I haven’t been to Mexico since June, and I’m starting to feel a little bit itchy over the whole deal. I miss the fishing, the food, the people and the weather. I had one day available to fish in the past week and it was this Saturday, when the mercury didn’t rise above 31 degrees, so I elected to stay home.
Some years the tour level offseason seems unbearably long, but this time around it has been mercifully short, largely due to the fact that we’ve had an unprecedented amount of tournament news over the past couple of months. It wasn’t on-the-water news, but it kept us tuned to the internet nonetheless.
I’ve now watched four episodes of Mike Iaconelli’s “Fish My City” – filmed in Taipei, London, Austin and NYC – on NatGeo Wild. Despite my obvious obsession with the sport, I’m not a huge consumer of fishing television. There are very few shows out there that can hold my attention for even 30 minutes, let alone an hour or two. I have lots of them set to record on my DVR and after they pile up the vast majority end up getting deleted, usually without watching more than two or three minutes of the actual show, if any at all.
I was in Idaho last weekend on bass business, which still seems a bit odd because although they have exceptional fishing for both largemouths and smallmouths – it consistently takes over 20 pounds to win local tournaments – few of the locals seem to care about America’s most-chased freshwater gamefish.
I spent 48 hours in Idaho over the weekend, and except for hard-won breaks to catch a little sleep nearly all of that time was spent in meetings or in a vehicle driving to meetings. On Saturday, though, we had a 90 minute break while El Jefe dealt with some family matters. One member of our group had to go to the store, and I’d heard there was a tackle shop in town, so I asked if I lobbied to be dropped off on the way.
The one problem with the overwhelming catch and release ethic in bass fishing is that we don’t always know exactly what the fish we catch have been eating. Of course we occasionally find a shad tail sticking out of the throat of a freshly-caught largemouth, and many of us have found crawfish or small, partially-digested bluegills in our livewells, but even when one forage is dominant, it’s not always what they’re chewing on.
In 2001, just after OMC (then-manufacturer of Johnson and Evinrude outboards) went belly-up, I was scheduled to spend a tournament practice day with Missouri pro Chad Brauer. As we trolling-motored away from the Jolly Roger Marina on the upper end of stumpy Toledo Bend, his father Denny yelled out, “Try not to break anything.”
Over the past dozen years my writing has opened doors that enabled me to experience all sorts of incredible fishing trips. I’ve fished for peacock bass in the Amazon (twice, with a third trip on the schedule), tigerfish on Africa’s Lower Zambezi River, redfish in Venice and cutthroat trout in Montana. I’ve spent three days practicing with KVD on the California Delta and multiple days on St. Clair with a two-time PMTT Champion. I’ve taken off my shoes to fish in AMart’s boat on a private lake in Georgia, and I was there to see Rick Clunn’s most recent victory at the St. Johns. Last year I made a trip to East Texas where I got to fish with four different Classic qualifiers (Keith Combs, Clark Reehm, Albert Collins and Lonnie Stanley) on three exceptional lakes – when two great days on Rayburn are the least productive days of the five, you can call it a trip of a lifetime.