By: Lance Baker, Bass Pro Shops Altoona Pro Staff
It has been a little while, with Kary's and my busy schedule, since I've had time to sit down and update everyone on our season! The summer is starting off normal with a lot of driving and adapting to different areas...the high water and endless rain has shown us that preparation and studying is the only way to survive this game we all play.
Kary and I set off for our second Bass World Sports tournament of the year on May 23 for what would end up as one of our toughest tournaments to date. We had three solid days to put our game plan together and knew that every minute had to count due to the stiff competition and absolutely terrible water conditions. We spent time on two different pools and probably put in an easy 100+ boat miles searching for what we thought it would take to put us towards the top of the leader board on Sunday the 26. We managed to find a very small area with a good number of quality fish that were guarding fry and seemed aggressive enough to give us five bites to succeed. The only problem was...these fish were a LONG ways from take off and we had a difficult decision to make. If we made the decision to go after them we would have to dedicate our entire day to this one area and make a risky move of making it in AND out of the lock on time.
Sunday 5:30 a.m., 27 teams took off in an effort to conquer the tough conditions. It was raining and absolutely miserable! We headed towards the lock with everything my boat had and just about a mile before the doors we passed an early morning barge heading that way as well. I pulled in and thought, "Man we made it." But, I was very wrong.
The lockmaster informed us that the barge was on its final approach and we would have to wait until they were done locking before any of us could go through. MY HEART SANK & PANIC SET IN. We turned around and headed out watching a big group of the field coming to the same problem. I had made a huge mistake of not scanning the river the night before to see where barges were located before we trailered. I honestly was in a panic………this is where FAITH AND TRUST in your partner comes in. Kary looked at me and said, “Lance, I promise, buddy, if you will just stay focused, we will catch 'em.” We knew we had at least two hours of delay before we could get to where we needed to be. It seemed like an eternity, until we finally got back in and through the lock and made our LONG run to our fish. We finally arrived and had just a few hours time to put five in the boat, head back to the lock, make it through, and get back to weigh in.
Now here is where the fun begins. :) In the process of preparing the night before, I had filled my boat with ¾ of a tank and did the approximate math on mileage to make it there and back and not be too heavy; to make sure we could succeed in outrunning what part of the field we needed to.
BIG MISTAKE! What I didn’t plan for was the extra running around waiting on the barge to get through and the gas that was burned at that time. On our way back with about 20 minutes to spare it happened.
One mile from the ramp the boat said she didn’t wanna let her horses sing anymore! OMG, I JUST RAN OUT OF GAS! In shear disbelief, we quickly went to work. Kary jumped on the trolling motor and I started flagging down any of our competitors to PLEASE help us in any way possible. We ended up having a team stop, sacrifice their last few fishing minutes of the day, load our limit in their spare side of the livewell and high-tail me back in to weigh our five fish on time and try and save any points that we could. (Yes, you can do that if it happens to you...just make sure you check the rules and with the tournament director.)
Because of that team, Kary and I managed to weigh in just shy of 11lbs and finish 13th to save points for the Angler of the Year race. Folks, there are a few lessons to be learned from this..,here are my thoughts:
1. Always fill up your boat no matter what…speed doesn’t catch fish, trust me on that one.
2. Your fishing partner is your backbone for everything from catching fish to helping you stay calm and focused in all situations….take time to make sure they know how much you appreciate them.
3. Never, and I mean NEVER, count on making it through the locks without ALWAYS having a backup plan.
And last, but certainly not least,
If you ever have the chance to stop and help a fellow angler/competitor out, or have one help you, remember the sacrifice they made that day.
TRUE SPORTSMANSHIP is something that is earned not given.
Kary and I would like to say "Thank You" again to Team 19 DAVID GIESE & SCOTT ANDERSON and Glen Sunken and Keith Kulow. You, my friends, are what we all strive to be - True Sportsmen. Thank you so much and we will always be in debt to ya’ll!
On a final note, I want to take a minute and wish ALL fathers out there a Happy Father’s Day! We are truly blessed to have the opportunity to pass on our traditions.
Thank you, Dad, for always letting me tag along - my little girl is learning what you took time to teach me!