I like to continuously stock up on, which is constantly overlooked, is propane or LP. Large bottles of propane or LP can serve multiple purposes from boiling water, to cooking, to providing warmth. Perhaps most importantly, they are portable.These bottles frequently cost $40-60 for a new tank, so stocking up and having 6-8 of them stored is extremely pricey. The other option is to have a large in-place tank dedicated to the task, another pricey option. But, picking up a bottle once every few months when you go to Lowe's or Home Depot isn't too much of a strain. Once you have the necessities taken care of, you can move on to other useful items. There are many other items that you can easily add to this list, specifically those that will become invaluable later down the road, such as Stocking Up On Fasteners.

This method of buying isn't' for everyone. If you have the money and the desire to spend it, to it the right way and buy in bulk. Have the supplies you need right now and in the right quantity. For the rest of us, we have to figure out different paths to stock up. But, so many times people think that if they can't have it all RIGHT NOW, then it isn't worth doing. Prepping on a budget is doable. Is it time efficient? No. Unlike buying it all at once, it takes some time to save up an appreciable amount. Cost efficient? No. But the stress of coming up with the money upfront is alleviated. With some dedication and structuring, any family, regardless of their views of the EOTWAWKI can stock up on important items without financial stress. 

Your Health: The Number One Item You Should Have Prepped

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I'd be a liar if I said that this was an original idea of mine. It's not and I don't pretend to persuade you that I am the genius that first told you this. Learning is all about repetition, so I will take the opportunity to harp on it one last time. Perhaps I will inject just the right amount of common sense and originality of unique thought that will really make you take your health seriously.

If you are reading this, you either believe that you must be prepared for the oncoming apocalypse or you just like to envision your life in such a time. The irony of this is, if you are like me, you are either blind to the need for good health going into this future world or you surely picture yourself at some stage of your life where you were physically up to the challenge. Yes, I am well aware that there is a 3rd option out there, that you are already in tip-top shape and you don't need to hear this. Yet, statistics don't play in your favor on this one, so if you think you are part of that 3rd option, consider that the vast majority of people in this country are not only out of shape, but morbidly obese. Additionally, millions have preexisting conditions that hinder them.

Before you decide that you don't need to read any further, take the proverbial step back and look in the mirror. While you are there, consider that I am not only talking about your ability to run a mile in 7 minutes, or be a part of the 1-Ton club, or make some imaginary number appear on a scale. I am talking about much broader strokes. I am talking about your overall health, physical stamina, and understanding what your body tells you in times of distress....specifically when it pertains to saving your life by getting out alive, whatever and wherever that may pertain and keeping you alive and healthy when you get to wherever.

The idea first came to me while watching one of those Prepper shows. It featured a gentlemen who had spent tens of thousands of dollars on his underground shelter. I won't knock his over all preparedness, because he had thought of a lot of things I had never considered. Additionally, he had access to funds that I do not and was willing to spend them on such a shelter. When he was graded, he received a failing grade. Why? Because he was in his 50s, in terrible health, and had never considered the effects that a post-apocalyptic world would have on his health or his bodies ability to cope with the rigors to be expected. No, I am not talking about radiation or plagues. I am talking even simpler than that. Even in the most basic of ideas: If this man had to run for his life, he would die. He didn't have the ability to do nearly any physical labor. Being severely overweight, his life expectancy on a grand scale was shrinking every day.  I decided that I don't want to be that guy. I don't want to have all the stuff "prepped" that I need except for the one thing that matters: your health.

As Americans we are used to money solving all of our problems. In our mentality, there is no problem that money cannot solve. Even in prepping, we consider our readiness in terms of dollars spent on objects. Guns. Protection. Sustenance. Tools. All bought with the all-mighty dollar and when we have them, we feel confident we are ready. I'm, just as guilty and if you look at my Last Man On Earth Studies ,  you see half of the posts about items. But, we ignore the most pivotal piece of the puzzle. Part #1. The Human Body. And, just like food, guns, or tools....great care must be taken to ensure that it works properly  now and in the future...even if it's 30-50 more years. We will discuss the need to the immediate, intermediate, and long term time frames.

Let's talk about the simplest thing. Are you in shape? Like we said earlier, chances are, you aren't. I won't go quoting specific statistics because, as Mark Twain said: "There are lies, damn lies, and statistics." What do we define as "in shape?" I am talking about the things that matter. American's love quoting numbers. I can understand why and I am not dogging it. Numbers give us expectations and goals. Yet, the question remains and it isn't something you can define with a number. Being able to bench 225 is great. Squatting 525 is awesome. Being first in cross fit at your gym. Fantastic. Running a 5 minute first mile. Kudos. That's not what we are talking about. If you had to evade and escape, could you? We talked about The Immediate Stage of the 5 Stages of Preparedness. While unlikely, if you had the need to escape on foot, could you outrun the threat? Could you outrun everyone else? It's a very real possibility. The fact is, most American's can run a standing 100 yards without being winded. What if you had to run miles? Again, I know a lot of people are shaking their head in the affirmative on this. Now, let me throw you a curve. Could you walk miles while carrying your Bug Out Bag? How about your child? Children? Spouse? Nobody talks about that. Now, I understand that no one goes to the gym and gets in fantastic shape because they know one day they might have to trek through the muck with 3 kids in tow. Is it because thinking of only yourself is something that American's do very well? Or is it because no one wants to take responsibility for this potential. It's hard work and I wont' even pretend that I could do it. But, it's something I have considered. Have you?

