As tournament anglers, there is one thing that we covet more than anything…that first win. Some anglers go their entire fishing career and never walk away on top. Sure second place pays as well as big bass, but for most anglers in the back of their mind there is a desire to be the best boat on the water for the day. I was no different than any other guy on the water with a competitive desire to break the ice. To be close so many times and deal with the frustration of being number 2 or number 3 week after week only drives the soul.
I spent several weeks driving 45 min both ways to fish a weeknight series on Patoka Lake. During the work week my normal fishing partner had things to do and could not make these short trips to fish, so I was on my own. Week after week, I hooked up and drug my old flat bottom Lund up and down the highway learning and fishing 10 weeks straight. I’d drum up the occasional buddy to tag along and split the cost and we cashed a few checks along the way, but never got that win.
It’s funny that we watch all these videos and read the articles on changing conditions, but these quote-un-quote changes usually happen during the event. That night, like any other night, I unloaded the boat and began the pre-tournament float on a bright shining Wednesday evening. As I was floating the boat spun around and I noticed some clouds in the east along the horizon, then I noticed these clouds were actually moving in my direction. I remember thinking about how I wouldn’t have much time and needed to fish fast before the weather set in and I lost the current conditions. Looking at the lures in the boat I quickly hunkered down to make a quick pre-tournament lure change. Crankbaits have always been one of my favorite lures, fishing that way allowed me to keep moving and offered a much faster pace. So on went a black and white bleeding shad pattern.
At the start of the event the storm began to move faster and the east wind picked up. I suddenly became in tune to what was around me noticing a windy blown point with slack water on the back side. As the lure made its decent across the point the rod tip loaded up, “Fish ON!” Not any fish but a solid 4 pounder. Shaking I loaded the fish in the livewell and repositioned the boat. Second cast, “Fish On!” It was another 4 pounder!
Just as I had loaded the second fish in the live well the wind began to howl and lighting began to fly across the sky. I knew I had to bail from my position and take cover under the bridge. As I held the boat under the bridge I was eager for the opportunity to catch fish number three. The storm finally passed and I made my way back over to that same point and began to fish again. I had all of 30 min left in the tournament but nothing was biting. The other anglers began to make their way back to the ramp which told me it was time to load up and hit the scales. I was not feeling confident in my 8 plus pounds.
As the guys weighed in, I noticed the lack of fish being brought in. Having weighed and returned my fish already I watched as the excitement built within. I knew that one team also had 2 fish and they usually had a good sack. As they pulled their two fish from the weigh bag I knew it would be close, but the scale would show I had them by a pound. The east wind had shut down the bite across the entire lake and I had just gotten my 1st tournament win.
That feeling was over whelming but I managed to keep my cool and shake hands with all my competitors that night. As I pulled away from the ramp I called my wife to tell her that I had won among a few close fishing friends. After that let’s just say a small victory party broke out on that long 45 min ride home. All I can say is that I am glad there was no dash cam while I was rocking out to some pretty good tunes