EuroBass Cup 2007
May 23, 2008
One evening early last fall, I was being a good boy and innocently sitting in my recliner eating supper when the phone rang. I never answer the home phone as I have figured out over the last 37 years of marriage that it is not for me and being my wife’s answering service is not high on my priority list. That said, my wife answered the phone and I could tell from her responses this was not one of her typical conversations. The next thing I knew, she was standing beside me with the phone in her hand saying,”This must be for you. I don’t know WHAT THIS WOMAN is referring to.” This kind of talk from your wife could result in a brief moment of terror for some guys but thankfully, that was not the case for me.
The female voice on the phone was heavily accented to the point I was having difficulty understanding her. She asked if I was Charlieeee Ham, Hama, Hamerick? She was close enough. “Good,” she said, “I have been trying to get in touch with you.” Tempted to hang up on what I thought was another telemarketer, I listened further. She told me she had called to invite me to participate in the EuroBass Cup to be held in late September in Zamora, Spain. I had no idea what she was talking about although I remembered seeing something about the “EuroBass Cup” previously. I gave her my email address and asked her to send me some information about her invitation. At this point I was searching my mind as to which one of my buddies had put this woman up to this. Believe me, I have some friends that could and would do something like this in a heart beat.
As I hung up, my wife looked over at me and uttered that one word sentence all married guys get from time to time; “WELL????” I tried to explain what I could of the conversation. I got “the look”. Now, all you married or attached guys know what I mean by, “the look”. We all get it and the only summation I can apply to it is, “I really don’t believe you but we’ll let it set for now”.
A few days went by with no email alluding to the conversation. I dismissed it knowing full well I would eventually find out who was responsible for the prank call. But then the phone was ringing again and my wife was standing over me saying, “It’s that WOMAN again”. Sure enough, it was her. I told her I’d never received any information and after a quick reference to my email address again, she said she’d send it right away. I hung up and turned to receive “the look” once again, but this time it was more curious than suspicious.
About an hour later, I received an email (whew! Doggies!) which contained a letter of invitation, a flyer, a schedule of events and an itinerary. I still had doubts to its authenticity. Checking the internet and a few quick phone calls proved the event and invitation were real. I emailed Cidalia (I now had a name!), telling her I’d have an answer for her within a week.
If I went to Spain, I’d miss the final BFL qualifying tournament. Missing the tournament was not a huge issue but it would result in me not making it to the Regionals. Comparing that to competing in an international fishing tournament representing my country was a no-brainer, but there was a related issue that I had to consider. I had entered into the BFLs as a “guaranteed boater” and had thusly a “guaranteed co-angler”, Richard Hooter, a long time friend of mine. If I pulled out of the tournament he would loose his “guaranteed” status and might not be able to fish the event. I knew wouldn’t do this unless I knew he would be able to participate in the tournament.
After explaining my dilemma to Robert Vanderson at FLW Headquarters, Robert said, “Boy, I know Richard and he knows half the guys fishing in the South. Between us we’ll find another boater for to pair him up with. You get yourself over there and make us proud.” All I had to do know was find out what Richard thought about the situation.
Richard was ecstatic. “Don’t you worry about me one bit, I’ll find someone to guarantee in with. You just do what you need to do. I wouldn’t have it any other way.” That boy had a guaranteed boater in less than two hours. With that issue resolved, I accepted Cidalia’s invitation and got busy making arrangements.
Once there the schedule was busy to say the least. Every minute of the day was scheduled with rest time basically being the time you spent on a bus traveling from one point to another. Did you know that Europeans eat dinner late? Late like 10:00 PM late? That was an adjustment! We didn’t usually hit the sack time before midnight. Luckily, the bus didn’t leave for the lake until 7:45 AM. On practice days we fished from 10:00 AM till 5:00 PM and competition was 10:00 A.M. till 6:00 PM.
With the little rest provided by the schedule of events (lots of appearances) and the “jet lag” from such a long flight, to say that I did not hit a lick on Tuesday (Day One) would be an understatement.
Upon arrival at Zamora, which is the closest City to Lake Ricobayo, I was informed that our practice days would be conducted in the same manner as our competition days, i.e. we would be practicing with our competitors. What?! These guys already know the lake, they’ve been practicing, and they know where they want to go and what they want to do when they get there. With the exception of two team members, we had not even seen the lake, didn’t have any maps, and had only two days to put something together. To say the least, I felt the playing field wouldn’t be quite “level” when the tournament competition gun was fired.
But before I got too fired up, Senior Team Member O.T. Fears explained that this competition was being held in an effort to promote fishing and International Good Will. The Europeans had not won the Annual Tournament since its inception. They wanted to beat us really bad and we should not be surprised by any actions they took trying to do so.
The scoring for the event is similar to the Ryder Cup: Two competitors in each boat with a draw format (half day control of the boat). Whichever angler had the largest catch (five fish limit) of the day wins the boat point. Twelve boats, twelve points up for grabs.
