On tournament day I got up at 3:15 and we got the hitch changed out and boat hooked up to my car just fine. I believed my partner would jump in and we would head for the park. Instead he said since I had to go slow with my small car instead of a truck, he would meet me there with the other guys. I went the only way I knew how to get to the place.
When I got to the ramp the other guys came up and said they thought I might have gotten lost. We then got the boat into the water just fine. I loaded my gear on board. I then asked my partner once again WHERE were we going. He then informed me 20 miles SOUTH which meant we would be going out in Lake Erie! I was not thrilled with that news to say the least. At that moment we had a light rain falling with lightning all around the area.
When I noticed the visibility was poor at best, I asked my partner HOW we would know where we are going. His reply was the other boats in the group were going to WAIT for us. Our boat had a smaller motor than any of their boats, and as it turned out they DID NOT WAIT for us.
We got lost for a good hour before one of the locals gave us good directions on how to get out into Lake Erie. The 20 miles or so on the Lake was beating with 2-3 foot swells. My rear end and lower back were slammed against the bow deck floor more times than I can remember.
We also did not have a working depth finder which made us blind as to how deep the water was or where the fish were holding. We were given suggestions where to anchor by the other boats in the group. It took some time getting set up with the anchors and such since neither one of us had used this boat before.
On the way back to the dock one of the other boats in the group had a problem. Fortunately we were behind him to help out. His live well lost its water somehow. We had a portable pump we loaned him so his fish would be live at the weigh in.
Later at the weigh-in, a boat SANK right at the dock area somehow. They were able to bail it out and get it up on the trailer and drag it out of there. I had already been back my hotel cleaning up and trying to get a short nap. I had gone down to the motel desk at 3:30 and said give me a call at 5:30 so I would not miss the awards get together. So much for that, as they called me late, so I rolled over and went back to sleep.
So those are just the THINGS that happened to me. I am sure 48 other teams had at least some unexpected things pop up on them. So be ready to ROLL with them as best you can. Below are the rest of my tips, should you ever decide to enter a professional catfish tournament…..GOOD LUCK!
1. Take good rain gear, your best life vest, check your tackle box or bag. Don’t forget your sun screen, drinks and food. If going to fish a lake take a COMPASS! Even if you see land, all too often those bays and shore lines start looking the same. Have a good flashlight if fishing at night or early morning. Now days take your CELL PHONE, have phone numbers of the tournament officials at the launch site on you. This way if you need help returning to the dock, they can give you help getting safely back.
2. Count and recount the number of the legal fish long before you get back to dock for the weigh-in. A team that was good enough to help lead us back to the ramp was in the MONEY! They had caught their limit of 10 catfish. Since they had some work to do later in the day they headed back in to weigh their fish early. Then somewhere before they got to the park they stopped and counted their fish. They really had 13 instead of the required 10 fish limit. I take it they weighed the largest 10 and released the rest. In their excitement about how much money they would win they STILL MISCOUNTED. When they got to the dock they somehow came up with 11 fish, they were later DISQUALIFIED!
3. Fish a tournament on your home waters for your 1st big tournament. Stay on home water where you know some of the HOT SPOTS. You have fished them when the water was high, low, muddy, and clear. You have an idea where to run if the favorite holes are not producing any fish. You know how long it takes to get from the furthest hole to the ramp for the weigh-in on time. You know how much gas you need to cover all the area you want to fish. You know where to get fresh live bait if you need it.
These are all IMPORTANT factors in any tournament. Get a feel for all the things taking place during the tournament: seminars, the fishing, weigh-ins, and awards presentations. The people are a lot more helpful with tips and information at the awards presentations than at the seminars. This is because the competition is over, so the reasons to guard information as to baits and places fished are no longer that important.
Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours!
Author of KINDLE E-BOOKS, Rod Bending Catfish & Shop to Save
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