There are other reasons for being in shape to physically get yourself and your loved ones out of the proverbial woods. Adrenaline can and will help you get out of many tight spots. It will push you through many boundaries that would otherwise derail you. But, what's the first thing that goes when you become exhausted? It's your mind. Your ability to think and reason is the first thing that degrades when you experience physical exertion. So, you may escape one danger through pure adrenaline only to fall to something else that you would have otherwise had zero problems with. It happens all the time to me when I work on automobiles, even on simple things such as Basic Vehicle Maintenance. When I get tired, even if it's coming home from work after a long day to change a tire, the effect of fatigue on my mind will greatly hamper my ability to reason. Simple problems that I otherwise would take 3 seconds to deduce and solve can become unsolvable. So, consider a situation where you are escaping and evading. You reach safety and you want to dig in for the night. But, a breakdown in your intellect hampers you from fully securing your area, whether against a foe or mother nature. All was for naught. Again, I am not in fantastic shape, but while I exercise, I do a handful of things that may seem menial, but ultimately prepares my mind to think while in the moment of physical exertion. For example, I play scrabble while I run on the treadmill. I read a magazine. I answer emails over technical topics regarding my work at NASA. The finest athletes in the world, say, in the NFL, are susceptible to mental breakdowns during games when they are physically exhausted. Don't kid yourself to think you aren't.

So far we have discussed being in shape for short stretches. I am not talking about being able to run for a few miles or even a full marathon.  Being able to survive a long stretch of physical exertion, say, a 24 hour trek to get you out of a suburb takes more than simple physical ability. It also takes a great knowledge of ones's self. If you are a marathon or long range runner...even a power know a little bit about diet and its effect on your body over time, specifically how yours behaves during withdrawals of specific vitamins or minerals. Let's get back statistics. Chances are, if you are an American, you are obese and out of shape. This can be for a multitude of reasons, but one of those may be malnutrition. Eating unhealthy has a lot of consequences other than weight. While there is a correlation between the two, there isn't always a direct correlation. I know that if I eat a sodium heavy meal from a fast food joint, I have no energy. Many Americans eat fast food every single day. One of the biggest complaints about going to the gym the average person has is, they don't have the energy. If you are under duress, you will probably have plenty of fat to burn, but what about all those other vitamins and minerals that they body needs to function at such a level? If you have played any sport or even watched sports, you have seen what a lack of vitamin or minerals can do to a person. Debilitating cramps, heat strokes, and dehydration are just a few of the problems the average person has to deal with, and it all comes back to actively watching your diet and understanding what your body is telling you. Going back to my own life experiences, being a NASA engineer, I have a severe addiction to caffeine. In my Understanding Silly Addictions post, I talked about how such an addiction causes debilitating headaches that render me to the point of tears and stomach pains that make me vomit if I don't have a specific amount of caffeine. Over the last 6 months, I have fixed a lot of that stemming off of a day that I couldn't even function because I was trapped on a plane for 4 hours on the tarmac. I had virtually no reasoning ability and was physically sick. Additionally, when I am working outside or on a car, I can work for hours on end without stopping. I used to forget to eat and I would suddenly become very light headed and sick to my stomach. I have even passed out on occasion. It took years to understand this problem. Now I know to set time limits while I work and I understand exactly what my body is telling me from the outset of such a problem, as opposed to waiting until it's too late. How easy would it be for me, even being in good shape, to ignore these warning signs of my body in a pivotal moment. A cramp that prevents me from running or performing some action, a sickness that renders me dehydrated from throwing up, or the inability to reason in a situation where I need to think critically. All of these things are just as deadly as whatever it was you were running from in the beginning.

We have covered the extreme short term and the immediate needs for good health and understanding your body, but what about the long term? This one is something that is commonly overlooked. Why? Well, many writers believe that there will be a 10% death rate within the first month of End of the World as We Know It simply because of preexisting conditions. Again, the facts are that an astronomical amount of us in America rely on some sort of medication to help us function. Now, I am not talking about your prescription Xanex or whatever but drugs or medication that are the difference between living and dying.  Consider how many millions of Americans are diabetics, whether by chance, by genetics, or by lifestyle choices. Regardless of what type of EOTWAWKI event, millions of American's will find themselves without insulin. What about those of you with babies? If you or your spouse breastfeed, consider the amount of calories that the woman must have to continue to both function on their own and for the sake of the baby. A quick search says that a nursing mother needs an additional 500 calories a day. That's an extra 25%. And, that doesn't consider that you and your spouse may be on the run and burning far more than you normally would. If you don't breastfeed, have you considered stocking up on formula? If you are a person that needs some sort of medication, you MUST factor this in to your prepping. Again, we are only talking about the need for the immediate 24-48 hours. But, it would be a very bad time to realize that you were low on anything you may need. Even if you aren't on the run and are instead bunkered down somewhere, the last thing you want to do is have to go out and find the supplies you need. Rest assured that the people you will find out there are just as desperate as you are.