I found the language barrier to be more difficult than I expected. We had opponents from Spain, Portugal and France but the language of the area was Spanish. Some of the competitors spoke English in varying degrees but communication was somewhat difficult. Off the water communication was even more limited. Sometimes, when speaking with each other in the boat, we’d finally just look at each other and say, “Amy”. Amy was our only interpreter and we often had to wait till we got back to figure out what the other was trying to say. Life was easier on the water. I’d look at the map, point to a place I wanted to go and say, “Vamos!” meaning “let’s go” and, “Aquí” meaning, “Here”.
Zamora, Spain and Lake Ricobayo are pretty much parallel to Rhode Island. Late September provides for some cool weather and it’s almost “cold” in the mornings. The area does not get an overabundance of rain and the terrain is rocky. On a side note, here in the States many people like to seek out, pick up and use ‘petrified wood’ as a decoration. While I fished over there I saw places along the lake where acres and acres of petrified wood provided an almost solid covering of the ground. Had I not had serious limitations regarding luggage weight and airline restrictions, I would have attempted to gather some up and get it back home.
Day One Practice:
I was paired with Jose Manuel Iglesias. I was unsure exactly what to expect, so I got Amy to come over to the boat. Amy tells Jose that I am his selected partner for the day. I have her ask him, point blank, if he is prepared to take me where I want to go (during my half of the day of boat control). His reply was just as point blank: “Yes, I’ll take you where you want to go but I won’t take you to the good places”. No grey area there, I pretty much knew from that point on that the competition was on . . . LET THE HEAD GAMES BEGIN!
By coin toss, the USA Team had the first half of the first practice day. This would alternate throughout the remainder of practice and the competition. Ok, I’m on a body of water with no map (they did not show any of us the maps they had until the tournament started - at least I was not shown a map), I have only the knowledge passed on to me at the Team Meeting (the lake has water and rock, period) and I have a paired partner who has vowed not to take me anywhere I do not specifically point out). Ok, José, light it up and let’s go.
Up the lake we went and I began looking at the “rocks”. I saw a creek and pointed to the mouth of it. “Aquí!” I yelled. We shut down and I took control of the front of the boat, working my way back. The fishing was slow at best and I was trying to figure out what it would take to get bit while surveying the area and reading the structure. José had to change the settings on his electronics from meters to feet. We came upon a good bend in the creek and just about the time we went around it, another boat came by and waked us pretty good. As I went on around the bend at a little higher speed to keep the boat off the rocks, I saw an underwater point that was not revealed by the shoreline configuration. I did not say a word and trolled on by.
Once I got the boat completely past the point and to an area where I could barely reach it with a cast, I spun the boat around and fired a cast up on the underwater point with a drop shot manned with a Kut-Tail. The rig never made it to the bottom before it got slammed. I didn’t set the hook but the fish was taking drag as I kept the boat positioned with me between my line and my paired partner. I shook the rod and finally the fish let go. I never said a word, simply reeled in and made another cast well away from the area.
I casually looked back to see José sitting on the rear deck chair, fishing off the back and not looking in my direction. He had to have seen something but he didn’t indicate so. There would be a good group of fish holding on the underwater point and I hoped they would stay for a few days.
When my half of the day was over, José took control of the boat and we promptly left the creek and went to the south end of the lake near the blast off point. We started fishing the main points and I noticed quickly that every main point had a boat on it. The European Team had taken us all down to that part of the Lake, basically keeping us out on main lake points, doing a ring-around-the-rosie. We all hopped from point to point. At one point I could see 10 of the 12 boats involved. I’ve gotta give it to them, it was a pretty smooth move on their part. Keep us all “wadded up” together way away from where they intended to fish so we develop a pattern.
Day Two Practice:
My draw partner for day two of practice was José Luis Lopez. José was kinda designated as their no. 1 guy. He had the first half of the day and we again fished the same south end main points as the afternoon before. Once the change in boat control took place, I motioned him to just go up-lake while I checked out the scenery. I had him shut down at some promising looking water and I started fishing my way back and got on a crankbait bite. I had an easy 5-pounder follow the bait and miss it right at the boat. That told me there had to be some really good fish in the area as a 5-pound fish was exceptional for this water.
Once again, I found another good looking underwater point unrevealed by the shore line. I made up my mind that this is where I would have to start on day one as the area was considerably larger than what I found the day before. As Day Two of practice drew to a close, I got José to run back up into the creek I had visited the day before. I got him to shut down about 150 yards from the underwater point and began fishing up to it. As I got within casting distance I fired a cast towards the point. It simply looked as if I was casting parallel to the bank. The drop shot just fell and fell and fell. Nothing . . . I had not reached the point. I reeled in while moving closer and fired back out. I had to be close by now. As the bait fell towards the bottom, WHAM! There he was and he hooked himself . . . great.
I reeled in the fish, fortunately not a really good one. I released it, put my rod down and told José, “Vámonos!” Now I knew there was a group of fish that were hanging near the point, I got bit on both sides of the point and these fish would bite early and late. Tomorrow the US Team would have boat control for the first half of the day. I decided to go up-lake to work the larger area where I saw the 5-pound fish and hoped to get a solid limit early (remember; early is 10:00 start time). I would save these fish for Day Two if possible.