Silently guarding the bait in Venice.
Trying to hang on for one more fish.
Nature showing off on Lake Allatoona.
A jumping tarpon off the Venice Beach pier.

It Finally Happened! Crushing them at Guntersville

March 5th marked the second stop of the Choo Choo division on Lake Guntersville. After a mediocre performance at the first event, I was hopeful to do a bit better the second time around. I made sure to stock up on jerkbaits, and also switched up my rods a bit, thinking that this tournament might be dominated by the trap a bit more than the first one. The weather was looking promising, and I felt pretty confident we weren’t going to be freezing through 90% of the day. All things considered, I was feeling good, and ready to rock and roll.

Since I’m a co-angler, I don’t break my neck to get out to the tournament waters early the day before the tournament for practice. Don’t get me wrong, I think practice is VERY important for a co-angler, but more for understanding the fishery in general, and being able to prepa
re for the types of fishing you will be doing. So usually, I will take the day before the tournament off work, and spend a majority of the day with my family. Since Guntersville is only a 2ish hour drive from my house, I’ll hang out until 2 or 3, and then make my way west. On this day, I was closer to 3, and being in an Atlanta suburb, traffic does start to get heavy around that time. I was in a bit of a rush to get out, and sure enough, as soon as I hit highway 41, traffic was already bad. Bummer. I manage to pick my way through Cartersville, and halfway to Rome IMG_0911when my wife calls.

“Do you need this tackle bag that’s sitting on the boat?”
Talk about an instant hot flash! Yep, I need it. That’s my Guntersville bag, and everything I may need is in it. I contemplated just going on without it, but since I didn’t have a specific time I HAD to be in Guntersville, I opted to turn around, and my amazing wife met me out on the highway.  All in all, it was about an hour detour, but it resulted in getting some Chic-Fil-A, so it wasn’t too bad.

I finally roll into the house we stay at, and everyone is sitting around, poor mouthing the terrible fishing.  I’m looking around, ready to go out to dinner (assuming they had waited for me), when one of my buddies informs me everyone had already eaten.  At first I was bummed, but then I remembered a Krystal up the road.  That tends to not be a popular choice, but I love it.  So, off to Krystal I went.  After that, the evening was pretty uneventful.

The next morning, I wake up, get packed and head to the lake.  I meet up with my partner, who had already launched his boat, and was tied up directly in front of the parking lot (score!), and we do the idle banter back and forth, getting to know each other.  As it turns out, we had some mutual friends, and the next bit was spent cracking jokes on them.  As the sun starts coming up, we Big Fishnoticed it was a bit foggy, but little did we know we would be in for a 3 hour fog delay.

One thing to keep in mind when fishing as a co-angler in the BFL, 3 fish will usually get you in the money.  This may not always be the case, but most days you will be sitting pretty with three fish.  So, with a shortened day, I knew catching fish quick was a top priority.  Around 10, we finally blast off, and up the lake we go.  At our first stop, my partner smacks a nice bass really quickly, and tosses him in the well.  He quickly follows that up with #2.  After his second fish, I pull out the ol’ Megabass (Megabags) 110 and go to work.  Pretty quickly I put three keepers in the well.  Over the next few hours, the bite just dies.  My partner manages to grind out a limit, I catch a short, and hav
e one pull off at the boat.  I’m not sure if it would have been a keeper or not, but I never saw it, and it didn’t pull too hard, so I convinced myself it was short too.  Even though I hadn’t caught a keeper in a while, I was feeling pretty good about my day.  The fact that we had less fishing time, and I already had three in the box, with a few hours to fish, I knew a limit was still in my grasps.  After my boater caught another keeper, and went to cull, I decided I needed to change up baits.  He actually had another rattle trap, identical to the one he had been using, and offered it to me.  I resisted for a bit, but after his second cull, I gave in.  I tied it on, and within 10 casts, my rod doubled over.  I set into the fish, and it was solid, almost too solid.  Guntersville is full of big drum, and I’ve had many a big drum fool me on a hookset, so I was a bit skeptical when I hooked up with this fish.  The water was pretty stained, and the first time either one of us got a good look at the fish was when it jumped at the side of the boat.  My partner went to net the fish, but missed because his knee’s got week, and he almost took a tumble into the bottom of the boat.  But, after one last run, we netted a giant bass, and I threw her in the livewell.  At the time, I wasn’t sure just how bit it was, but I did know it was the biggest bass I had ever caught in a tournament.  I looked at my boater, and neither one of us could contain our excitement.  We both knew that now I had to, HAD TO, catch another fish, and fill out my limit.  Because of that fish, I was now in legitimate contention for first.  Luckily, I didn’t have to wait long.  About 15 casts later, my rod doubled over again, and I knew I had fish #5 on.  I played that fish like my life depended on landing it, and honestly, I was more nervous fighting that fish than the previous one.  When that fish hit the net, the excitement instantly set in, and the last hour of that tournament seemed to take forever.

When we pulled up to the dock, the rumor was that 10lbs was leading the co-angler side.  I knew better than to believe it, but that instantly pumped me up more.  I grabbed a buddy, and told him what I had, and he echo’ed the low weights on the co-angler side.  As we walked to the waiting tanks, I eyed everyone’s fish, and didn’t see a single co-angler limit.  I told my partner I felt like I had a shot to actually win.

When I got to the scales, my weight was 18-4, and put me in first place.  My biggest weighted 7-14, and put in first for big fish as well.  We were the last flight, Trophy2
and I knew there were only a few people left to weigh in, so when I stepped off stage, I instantly called my wife and told her I thought I was going to win it all, the tourn
ament and big fish.  I was on cloud nine, but still tried to keep my cool, knowing it wasn’t over until the scales were closed.  My partner and I snapped a few pictures, and then it was off to the release tank and then to put his boat on the trailer.  Once we finished that, we started walking back to weigh in.  A buddy came up to me, and congratulated me on my win.  That was when I finally let the emotion come out.  But then, some bad news, I got beat for big fish by one of the last guys to weigh in.  I was disappointed, but that passed almost instantly when I realized I finally won a trophy.  Ever since I began fishing with FLW, I wanted a trophy, and on my 30th tournament, I finally did it!

The whole ride home was a blur.  Coming out of Guntersville, I had pretty terrible cell reception, so the entire trip was a battle of 45 second conversions, followed by 30 minutes of no service.  I didn’t care though, I finally had my trophy.


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