The next topic is one that I have had to deal with in the last few months and it doesn't have anything to do with being "in shape", your medication needs or your diet. I am a very active person. I play a lot of softball and football. I fish weekly. Now that I am in my 30s, things don't heal like they used to.  I find myself sore for days at a time. I also find myself getting injured constantly. The first thing that happened to me took place a few years ago. I grew up snow skiing and I have never hurt myself. On this last trip, I took a spill that hurt my knee. I knew it was serious so I went to the hospital. After X-Rays were taken and the Doctor saw me, he deduced it was an ACL strain and that it would get better. 6 weeks later and it wasn't any better. But, I didn't want to have surgery and I could still do *most* of the activities I wanted, though I was in pain. I was operating at about 85% speed and I could deal with the pain most of the time. After a year, it didn't go away. My wife finally made me go see a specialist because she was tired of me being so bummed about operating at such a low level. Come to find out, I had torn my ACL and had been diagnosed. Between the bad diagnosis, the surgery and rehab, I lost almost 2 years of my life of full functionality. Now that I look back, I would love to have had this fixed immediately and operated at 100% and not have had to deal with the pain. Fast forward to this year. A few months ago, I was sliding head first into 3rd and I tore my labrum. It hurt like you wouldn't believe. But, it got to be acceptable. I figured I could live with it. So, I quit lifting weights, I didn't play quarterback in football and I moved to the infield in softball. It never really bothered me, as far as functionality, other than when I played with  the kids or worked outside. However, I was talking with my uncle who said he had done the same thing. He went on to say that it never got better and he never had surgery to fix it. He said he sure wished he would have because he has been unable to do a lot of the things he would like to, such as lift weights and draw a bow to hunt. I got to thinking about all the things I couldn't do and their applications in  the EOTWAWKI. I can't lift things over my head. I can't pull things. What about specific things? I can't chop wood. I can't lift pieces of wood to build anything. I can't throw. In fact, there is very little that I COULD do in an emergency with my right arm. What if life or death came down to me holding on to something? Pulling someone? Pushing something away? Well, too bad. Why? Because I didn't have it fixed when I could have. What a terrible thing it would be to loose a child or a loved one because of an issue that could have been fixed.

This came up in a conversation with my mother who is a trained occupational therapist. We were talking about how useless I would have been in the past. She talked about how up to 100 years ago, between my knee and my shoulder, that I would have just been a cripple. Sure, there was a lot I could do but more than I couldn't. What about 500 years ago? I would be useless. I couldn't farm. I couldn't do manual labor of any kind. What about in the caveman days? Well, I'd be saber tooth tiger bait. That really hit home. I decided that I needed to have this fixed to prevent such a problem.

I understand that people, especially in this day and time, don't have great insurance. But, if you do, don't let something that seems trivial become a life changing problem. While I can do a lot with my shoulder as-is, I can tell you that after 3 months that it causes me to loose sleep because of pain. Who knows what 30 more years would bring? While we have spoken about short term health issues, you have to consider what the effects of any of this may have on your long term health. We all think we will live forever, but we won't. The fact is, our ability and productivity are always on  declining slope. In the case of the EOTWAWKI, we won't have access to good healthcare or medication. Both are something that you will have to plan for yourself, whether that is your exercise regimen or stock in needed medication.

So, how have I gone about it? Well, I still focus on my prepping, but I have simply realized that my body is ultimately the most important tool to my families survival. The first thing I learned was that, in the case of the EOTHAWKI, I may not be where I want to be. What if I needed to get myself and my family somewhere else and on foot. All the guns and food in the world wouldn't do me a bit of good if I didn't have them with me or if my health were the limiting factor. Additionally, I want to live a long life and ignoring my bodies problems may increase them 10 fold over time. I must be healthy and able to carry about whatever physical and mental exertions are needed. I started back in January to make a Better Best5Zach. I quit focusing on how much weight I could lift and more on my endurance. I quit worrying as much about having a six pack and I started paying attention to my body, why it's tired, why it responds the way it does. I train my brain to think under physical exertion.

Again, the focus of prepping always seems to be: how many guns you have, how many rounds for those guns, how much food, and what type of shelter. All of these are great and are needed, but we seem to forget about the key component to any of it: the human body.  Whether it's being in shape enough to get out of Dodge while carrying your kids, or knowing exactly how your body will react to stress, fatigue, and malnutrition over the first 48 hours, or even the long term to the terminal time the most important piece of prepping is your own body and is usually the one thing ignored in prepping. I'm not saying that you need to tape a note in your gym locker to remind you that you are working out for EOTWAWKI, but it should be in the back of your mind. Ultimately your health IS a life and death decision.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

The Ole Miss Preview

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This game certainly lost some of the glamor after Ole Miss faltered against LSU. I care less about that than I do about the defensive meltdown that Auburn fielded against South Carolina. You can read about my thoughts, check out the pictures, and watch my video of the festivities in my South Carolina Review

Auburn's defense has taken a major step back against the Gamecocks, and while I would love to play the "wait and see" card, on behalf of the Old Ball Coach, I already played that card after Mississippi State. Auburn has no pass rush, and though the secondary is leaps and bounds above where they have been in the last few years, there is only so much you can expect from them. Auburn's offense was nearly perfect against a terrible South Carolina defense, so though I do think they will find success against Ole Miss, I wouldn't point fingers at this past game. 

Ole Miss managed to bottle up a young LSU offense for most of the night, but folded late in the game. The LSU defense that couldn't stop Auburn managed to suffocate Bo Wallace and the Ole Miss offense. Eventually, Bo gave the game away, as he has managed to do for all 3 years as a starter. 

