I didn’t really get too many chances to fish when I was a young boy but I still remember to this day almost every fish I managed to land during those early years. Probably even more significant are the few memories that I held on to about the one that got away. After getting through school and getting married I felt I could finally devote the time to taking care of my unresolved issues with the fish. Little did I know the more I fished the more I was compelled to fish. It all started innocent enough but with some encouragement from my brother-in-law we would soon do things in fishing that we had not yet dreamed of. Bass fishing has become a part of me that just can’t be denied here’s how it got to that point.
Every day on my way to work I would pass this little lake that kept getting my attention from the ripples of fish feeding on the surface, my curiosity finally got the better of me and I had to stop and check it out. From the shore I could see a bunch of bluegills and couple of yellow perch. This alone would have been enough to get me to purchase a license and a rod and reel to give it a try but there was more to see; a largemouth bass was chasing these little fish all over this shallow flat. As soon as I got home I discussed the possibility of fishing with my wife and her brother. She was more than happy to let me spend a little money and some time to pursue these fish and her brother Kurt was very excited to accompany me. Off to the local bait shop we went to get our gear and some worms with a hula popper thrown in just because that’s the only thing I had ever caught a bass on before. Being very inexperienced we both went for the spincast. Spincasts from shore was a good time and we did catch a lot of fish but we soon realized if we wanted to catch more and bigger fish we would need a boat. After enjoying a couple of weeks of catching small gills from the shore and wading out as far as we dared we finally got a 14 inch bass to hit the hula popper. We were hooked, pun intended. The time had come to start saving for a boat.
Well, our first boat did leave something to be desired. It was one of those blow up toy rubber boats that has warning stickers on it that say “not a lifesaving device” but it did get us off shore a little farther. This did allow us to catch more fish and opened up a lot more water to fish. The main problem we had with this boat was while one of us fished the other had to keep pumping air in to keep us afloat. Now having a taste of fishing from a boat we knew we had to get a boat we wouldn’t have to fill with air so we could stay on the water longer. Again it was time to start saving for another boat. Being young and impatient we grabbed the first boat we could. At this time the 10 foot flat bottom boat we found seemed like a yacht. We did however have a few holes to patch and we fixed the broken oar with duct tape added some carpet and again we were fishing. A whole new world was opened up to us you just could not keep us off the lake now. Soon after that we added a trolling motor, now we felt like bass pros.
We were now so afflicted with the fishing bug we talked to everyone we could to try to learn as much as possible about the sport. That is when I started to notice our stories were just as big as everyone else’s. About that time Kurt told me of one of his uncles who had been fishing tournaments for several years, so off we went to learn all of his secrets. Though he wasn’t about to give us any free fishing advice he suggested we could get schooled by joining his bass club. We took this the wrong way thinking they would teach us all we needed to know about fishing for bass. We were about to find out they just wanted our money in their pot, but we attended one of their meetings and signed up for the upcoming season anyway. Now committed we are going to need a bigger boat the saving and looking began again.
With our wives wondering if we knew what we were getting into and us not having a clue I bought my first new boat. This time it was a 14 foot Lowe in the wide model I got from Randy Vandam at D and R sports in Kalamazoo. Over the winter we started to modify our new bass boat with wooden decks and rod boxes. Other improvements included an aerated cooler that we used for a live well a bow mount trolling motor and a 1956 Johnson that we rescued from a sinking pontoon boat. Being a painter I was also able to trade in my Glidden paint co-purchase points for a Humminbird locator and two life vests. With all these new toys and a lot of research and practice we felt ready to give it a go. Tournament time was right around the corner.
Fighting the butterflies we drove our bass rig proudly to the lake for the opening day tournament. Our excitement soon turned to shock as we pulled into the parking lot filled with 24 glitter covered fiberglass bass boats with really big motors. I couldn’t help but to join in the laughter as they took turns cracking jokes about our boat. Some were very surprised that even with all of the ribbing we still paid the fees and backed the boat into the water anyway. We still did not realize how outclassed we were but I have I feeling the other boaters did. We were feeling like it was our lucky day when we drew the chip that stated we would leave in the first flight of boats. Again the laughter started at my excitement over leaving the dock first I couldn’t understand why but I was about to learn why. They were allowing four boats every 10 seconds, although they waited till I was 200 yards or so from the dock before they began passing me on both sides at high rates of speed. The next 60 seconds was exciting and terrifying, I was beginning to see an advantage in having a better boat.
I felt like the fishing was tough we didn’t catch what we thought we might need to place but was glad we got our limit and had something to weigh. Pulling into the landing we were pretty much just hoping to not be in last place. Surprise, Surprise, we had enough fish to place second. Not only did we do well in our first tournament but we ended up winning team of the year out of are little homemade bass boat. Having a big boat was not necessary to win but even we bought a 20 foot bass boat the very next year. I need to give thanks to all of the people who helped me get the big bass rig. Just keep in mind next year might be your year to win big and get your fancy bass rig but until you do keep trying with whatever boat you can get your hand on.