Pop Goes The Paycheck

I had only been dreaming about it for over 30 years. I had only posted about looking for a partner 4 years ago. But, last week, it all finally came true! I fished in my first “big” Bass tournament!!
It all started when Dale Holloway contacted me a couple of weeks ago, asking if I was still looking to “backseat” in a major team-fishing event or tour. Turns out, he had seen a post I had made back in 2007 seeking a backseat tourney opportunity, and he was now in search of a new partner for the American Bass Anglers (ABA) team tourney trail in So Cal. I, of course, said, “Yeah, baby!” and my lifelong Bass fishing desire was about to come true. We agreed to meet at Lake Perris near Hemet, California last Saturday for an Inland Empire event there to “test the waters” of our newly formed partnership.
I arrived at 5:30 AM as the red Moon eclipse was beginning to wane, found my new teammate, and by 6:00 AM was headed to a nice hole near Allesandro Island in the middle of the lake. It was a chilly 38° outside and the surface temp of the water was a cool 52°. As soon as we pulled into our spot, before we could even pick up our poles, a huge blow up occurred 15 feet from the boat. I started throwing a buzzbait and Dale began with a shallow running crank, but we found no love. Though, we knew we had found some fish!
After trying several other choices to no avail, I had a Malibu-rigged Senko going while he fished a plastic worm. After getting a couple of short-bites, Dale finally connected on our first keeper of the day, a nice 2 pound class fish. On my way to net our day-starter, I took a tumble and put a big contusion right smack in the middle of my shin. No … that is NOT a cut … it’s a bruise!
Shin Bruise

In the next 20 minutes, he followed it up with a 3-6, a 1-8, and a popped line on the hook-set of a big fish. Needless to say, I quickly switched over to my partner’s hot bait and, after a couple of short-bites, I finally pulled in my first tourney keeper … a one and a half pounder! I don’t think I’ve ever been prouder of a small fish like that!! 😉
We kept metering fish in the area but couldn’t get them to commit to anything we threw at them … and we threw a LOT of different stuff. So, we picked it up and headed to a new area of the lake to give it a go. Shortly after we arrived, Dale asked me to take over the trolling motor so that he could retie and take a quick break from the rigors that position in the boat entails. Visions of fishing grandeur started dancing in my head: wouldn’t it be great to catch our 5th keeper, filling out our sack, while on the point!?! Just then, I saw the slightest wake near a very small tullie bush. I made the perfect cast just past my target and slowly worked my bait back to the spot. Tick … tick … BOOM! Fish on!! Shortly after the fight began, she cleared the water and we instantly knew that this was a nice fish. I battled her for what seemed like an eternity when I finally got her near the boat. She came up to the surface and then suddenly turned back down, showing off her fat belly, when suddenly the line just went “POP”. 😦 We disappointedly watched as this 4 pound class fish headed back to the depths.
Somehow, I knew that this was going to play a significant role into where we would place in this tournament … I just didn’t realize how big a role. As we spent the rest of the allotted time vainly trying to find that limit-maker, I could hear Mark “Chief” Torrez’s pre-tournament advice running through my head: “Retie … OFTEN!”. We headed for the weigh-in and, as we sat in line with our four fish in the live-well, it became apparent that our total was going to put us somewhere near the top. As it turned out, there was only one limit caught and only 23 fish in the entire tournament where weighed in. Our total came to 8 pounds 2 ounces … good enough for 3rd place! We were (and still are) totally stoked!! 🙂
ABA 3rd Place Finishers

Besides the great finish, Dale and I found that we definitely compliment each other well in the boat, and we see a bright future for our fishing team. Yet, all week I’ve been thinking of “what could have been”. Second place posted just over 10 pounds of fish, and 1st posted just over 12. Which means, that one escapee would have easily put us in 2nd and would have had us vying for the top spot. I have definitely learned my lesson the hard (cold cash) way, and I vow to never let the paycheck go “POP” again!

EDIT: Oops! I forgot the plaque pic!!
3rd Place Plaque

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