Auburn's Offense vs Ole Miss Defense
Right now, it's easy for the pundits to point at the loss against LSU and say that the vaunted Ole Miss defense let the team down. Sure, they gave up a game winning drive late in the game, but they held their opponent to 10 points. 10 POINTS! Along the way,they forced Jennings into 8-16 passing and picked him off twice and forced two other turnovers. I mean, what more do you want? Well, how about slowing down the run? They allowed LSU to pound away 260+ yards on the ground. And that is why many people are saying that this coming game won't be close, though Ole Miss is 2.5 point favorite so far. I am a believer of the Ole Miss defense. I do believe they are a very good unit. But, I also believe that Ole Miss has benefited from a lot of hype AGAIN. A lot has been made of the vaunted land sharks, but who have they really stopped? Even is a win against Bama, they still lost the yardage battle, allowing 400 yards and 33:21 in time of possession. They did manage to do one thing, and that was contain Amari Cooper. But, let's be honest. Bama's inability to convert a fieldgoal is astounding. They were 1-3 . When combined, these stats show that the defense didn't exactly dominate the way they have been propped up. But, they are very good when the ball is in the air. Whenever the ball is in the air, there is a very good chance they will come down with it. Additionally, the N'Kimdiche brothers have been awesome. But, the elder one is out for this game, and I think that hurts the Rebels worse than Robert being out. 

Auburn's offense ran all over South Carolina, and while they didn't throw much, they were certainly efficient. I have to agree with many of the pros. Ole Miss is excellent against the pass. But, they have been gashed with the run. Yeldon wracked up yards in the win against Bama. LSU has the aforementioned 260 yards on the ground. Those two teams are the only ones that they have faced with any semblance of a run game. Auburn may not have the rushing attack that it had at the end of 2013, but it was this time last year when it really came on strong. Though I don't think it will develop into the 2013 unit, I do think it is equally dangerous. Unlike last year, Auburn has a real chance of converting any 3rd and distance in the air.  Expect Auburn to run the ball constantly against Ole Miss and for Marshall to have under 15 attempts on the day. I am interested to see if Sammie Coates will return to his former self. To me, it looks as if he is rushing to get back on the field and he is clearly not 100%. I am sure he doesn't want to shut it down this early in the season, considering his draft stock was soaring just before the first kickoff. I wouldn't be surprised if we see him sit for the rest of the season if he can't bounce back in the next 2 games.  Duke Williams was held to his second lowest outing of the year. I'd love to see him have another big game, but the ability for Ole Miss to match up to him without Coates on the other side of him really limits his ability to produce down the field. Auburn runs using a multi-faceted attack featuring multiple backs and misdirection.

Auburn's Defense vs Ole Miss Offense
This is the 3rd year that Ole Miss has had a mid season meltodwn. Each year, the media props them up more than last. Remember when they were a .500 team in 2012 , but they were such a big deal? In 2013, they were the next big thing in the west until Bama dismantled them and Auburn destroyed them. In both years, they ended up midpack in the SEC West after being propped up as a contender. A lot of the blame falls directly on the shoulders of Ole Miss Coach Freeze and Bo Wallace. Wallace has the ability to consistently give games away. He throws in the one place he shouldn't and he manages to fumble at the worst times. But, why is he getting away with this? Well, for the past 3 years, the Freeze offense has been a powerhouse against inferior competition. And, instead of adapting and finding a true identity, they forge ahead with the same crap that worked against lesser teams. The problem is, SEC West defenses are coached by great coaches and feature the best players. Each week that you keep doing the same things is one more film session that defenses have to pattern the Ole miss offense. By the time Week 9 rolls around, defenses can have a script of the Ole Miss offense in their wristband. And, since he has been able to throw into coverage or run over diminutive defenses, Wallace tries to do the same against premier competition. And it doesn't work. 

Two weeks ago I was ready to crown the Auburn defense as elite. But, I took the "wait and see" approach since LSU was unquestionably bad at Auburn and Mississippi State was handed the game on account of Auburn turnovers. The Old Ball Coach brought an offense into Auburn last Saturday that was nearly flawless in it's execution. They had to punt just once and managed to throw 2 INTs in the endzone, though I credit Jones with superior gameplay by TURNING AROUND TO LOOK FOR THE BALL. What a novel concept. Anyway, sorry about that tangent. 

Auburn excels against the run, but Ole Miss has virtually no run game to speak of outside of Wallace. In that regard, Auburn has faced only Prescott as a run threat QB and did fairly well against him, though he was able to  get loose on a few plays. It's easy to point at the 2 TDs he did score and say that Auburn has a problem with the running QB, but only 1 of those plays was really a legitimate run, a 20 yard or so scamper right up the middle. And, Wallace has the affinity to fumble the ball. he has one of the highest fumble percentages that I can recall. 

The matchup against Treadwell will be one to watch. We saw how prototypical WRs like Mississippi State's Wilson or South Carolina's Cooper can affect Auburn's secondary. Auburn's lack of a pass rush negated the progress that Auburn's secondary has made this year. The inability to get pressure on the QB forced the Auburn secondary to turn their backs to the ball in order to cover the receivers during long drop back pass plays. Treadwell has all the tools of a future NFL receiver and is not someone that any defensive back wants to have to cover, especially over a long amount of time. Will Johsnon stick the emerging star in Jones on Treadwell? 

Perhaps the other dangerous matchup will be against the Rebel Tight End, Engram, who may be the best TE in the country. It will be interesting to see if Auburn blitzes with Therezie and guards Engram with an LB or vice-versa. He possesses a tremendous size advantage on Therezie, but Therezie has the motor and ball skills needed to pull it off. Frost has been decent in coverage and has the size and speed, but it takes a man out of the middle of the field, which may be what Wallace wants to see, as he can step up up and run. Auburn has to blitz early and often as it is. I would rather have Frost coming up the middle to meet an escaping Wallace, than Therezie off the edge where Wallace can easily evade him. 

