I tell you what folks, it’s been one hell of a season so far. I’ve invested thousands of dollars and have yet to make a cut. After some hard luck in the first two tournaments of the season I was looking for redemption at Boomtown. What I found was more hard luck, but instead of leaving with my tail tucked between my legs, I left with a great deal of confidence and a renewed determination to win.
The “All In” Plan that Wasn’t Meant to Be
With our launch location set at Bayou Segnette State Park, we had a lot of options, and just about all of them called for a fairly long run. From Bayou Segnette you can run to Houma, Lafitte, Golden Meadow, or Venice. I practiced one day in Lafitte and found some small fish but I just didn’t like what I was seeing. I decided to run to Delacroix, which by some anglers’ estimates would be an hour and a half to two hours from the launch. No sir buddy. It was close to three hours.
On the final day of practice I made the run all the way from Bayou Segnette to Delacroix. The fish were there, they were the right size, and there were plenty of them. I knew it was a risk as I wouldn’t have much time to fish but there were so many fish that I didn’t think I would need a lot of time. I was feeling really good about my plan but I knew it would take flawless execution.
One critical part of making the long run to Delacroix was getting through a swing bridge and a set of locks in Empire that accesses the Mississippi River. In practice I was able to stop in Empire, get fuel, contact the locks, and get to the river all in about 30 minutes. That’s not too bad. Chris Rosengarten and Ronnie Pitts would be making the run as well so if we timed it right we could all get through at one time without having to make anyone wait.
Chris was the first one to hit a road block, and not just in a figurative way. While running behind me we cut through a small bay and I narrowly missed a rock pile that was just barely exposed above the surface of the water. I stopped and tried to wave Chris away from the rocks but I was too late. As he slowed down his boat slammed the rocks and was almost completely out of the water.
I turned around and we tied a rope between our boats. It took all 300 horses from my Yamaha to drag his brand new boat off of the rocks. It was a painful experience for me, let alone Chris.
Day 1; Time to Go for Broke
The morning of day one as I went past the check out dock I should have known that my luck was beginning to sour. My steering was starting to go out and I slammed against the dock as I was checking out. I stopped and contemplated my options before deciding… screw it… let’s go.
I ran at 55 miles per hour all the way to Adams Bay which isn’t a very friendly place to cross if you’re accustomed to things like navigational aids. It’s a sea of well heads and poles that mark oyster beds. Add in the fog and rain that was setting in and what you get is a nerve racking, white knuckle drive before you even reach the half way point in Empire.
Arriving in Empire, Chris, Ronnie, and I put all of our fuel on the same bill to save time and called the locks to let us through. While waiting for the swing bridge to open I noticed that the locks were opening, but not the bridge. I called the lock operator again and asked if she was going to open the bridge. “The bridge is broken, we can’t open it.” “You’re kidding.” No sir, I’m not kidding”.
I gave Chris and Ronnie the news. They were still on track as they were able to pass under the bridge. Being in my tower boat, I had no option but to turn around.
I thought through my options as I idled back in the direction I came from while watching Chris and Ronnie enter the locks over my shoulder. I could fish around Empire but the water looked awful. I could run down to Venice but the river was up and I had never been there before. I could go fish where I practiced but that was a sure bet to waste my time. I decided to run to an area south of where I had practiced in Lafitte and hope for the best.
Twenty minutes after I left Empire I ran into a nasty thunderstorm. Lightning was popping every few seconds and I decided that since I was already behind and had no real plan that it wasn’t worth it to try to run through the storm. Back to Empire. I tied up at the marina that I had just left and let the storm pass. Once the lightning was gone I got back in my boat and pulled my cell phone out of the glove box to find it soaking wet. I guess it wouldn’t be a tournament if I didn’t tear something up.
Finally I was back on my way to go find some fish. An hour later I arrived at some place I hadn’t fished before. I still have no idea what the name of the area is. I slowed down, saw some bait along one bank, and decided to fish.
