Since March 2012 I've gotten the chance to fullfill my boyhood dream. As you may or may not have read in last weeks inaugural blog, that dream was to become a professional bass fisherman.
To get to that point, I had to qualify through a series of three tournaments. In 2011, those tournaments took me to the James River in Virginia, the Detroit River in Michigan, and Lake Oneida in New York. After the three tournaments had concluded, I finished in 1st place out of more than 200 anglers. Competing in a fishing tournament is one of the most unique competitions out there. There are so many variables.
For this weeks blog, I will focus on my recent trip to Toledo Bend Reservoir that sits on the Texas-Louisiana border. Toledo Bend is the largest southern reservoir. Every fishery I've been to from Wisconsin to New York and Florida doesn't seem that big to me, but that's primarily because I regularly fish Lake Erie (or at least I used to). In all fairness, Toledo Bend is huge. Waves get big there. They're not like the ones that blow out of the northeast on our section of Lake Erie but I'd say it's fairly normal to see 4-6 foot waves there when it's blowing. To make navigating your boat there even more difficult, you have to keep your boat within boat lanes or you'd be at the mercy of driving your boat into a flooded submerged forest. My first time there was in 2012. I didn't have a clue how to drive my boat there. I had to idle over to a recreational fisherman and ask for some navigation assistance. Inversely, during my most recent trip, I was cruising up and down the boat lanes with ease, confidence is key.
My destination was Many, Louisiana, which is about an 18 1/2 hour drive from Fremont. I didn't leave until around 12:00 on April 26th because I had a prior commitment I didn't want to miss. That day I drove nine or ten hours until I found a Pilot gas station to rest my head for the evening. I found a great spot, right in front of a line of semi trucks and next to dumpster. I was safe! Saving money was the one thing on my mind. I walked inside the truck stop to scope the joint out before I went to bed in the back of my truck.
I've slept in my truck enough to have some crappy nights and some that were just below bearable. That night was bearable. In the morning, I went inside to brush my teeth, stared at the truck stop shower, thought about using it, decided against it, got in my truck and resumed my trip south to Louisiana. Sleeping in your truck might seem like a bit much, but when you drive until 10 or 11 p.m. and wake up super early to begin driving again, spending money on a motel seems unnecessary to me.
The rest of my drive went smooth. I arrived in Many between 4-5 that Sunday evening. My roommate on tour, Casey Scanlon, knew a guy who let us stay at his fish camp for the week. Up north we call houses on a lake where you stay cabins or a rental. Down south they're fish camps. The place we stayed was right on the lake. After I arrived, I had to run into town and get my fishing license, then head back to the fish camp to work on a few rods before it got dark. The first day of practice started in the morning.
In the tournaments I compete in, we are only allowed 2 1/2 days of practice: all day Monday and Tuesday, then a shortened day on Wednesday due to the pre tournament meeting all anglers must attend. Monday's and Tuesday's I always practice from dawn to about an hour before dusk. Early Monday started off with a major storm system pass directly over the lake. I had been watching the sky and was pretty sure I was going to hold off before I put my boat in the water.