Ultimately, I expect Ole Miss and Wallace to do what they have done in the past. Wallace will find a way to lose. Last year it was the Pick 6 to #27. 

Special Teams
Jeeze, let's hope it doesn't come down to this. Bray had a fantastic punt return in his one attempt this past week, only to have it ripped out. Auburn hasn't had a kick off return for a TD yet. On the flip side, Ole Miss has caused fumbles on kickoffs and has a pretty good unit. I will have to grade this a push.

Players of the Game
The Auburn RB Corp. I expect CAP to carry to load, but Auburn will run it. A lot. And Marshall, CAP, Thomas, and Grant will all be in on it. 

Evan Engram. The aforementioned tight end is a Gronk type matchup nightmare. Auburn's secondary is good, especially in the red zone, but can the defense cover these receivers, get pressure on Wallace AND manage to keep him from running while covering the big TE? I have my doubts. Inside the redzone, this guy scares me. I see Ole Miss spreading out the receivers, catching an Auburn blitz up the middle and tossing it to the big guy up the middle.

Treadwell/Jones. I think this will be a back and forth matchup. Who wins if the receiver comes down with a TD and the defensive back comes down with an INT? Either way, this will be the matchup to watch.

Auburn wins 24-17

The South Carolina Review

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I finally got down to a game this year. I was starting to wonder if I would. We had several games circled that we planned to attend, but due to work, soccer, or other festivities, I have been unable to attend any games. But, this had been a game that was a "must make". Sure, I admit that I thought this would be the premier SEC Matchup in the preseason, but I am allowed to be wrong occasionally. You don't have to remind me about it, unless you are my wife.....because she does the job of reminding me of when I am wrong for all of you. 

Speaking of being wrong, how about that game? Wow.  I was WWAAAYY off. If you didn't read it, check out my South Carolina Preview. I predicted a 34-10 game. More on that later. 

So, let's talk about the festivities leading UP to the game. Since I don't go to every game, I don't usually have cool stories and pics to show. Not so for this weekend. 

So, Friday night we headed to Auburn as soon as my wife was off work. We stayed with one of my best friends, who lives down there with his family. We did leave the baby at home, since we didn't want to have 8 people (4 of them under 10) in one house. Due to the wonderful traffic on 565, we didn't get into Auburn until fairly late in the evening and decided to watch a little TV and hang out with our friends. We also knew it was going to be a pretty long day on Saturday, especially with a fairly late kickoff. 

The good news was, the Sutton and Friends tailgate would be up and ready for us as soon as we were ready to head into Auburn. So, we got a good nights rest and we were at it early. We headed to the Publix on Moore's Mill and filled up the cooler with all the necessities as well as pick up some appetizers, since the menu for this game was Appetizer Day. And what better appetizer to bring to the Gamecocks game than some hot wings? 

Alyse had found a great parking spot on the backside of the athletic facility, by the practice fields, which makes it a short (but uphill) walk. As we pulled up, we noticed that essentially all the normal parking places were marked off with cones, which is a new thing. But, we spotted a bare spot on a corner by a stop sign. We hopped the curb in the trusty Jeep. But, almost as soon as Kevin pulled the parking break, a police officer stepped out from behind another car. Oh boy. We expected to get the business, as we were regular customers for the Auburn police way back in our Wire Road tailgate days. He walked up to the window, but instead of telling us that we were illegally parked and to kindly step out of the vehicle, he instead instructed us on how to properly park. We were happy to comply. It's nice knowing that not only are you *probably* not going to get towed, but the police officer has blessed your spot. 

And so began the trek to the tailgate spot. We make it look easy, but it isn't. That's a full cooler and two kids. And yes, I am short and Kevin is VERY tall. 

The good news is, once we crested the hill and turned onto Donahue, we could actually ride the cart down the hill to Plainsman Park, where our spot is. We arrived just in time to get the wings on the table and to fix ourselves a plate. We all settled in and watched some football on the TV with our friends. It is probably the only time our kids have been told they can drink all the coke and eat all the food they would like. Aubree had to take it a step further and tried to get access to the Red Bull. I did give her a clinker or two, but managed to keep her on a juice box and coke level for most of the day. We had worried about bringing Griffin, as he doesn't care for sports very much and he has a bad habit of complaining. But, he made friends and he kept himself occupied. Now, I admit that one of the issues with tailgating with kids is the bathroom situation. Since this is right at Plainsman Park, which has open gates, we were 10 steps from good restrooms. 
We were able to visit with some of the Auburn greats, who were signing autographs in front of the Tiger Pregame Show. They had T'Sharven Bell as their guest and at the autograph tent, one of the childhood legends, Stephen Davis. Aubree was able to sneak in and grab an autograph for me! Having kids does have its usefulness! As a treat, I took them over for a snowcone, which neither ate. 
And then it was Tiger Walk. Aubree was so jacked about it that she was at the gates for an hour before hand. But, it worked out because she saved us a premo spot on the line. From there I was able to get video of Coach Malzahn and many of the players! 

And, after Tiger Walk, I was able to do my tradition of getting a chestbump from Aubie. Let the good times roll! 

And then it was time to go to the game! 

The hype movies, the band, and the music got everyone, Griffin included, ready for the game! 

Of course, the game was an instant classic, mostly because The Old Ball Coach came to play. The game featured only 3 punts, Total. And, it featured over 70 points. Now, the Pac-12 may be used to that. Heck, that's common place over on the west coast. But over here in SEC land, that's a rare thing. And, when you are a Top 5 team in the country, playing an unranked team, giving up 35 points isn't something to feel warm and fuzzy about. 

