It’s been a few months since my last blog – I was hoping to keep
everyone up to date every few weeks but these last few months since
flying back has been nothing short of hectic.
I’ve basically been fishing or driving almost every day, it’s been
great. If you look at some of my results you would think I’m not in the
game, and disappointed wouldn’t explain how I feel about most of them.
Besides doing it tough tournament wise, this is by far the greatest
experience of my life and after the last eight months of learning here
I can easily say I’m a much better fisherman now than I was when I left
Australia. I’m handling the pressure better, handling defeat, my
casting is better and I’m refining techniques and I’m learning more
My knowledge has widened far from what I could have ever imagined and most of all my spirit and determination is stronger than ever! Hanging with BASS Elite Pro Fred Roumbanis has certainly been a huge factor in speeding up everything I needed to learn, and taking on a better attitude to my fishing over here. I feel like I have family in the U.S now and I just really enjoy every day I’m here. This is what I want to do and after the last few tournaments I know I can do it!
I’m going to fill you in on how the last three major tournaments have gone for me and how close I’ve been to making it happen. After the second tournament (the U.S Open) is when I realized that flying home and back every three months can’t happen next year – it’s too much – I need a Visa!
June 30th I flew back to Australia had four days home catching up with friends and family and was back on a plane flying in to LA, then Dallas, then Tulsa – just over 18 hours on a plane.
Next day I was packed and driving 2 days to Richmond, Virginia on the Far East coast to fish my first BASS Open as a Pro on the James River. I was super pumped.
After five days pre fish, some monster days on the water and not a lot of sleep I knew I had found possibly the biggest bass in the river. I just needed things to swing my way, I felt great.
To put things in perspective the James is over 160 klm long and is a muddy tidal river, with a maze of arms coming off the main river, knowing how to run the river was hard enough. The fish I had found in pre fish were a wild, 100 kilometre run from the start. I had to cross two foot deep stump fields to gain short cuts just so I could make it back on one tank of fuel.
Friday morning and the tournament starts. I’m going down the river as fast as my Skeeter/Yamaha will go, running flats and short cuts passing boats for over an hour. It was a rush.
I pull up on my first spot – a big cypress tree in 16 feet of water I had found on my Humminbird Side Scan. I couldn’t believe no one was there. In pre fish I caught a 5 pounder off it and the Humminbird showed allot more of them hanging with it. I had to wait a while for the tide to change and water to run clear for my small window to land a few giants from the tree.
The fishing was tough – if you had five bites and landed them with some size it would put you up there – I had to capitalize on every opportunity.
The water clears off I cast in and drag a jig over the lay down. Bang! I get the bite, I take a breath, reel down and set the hook.
It’s huge – a 5 ½ to 6 pounder. My stomach knots up and then I kind of smiled. I was doing it. I was in a different country, fishing a river I’ve never seen before and bigger than I’ve ever fished and for a species I’ve not long fished for against the largest and toughest field I’ve competed against. And I’ve found possibly the winning fish. It was an insane feeling!
I work the giant up to the net. It comes to the top and I realize my Non Boater is still trying to fish and net my bass at the same time. The giant goes in the net and before he can lift the weight of it all with one hand it jumps out of the net shakes the lure and swims away.
What I had done to get to that point most people would call crazy and then for that to happen, it was hard to shake for the rest of the day. I know I can’t let that sort of thing get to me, as it will happen again and you have to learn to recover from it, but this one set me up to have a bad tournament.
I had over 20 strikes on my back up plan – burning a speed worm over the tops of the lily pads and I landed two of them. After a disappointing two days I was packing the truck and boat and ready for a four day drive from one side of the country to the other to fish the US Open in Vegas.
When I arrived I had 3 days pre fish then into the tournament. By that stage I was in no state to fish at my best, the flying and driving, the huge days on the water in over 40 degree heat and not enough sleep had taken its toll and a bad result was what came of it all.
At the one tournament I really thought I could do well at, I found some good fish spinnerbaiting points and backs of bays, but didn’t refine it enough and never fished it during the tournament. Then I found out the winner (Aaron Martens) caught most of his fish on spinnerbaits in similar areas. I just had to put it down to being to worn out and just a few more lessons learned.
After that Jess flew in and I had a few well needed weeks off to get refreshed and recover, we had an awesome time and did the all the tourist stuff throughout California. We had a ball.
We also got invited up to watch Casey Stoner race at Laguna Seca.
Casey has been a supporter of mine ever since I told him my thoughts of coming over here to fish. Casey won his race and it was one of the coolest things Jess and I had both ever done. To be there to see him win and be at the top of his sport racing against the best in the world was by far one of the most uplifting things I’d ever seen. My determination and my competitive hunger was back where it started.
