This last two weeks of my life brought back a painful memory - literally painful.
The memory was of a football practice when I was in junior high school. I was playing tight end at the time, and on this one particular play our quarterback threw a pass to me - and I caught it. We didn't pass much, so it was really cool to have the football in my hands. I mean, it felt great. I caught the pass like a pro receiver, and when I cradled the football it looked like I had clear sailing. Nobody was going to catch me.
Nobody, that is, except the linebacker who was running full speed at me from my blind side. So less than two seconds after I caught the pass, right about the time I looked at my clear path downfield, that linebacker put a titanic hit on me. Perfect form, pads and helmet right in my rib cage. KABOOM! I saw stars.
Fishing Can Be Frustrating
Well, I kind of felt that way again the past two weeks. Blindsided and hurting is what I'm trying to say.
We had two huge tournaments during the first two weeks of April. Let me say right off that the second week wasn't anywhere close to being as bad as the first week. The second week, in fact, I actually fished a decent tournament and had a chance to win. The similarity is that both tournaments started really well - but didn't end the way I'd expected.
As much as it hurts to do this, I'll describe what happened two weeks ago at Wheeler Lake.
I went into our ESPN Elite Series event on Wheeler in really good shape. I'd had a couple of decent tournaments, and I was 13th on the Angler-of-the-Year points list - close enough to see first place. It's important to hang close to the top, because at the end of our season the top 12 anglers fish an additional two tournaments. The two extra events give the top 12 extra shots at accumulating enough points to be Angler-of-the-Year.
And at Wheeler, I did nothing but help myself on Day 1. I was in 17th place at the end of the day, I was on a lot of fish, and I was totally confident I was going to move up in the standings.
But here's the reality. In one day - one sorry Friday - I went from 17th to 79th. Seventy-ninth. I actually went from hoping to win outright to missing the cut by 29 spots.
As you might expect, people came up to me afterward and said, "Hey, Boyd. Tough tournament. It happens." And I get that. I've had plenty of bad tournaments - every competitive angler has. But this was different, waaaay different. I definitely hate that I finished 79th. But what I hate even more is that I have no rational explanation why, other than to say I just couldn't catch any fish. They were everywhere - jumping, swimming. I could see them but I couldn't catch them.
I can't remember the last time I had a day so frustrating. Here are some highlights - or maybe I should say "lowlights." I had five sure holes and a lot of other places on Wheeler that I know will give up fish. I went to all of them at one time or another, but I couldn't catch anything. And, as I said, the fish were everywhere except in my boat.
It Was So Bad...
Let me tell you how bad it was. It was early afternoon and I had ONE fish that weighed ONE pound. I'm aggravated, to put it mildly, that I'm no longer fishing to win. I've had to change everything I wanted to do just so I could go after a limit. I figure that if I got a limit of five, no matter how small they were, at least I'd make the cut and live to fish another day. So to catch my limit, I went into the back of a creek I had found. And when I got there, the fish were schooling - breaking the surface. Good, good.
About the time I got there Jason Quinn, a good angler and really good guy, also came into the same general area. And he immediately caught four fish. He already had his limit, and he was just looking to upgrade. But I can see that he's catching them right and left. He trolled over in my direction and said, "Man, they're biting like crazy, but I can't get anything big enough to help me." He asked how I was doing. I told him I had ONE fish. All day.
You could tell by his expression that he absolutely couldn't believe it. So he did something classy. He decided to leave the area just to give me room to catch my limit. On top of that, he offered to let me have the chrome and black Rat-L-Trap he was throwing. I said, "Thanks, but no need. That's exactly what I'm throwing."
Then after he left, I still couldn't catch them.
It got worse, if that's possible. I went into another area where a father and son were fishing near a bank. Not two minutes after I got there, that young boy, who probably was no more than seven years old, caught a four-pounder with a Zebco rod and reel. The kid was dragging a four-inch worm on his little Zebco and he caught a four-pounder. Just about any other day, I'd have been the happiest guy in the world for that young man.
So then I really, really started pressing. And, as most of you know, when things start going bad, if you start pressing things only get worse. You drop rods over the side, your propeller gets snagged, people are packed into every space you try to go. … Well, all of that happened. It was like a bad, bad dream, where there were happy people all around me catching big fish - but every time I cast there's a big, dark cloud around my boat and my line.