Auburn's Offense vs South Carolina's Defense
Offensively, Auburn did what they wanted, whenever they wanted. What I was the most impressed with was that Auburn didn't need the long ball or 60 yard runs to score. Instead, they methodically marched down the field. The Tigers rolled up nearly 4-hundy on the ground in rushing attack that was 11 yards from having 3 100 yard rushers. While Louis was celebrated for his 100-yard performance and Marshall for his 3 TDs, it was CAP, our Preview Player of the Game, that piled up 167 monster yards, averaging 6.7 per carry and finding pay dirt. 

Marshall was nearly perfect, going 12-14 on the night for 140 yards and a TD to Fulse (surprised?). And while no one had massive numbers, it was Bray who moved the sticks, recording a team high 4 catches for 29 yards.  

But, before we pat the team on the back, let's remember that this Gamecock defense is dead last in the SEC in points allowed and has given up the most rushing TDs. They had 15 on the ground coming into this contest and left with 5 more. Ouch. If you don't have to throw, don't. And, even the TD to Fulse was a glorified run, as the play fake sold every Cock in the stadium and left the big guy wide open. But, there isn't much to say when you punt twice. 

Auburn's Defense vs South Carolina's Offense
Here is selection on what I said last week, leading up to the game:

"The Gamecock offense isn't an offense to sleep on, especially if you can't put together a solid pass rush, which Auburn hasn't been able to do yet, at least not from the defensive line, and it doesn't appear that help will arrive anytime soon. Instead, Coach Johnson relies on blitzes from the LBs or from the corners. While Thompson isn't Connor Shaw, he can make throws if given time. And, P Cooper and N Jones are very capable receivers who can also handle sweeps in space. "

Thompson had a career day and actually put him on pace to set USC single season records. He tossed up 402 yards and 5 TDs against a pass rush that is absolutely abysmal. At ZERO point in this game did Auburn look like an elite defense. Though the lack of pass rush is something we all know, the more frightening thing was the secondaries inability to turn and face the pass. Auburn was unable to get off the field on 3rd and ANYTHING. It felt like Thompson would sometimes throw to random parts of the field and hope his receivers would come down with it, and they did because the Auburn backs wouldn't turn to look at the ball. Amazingly, the 3 times Auburn's secondary LOOKED for the ball, they had interceptions. I don't say this lightly, go watch the film. Even at the opposite side of the field, we all saw Jones turn on the ball in the endzone and LOOKY THERE, I FOUND A BALL. Now, I do point out the Cooper and Jones are studs, and I said that last week. But you cannot defend a pass if you don't look for it. At least Jones started to learn late in the game. And, he continues to look like a star. At some point, we will have to quit saying he MIGHT be and actually say he is one. This coming week might be the chance, as he will undoubtedly be matched up on Treadwell. He will certainly get a chance in Tuscaloosa. But, first things first, right? 

Special Teams
Look. Everyone around me probably thought I was either a prophet, or wondered why I wasn't roaming the sidelines with Gus. I called the onside kick. I don't mean on the approach. I mean, as soon as they scored, I told everyone in section 15 that it was coming.  Other than that, an awesome Bray return turned sour when he fumbled the ball. But, to give him credit, I felt like his forward progress had long been stopped.  Other than the 3 punts and a ton of extra punts, there isn't anything to report. 

And that brings me to my rant on the officiating. I have seen bad calls. I have never seen a game called serially bad. It started in the first Auburn possession when the play clock ran and the official held the ball in front of Dismukes after a first down. Of the 88 yards that Davis gained, they are nearly 100% accredited to serial holders on the outside. On every outside pitch to Davis, the outside receiver drug the Auburn corner down by his jersey. And, in the last SCAR possession, they called Auburn on ticki-tack penalties to keep the drive, which seemed to stall TWICE inside of SCARs own 20. Yet, on the final 3 plays, they allowed the Cock linemen to BLATANTLY hold our D-line, giving Thompson time to throw. And yes, there were two #1s on the field in the last play, and how that didn't get called, we will never know. 

But, the worst call I saw was the 4th down toss into the endzone that was 10 yards uncatchable, yet a weak push by a defender was called pass interference. It was a critical call in the game that would have allowed Auburn to go up 2 scores and end the game. Instead, the next play was a short TD toss that evened up the score. 

But Auburn did win, which meant it was time to go back to the tailgate and party. Except that the atmosphere was a little subdued. I can't say I wasn't a little down. 

We did get to hang out with several players, though. Of note, Duke Williams dropped by and took a pic with my  wife.

Best5Zach's Fantasy College Football Week 10

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So, we are up to 21-6 in our different fantasy leagues. To break it down, I am 7-2 in the SEC Only league thanks to having Marshall and Artis-Payne. In my 20 man league, I am a perfect 9-0. I have scored 1460 points, which is the most in the league. The next player has 1305, and several others right in that range. For points allowed, I have had a lot of help on that front, only having 778 points. That's the fewest, by far, in the league. The average hovers around 1200. I did have one opponent that had an illegal lineup, which forfeited all his points. The best news is that I have wrapped up a spot in the playoffs. Amazingly enough, the random divisional drawings left the second best team in my own division. I am 9-0 and he is 8-1. Anyway, the real question is, who will get those first round BYEs. It's almost a certainty I will, as only the bottom 4 teams play in the first round of playoffs. Not much will change week to week for me here on out, but let's take a look at our lineup anyway. 