The day after his race we went fishing on a private lake that was lined up by one of Casey’s good US Friends. We were a bit uncertain to how it would be but after half a day on the water we had caught over a 100 bass. These fish hadn’t seen many lures. We both got our new PB and had record fish trying to eat smaller Bass off our lines. It was awesome – one of the best day’s fishing we’ve had and I’d got a rare opportunity to catch a lot of bass on almost any technique I wanted to.
It was a huge step forward in my learning curve.
Driving back from the lake, Casey saw the toll the long drives across country had taken on my truck – it needed and lot of money spent on it which I wasn’t in the situation to do.
The next day he gave me a sponsorship proposal for a new Ford F250 truck while I’m here in the States. I’ve only ever dreamt of having a truck like this one – it’s the ultimate tow vehicle and it’s taken the worry of breaking down in the middle of nowhere off my mind.
To have this kind of support just blows me away, I really just don’t know what to say, the support from Casey and everyone back home in Australia is what keeps me going when it’s been tough.
It’s hard to really show how much I appreciate everything and saying ‘thank you’ sometimes just doesn’t seem enough. I hope I can make Australia proud and one day compete against the best.
After an awesome few weeks with Jess she had to unwillingly fly home and once again I was flying solo, heading out to Oklahoma to hook up with Fred and head to the second BASS Open on Lake Erie.
This one had me a little worried. The stories of 10 foot waves and motors breaking off the backs of boats and people being rescued had me thinking it was going to be an interesting one. They call it the inland sea. From the ramp you can’t see land looking across the lake.
The Canadian border runs through the middle of the lake, so our first day on the water we had to run across to a small island where we could buy a Canadian fishing licence and get our passports stamped.
Fred and I worked together during the pre fish trying to cover ground and find the high spots where small reefs were and this is where you would find the big schools of smallmouth bass.
After five days pre-fish once, again we were fairly confident we had found the fish to put us in contention to possibly win. I really felt good about this one, I knew I could get them good, considering the weather held out.
The tournament day starts and the wind is blowing hard and there was talk of possibly cancelling the day, but the tournament director said it’s a go and soon enough I was about to head out into the roughest water I’d seen and I’m in a bass boat. Unfortunately for me my best reef was about the furthest point away on the Canadian side it was usually about a 45 minute run flat out.
Heading out the waves were crazy and we were copping a wave over the side every few minute no matter which way I tried to run and after a hour and a half I still wasn’t there and was about to be exposed to the worst of it.
When I hit the unprotected open water it was plain scary and I considered turning around, but my competitive drive wouldn’t let me. I punched on. I knew if I made the run it would pay off and after nearly two hours I was at my first reef with not another boat in sight.
The waves were consistent 5 to 6 footers with a few 8 footers thrown in there. I would basically crawl to the front deck grab, a rod sit up on my knees and start to fish, constantly copping waves over the side.
I actually laughed at one stage at how insane it was and I felt sorry for my non boater, I think he nearly fell over when I met him and said I was from Australia and we were heading to Canada the next day. But we got out there safe, my Skeeter/Yamaha handled it well considering I’d never driven in that sort of water before.
I had two drift socks out to slow the boat’s drift, we were on one of the best spots, but once again the conditions had changed the position of the fish and pushed them to the sides of the reef and it took me too long to realize this and adjust.
The guys that did well had longer shafts on there electric motors which allowed them to hold position in the waves over the schools of bass. I was drifting which only had me over the fish for a short time.
The positive side to this tournament was the few main reefs that I had found were where the winner and most of the top ten guys were fishing.
Once again I had found the winning fish it was that one small adjustment that cost me. I hooked enough fish to be right up there but most of them jumped off. I needed to be hooking a lot more to put five in the boat as smallmouth bass are renowned for jumping off.
I came away from this one pretty disappointed, knowing how close I was to making something happen, but it was a confidence builder and another big step in my learning curve. I know if I get the time here and keep at them, one day it will swing my way and I’ll make the right decision and adjustment and it’ll happen.
Fred has said that I have just had bad luck and am not doing anything wrong, he has said a few times that he has noticed I always fish to win. I never fish for the easy ones, which often sees you either at the top or at the bottom. That’s how I’ve always fished in Australia, so I think I need to keep fishing that way.
Now I’m back in Oklahoma fishing a few local lakes with Fred refining a few techniques before we head up to New York to fish my last two tournaments for the year. The next two lakes are big, clear smallmouth lakes. One is a FLW Open at Lake Champlain and the other the last Northern BASS Open at Lake Oneida. I will let you know how each of them goes as they happen so until then.