Right off the bat, there they were. I lost the first two fish. They looked to be 5 to 6 pounders and they came off of the same mud flat. That entire school was spooky after that episode and I moved further back into another pond. Dink, dink, dink, 6 pounder, dink. At least I had 5 fish. Hell, I’ve never been so proud of 5 fish in my life. I didn’t even get started until 10:30, 4 hours after blast off. I had time to cull out one dink and started to see some better fish as I ran out of time.
I knew it wouldn’t get me in the cut, but I was hoping I had enough to make day 2 more than just an exhibition. At weigh in I found myself about 6 to 7 pounds out of the top 10, which isn’t good, but at least it gave me a chance.
On day two I went back to spot AFF (Any Five Fish) and got on the same school that I found the day before. They were crawling around and busting bait and my hopes began to rise. After two blind casts while making my way to the school I spotted a solo fish cruising towards me. Cast. Eat. 5 pounder in the livewell.
I continued to slowly make my way to the school that was further down the flat. What I didn’t know was that there was another school closer to me that was laid up and not giving me the slightest clue that they were there. I busted the closer school which sent the other school into chaos. That flat was toast but I still had the whole area in the back where I had found the bigger fish the day before.
Once I made it to the prime area I realized that the water level was down quite a bit from the day before. I couldn’t tell if the water was rising again, or if it was going to continue to fall. I had to be very careful about where I went and I took mental notes of where the water level was so I would know if I needed to bail. I was sure envious of the guys running the catamaran tower boats that can get out of almost anything.
The day before I also had the advantage of having some sun light. Every time the sun would come out the fish would go ballistic and I would see several that I could go after. This day, however, was solid cloud cover and the fish were just hunkered down. I went for a couple of hours without a bite. The few occasions that I did see fish, they were less than interested in what I had to offer.
I blind casted the spoon, clacked the cork, and covered every inch of water that I could. The one bit of good news was that the water was rising. Around lunch time the sun decided to peek out and just like the day before, the fish started to come out and put on a show. Bam! Fish 2, Fish 3. Then I caught a 3 pounder that was tongue hooked and I didn’t think he would survive in the livewell. I decided to let him go so I wouldn’t get stuck with a dead 3 pounder and a .75 pound penatly for a net of 2.25 pounds.
Then the sun went away and the fish went back to sleep. I was able to see a few more fish but I couldn’t get them to eat for anything. Finally I saw a pair of fish and I decided to just drop the spoon in their face. That would be the last fish I would catch for the Battle at Boomtown. The wind picked up and I didn’t see another fish. I guess I could regret throwing back the three pounder but it wouldn’t have got me into the cut.
After all of that I guess I could feel sorry for myself, but I’m actually glad that it happened the way it did. I got to leave knowing that even in the toughest conditions I can give myself a chance. As long as I’m doing that it’s only a matter of time before things go my way. No one is going to win every tournament. It doesn’t matter if you’re a local that is fishing the area for the millionth time and you know exactly where the fish are right down the bayou from your uncle Boudreaux’s houseboat, or if you’re a Georgia boy seeing these places for the first time. If you give yourself the opportunity to get the right fish, it will happen at some point. I feel like my time is coming. I’m learning something new every time and when we go to these places again I won’t have to start from scratch.
Aside from that, it was just a great event. Frabill, Find Me Spot, Frogg Toggs, Chek-it Stick, Yamaha, and Power Pole all provided great support and gear for us. Boomtown Casino and Hotel were very gracious with our accommodations as well.
In just a few short weeks we’ll be going back to Gulfport and I’m already getting excited. I can’t wait to see if I can pull it off now that I’ll have the chance to fish some areas I’ve already been to.
Congratulations to Erik Rue for dealing with the elements and notching a win at Boomtown. One thing I love about fishing these tournaments is being able to hang out with other anglers. Most of us are out in the parking lot late at night either fixing our own gear or helping someone else fix theirs. I always look forward to hanging out with everyone and hearing the stories from the water that day. I can say that it makes it easy to be genuinely happy for someone when they win, even when you want it so bad yourself.
Stay tuned and tight lines!