QB: Carden posted 38 points in a win over a terrible UConn team. And while I will take that, any day, it didn't filter down to Jone's, our WR1. The Thursday night matchup was a little deceiving. He passed for a billion yards, by only 2 TDs and 1 INT. When in the redzone, Carden handed the ball off after tossing an early redzone INT. He plays at a Temple team this week that is a solid defense who has a lot of takeaways. But, they have yet to play any dynamic passers. Even against average to good defenses, Carden is able to throw it and hasn't thrown less than 33 passes in a game all season. He is a must start at all times. 

RB1: Abdullah vs Purdue. Not even a question. 

RB2: Breida went off for 45 points against Georgia State, which makes it look like he is out of his midseason slump. Troy is up next, who allows 245 yards per contest. Troy is 1-7 against the .  I will take that matchup.  Though his touches have gone down, his efficiency with those touches have gone up. 

WR1: ECU's Jones has fallen off the leaderboard for Carden, it would seem. Hardy continues to be a force, no matter how many people guard him. I do think Jones will have a resurgence by year's end, I think it's time to move on. In his place we have Notre Dames Fuller, who has a minimum of 6 catches in all buy 1 game, a win against Stanford. outside of that aberration of a game, Fuller has been a force on the outside. He plays at Navy against a team that allows 240 yards of passing per game and 31 points. On the outside, that doesn't look very impressive. Navy doesn't play a hard schedule and they have only 3 sacks on the year. Expect Golson to scramble and run around a lot, but eventually find Fuller.  It has the potential to be a breakout game and I expect a 7 catch night. 

WR2: Georgia Tech's Smelter had the roller coaster ride continue against Pitt, just as we expected. He has a good week followed by a terrible week. He is a boom or bust player, consider that he plays WR on a triple option offense. The ball rarely falls in his hands, but when it does, it's usually for a TD. He also didn't have a rushing attempt last week and that will most likely change against a UVA defense. 

FLEX: Rawls left his last contest in the 1st quarter and didn't return. He was practicing today, however. Still listed as "possible", it's better to leave him on the bench. In his place, I was able to scrounge up Jhurell Pressley from New Mexico. He isn't a gaudy numbers kind of guy, but he supplies a solid  16 point average. He has scored at least 1 TD in all but 1 game this year and two of his last 3 games, he has gone over 100 yards on the ground. Additionally, he catches a pass a game, on average. He isn't going to win me any games, but he is a good pacer that will get you one the board. UNLV allows a whopping 263 rushing yards per game and over 500 total per game. He has one breakout game, which was last week against Air Force. While I don't see him going for 26 points again, it is reasonable to assume that he is on the upswing. 

TE: Johsnon is on a bye, so we are filling in with USC's Dixon, who has Washington State. This will be an offensively offensive game. Washington State may be able to slow down USC's top WRs, but they they will be unable to handle the big TE. That is, if he plays. He has missed two games this year. He had a big game against Colorado in his last outing, catching 2 TDs in his only 2 catches. 

K:The kicking carousel continues. Up next is Callahan from Baylor, who has Kansas. Think he will be busy with Extra Points?  

DST: Temple is on a bye, and I don't want to drop them. So, I picked up Duke, who has Pitt this weekend. Duke averages 19 fantasy points a game. I don't really like the matchup, considering Duke gives up yards on the ground and Pitt loves to pick up yards on the ground. 

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

2014 Tournament Fishing Year in Review

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Now admittedly, there may be a few surprise tournaments that I get to fish in the next 2 months or so, but I don't have a boat currently and I don't have any tournaments on the books. 

Therefore, I wanted to revisit the year and take stock of how I fared in tournaments this year. Now, keep in mind that I don't fish a lot of big tournaments and this isn't a bragging board about how well I did. What I do want to do is talk about areas of growth and future areas of improvement. 

Starting in early March, I went on a 3 week tear of tournaments that started in Tuscaloosa with the annual Eagle's Wings Benefit tournament. In each of the previous events, Uncle Tony and I had cashed a good checks by culling up spots. His techniques for hitting ledges with jigs forced me to learn and utilize a technique that I was uncomfortable using. But, the tournament was moved from late in the year to early in the year, making the fishing unpredictable. We changed things up and fished shallow. Ultimately, we struck out.

The very next weekend, we had the first MFC Tournament on Guntersville. We had received some good intel on where to fish, and we found great success, but at a cost. We learned that fishing to the level that we wanted sometimes meant fishing 1 spot, sometimes only a few yards long, all day for 5 bites. Instead of starting and ending in the spot we had been instructed to fish, we didn't start on it until later in the day. We also learned how some subtle changes in techniques can make all the difference in the world. Though we didn't win, we cashed a check with 16 pounds in only 3 fish, which had us riding high for the next weekend's tournament. 

The next weekend was the NATA Open. We have had mixed success fishing this tournament, usually being boom or bust. Truth be told, we have had 1 good tournament and 3 rough showings. 2 of those plagued by boat issues, as this one was. We did attempt to execute the game plan we had learned the weekend before. We were the first to this spot and almost immediately began catching fish. However, the audacity of fishermen on Guntersville is amazing. We had multiple boats see us catch fish and come in on top of us. At one point, we had people casting line across us. Although there was 30 pounds of fish on this one spot, we ended up sharing it with 2 other boats. Ultimately we were tired of fighting with them and went looking for other spots. We did find a few more, but didn't make it back to the weigh in on time due to motor issues. 

A few weekends later, it was time to hit Pickwick for the MFC Tournament. In the past, I have been on some nice largemouth at the tip of 7 Mile Island. And, I knew that everyone else would be jockeying for position at the dam, though ironically Pickwick had hosted a massive 3 day event just the weekend before and the smallies had been hammered. I prefished the afternoon before the tournament and didn't find anything up at the dam anyway, so my gameplan was for me and Alyse to fish for largemouth while everyone struggled for the smallies. Now, I made great attempt in 2013 to get better with the shakey head, but hadn't really established the technique as a comfort zone type method. Within the first hour of fishing Pickwick, it was evident that the awful weather had put the fish in a foul mood. I went to the shakey head a lot quicker than I normally would have. Alyse and I were able to scrounge up enough fish to cash a check with the PTL Sick Stick. I managed to catch a personal best on light line by boating a 4.5 pound beast, which took 5 minutes to land. It was fairly infuriating that I had now fished 4 tournaments without weighing in a limit. But, I had also cashed checks in half the tournaments. 

Josh and I had made the agreement that we would fish a lot more of the Ditto Landing Wildcats on Wheeler in 2014. So, as soon as they started up, we were out there competing. Back a few years ago, we fished nearly every one of these and, more often than not, cashed a check. We always weighed in a limit, but we rarely found a kicker fish. We fished around 6-8 of these tournaments this year, including the two day Classic. One thing was apparent: 2014 was the year of the kicker fish. Almost every trip, we caught a fish that weighed in around 4 pounds. We did learn from some mistakes. This stretch of lake is all about current, and depending on the amount, you learned exactly how to fish. And, we learned that if there IS current, you better quit being a cheap skate and head to the dam. We did manage to cash a good check in one tournament. 

The MFC Tournament on Logan-Martin has been one of our favorite annual events. The lake is loaded with magnum spots. If the stars align, you can slay them. The difference between this year and previous years is that I was very comfortable throwing the shakey head as a primary technique. So, almost at day break, I was throwing it. And, it netted us 30 fish and a solid sack that came in 2nd. We missed 1st by mere ounces. We weighed in over 12 pounds without having a kicker. All 5 fish were clones. It was a riot. There was a significant source of satisfaction that I had learned the finesse technique and it was paying dividends in a big way. 

One of the barriers that we had not overcome was weighing in a 20 pound sack during a tournament. We had been danger close on many an occasion, and while we win or at least place in almost every tournament we fish (at least with MFC), we seem to excel only on tough days. When the fish are biting good, we have been unable to turn the corner on the competition. On this early June tournament on Guntersville, the MFC Club fished out of Seibold. By 11am or so, we had a limit of around 9-10 pounds which we had scared up using topwater baits on flats, targeting post spawn fish. But, the size started to drop and we knew we needed to do something different. We at least knew that we had a chance with the small sack we had, so we decided to do something that we had both talked about, but never really had done. We turned on the depth finder and went idling down the ledges. Quickly, we found a group of fish that were holding on the ledges in 18-20 feet of water. Using a variety of baits, we were able to cull each and every fish we had up to over 20 pounds. Though we only won 2nd, I left with one of the best feelings I have had while fishing. That was an amazing feeling, to go looking for the fish, to target them, and to knock a home run. 

Our next tournament was out of Ingalls on Wheeler at the PEO Org Invitational. Initially, we hit the ledges, even tough we knew there was no current. Everyone else was doing the same thing, it appeared. The boats were back to back lining the main river channel. After 15 minutes of casting deep diving cranks with no reward, we looked at each other and realized that it would never work. And, even if it did, EVERYONE else was doing the same thing and our luck isn't that good. So, we decided to do the very opposite. We started flipping grass, dirt shallow. Within 15 minutes, Josh boat flipped a 5 pounder. We flipped for the rest of the day, by inexplicably, I could not get a bite. Josh, however, boated 20 or so fish. We finished in 2nd place, though I didn't catch a measuring fish all day. I was frustrated, but ultimately determined to learn how to flip. I am still trying....

What followed was an onslaught of tournaments that varied on location, but all had the same conclusion. Whether it was the Spro Frog tournament, or an MFC tournament on Guntersville, or the Ditto Classic on Wheeler, fish were seemingly IMPOSSIBLE to catch. While it's true that everyone I talked to also struggled, it didn't make me feel any better that I COULD NOT catch anything. Even my fun fishing trips were brutal. I tried a little of everything but couldn't buy a limit. 

After a string of 3 or 4 tournaments without weighing in a fish, I was able to somewhat get on track in the MFC Classic. I entered tied for Angler of the Year, meaning that I needed to beat my opponent, which would be no small task since he had a partner and I didn't. And while the fishing was tough....again....I was able to execute a gameplan and win, something that I wouldn't have done in the past. 

All told, we averaged a check in every other tournament. But, this was the first year that we didn't just "go fishing" during a tournament. We started implementing structure into our tournament fishing and I think it really showed. Across the board, 2014 was the worst year of fishing I have had since I started back in 2009. I registered only 108 fish, which is an insanely low amount. I entered the year with the resolution of never getting skunked, but this was not the year to try and make that happen. But, I learned a few techniques that I am confident with. I learned to really dial in my electronics and use them the way they are supposed to be used. I think I have come around to the idea that I don't belong in any big tournaments. Just because I got lucky in 1 or 2 doesn't mean that I can do it on a consistent basis. I think we learned that fish move spots, so we need to move too. When it comes to ledges, you can't expect them to be there every time. You really need 5-10 ledges to rotate. 

So, that's about it. We caught BIG fish this year, but not MORE fish. Let's see what 2015 brings!