Northern Open’s Missed Opportunity

again so much has happened since my last blog its absolutely crazy.
Every day is such a new adventure
for me.

Travelling to so many places all over the country I need to really sit
and write it all down each day but it’s hard to get time. Every single day I’m
faced with challenges and new experiences that I’ve never had before in my

It’s really hard to take it all in, but I love learning as much as I can,
it’s just unreal.

is up and down but no matter how hard the times get, I’m just really thankful
for the opportunities I’ve been given and for every day I’m over here chasing
down my dream.

I’ve been really lucky this year to
have some Aussie company come over through the year, which has been a huge
help. My sister, her partner Andy and my cousin Kris, then Ian Miller (great
mate and my rod sponsor) and recently great mate Jas Wilhelm. Back home I
really loved to hang out with the people close to me and especially go fishing
and hunting with my mates at every opportunity I could. If we weren’t on a trip
we were planning one.

Here I’m doing what I love to do every single day but
haven’t got my mates with me to enjoy the experience. I have grown a strong
friendship with Fred but when Fred and Julie are away it gets pretty lonely and
then when you’re not catching them and you have a bad tournament and things
fall apart it makes it even harder. But nothing a phone call back home doesn’t
fix. It certainly picks me up when I need it!

I’m feeling great about the fishing
side of things and instead of feeling like I need to make it this year and
hoping, I’m more thinking failing is just not an option and I’m not going to quit
till I make it.

No matter what happens in this last
event at Fort Gibson I will work hard to find a way to get back over here next
year and go at them again. The more time I spend over here fishing and learning
these lakes and fish, the more dangerous I’m going to be if or when I make it
to the Elite Series. I hate saying when, but I have to believe it’s going to
happen. I’ve always been positive and it’s helped me in the past. I feel I will
be ready if I make it for next year but if not it won’t be the end of the
world, I’ll be better again in a year.

The second Northern Open on the
Great Lakes out of Detroit was by far the most disappointing tournament since
I’ve been over here. I put everything I had into it as I was sitting in a good
position to make the Elites after my 13th place on the James River.
I worked harder than I ever have at any event.

I’d put weeks of 12-15 hour days
on this place, tracking over 300 miles over the Great Lakes in my
Skeeter/Yamaha from Lake StClair, Lake Huron, Lake Erie and the rivers that
connect them all trying to find what I thought would be the winning fish. Then
the thousands of dollars in fuel food and accommodation on top of that; I had
allot riding on this one. I needed a strong finish even just to pay some costs.
But sometimes Mother Nature throws you a curve ball from nowhere which has now
happened to me more than a few times. It comes with the territory and it’s
going to happen more and more and learning to adjust faster as the weather
changes is a must for me. 

What I had found had the potential
to win the event. I had a knot in my stomach for days just wanting to get it
going and get out there. I won’t go into too much detail with this one as there
is an Elite Event there next year so if I happen to make it, it will be a great
area to start out searching!

What the weather did was almost ruin
my area and make the fish bite like crazy everywhere else. My spot was the only
place that was really affected by the weather as the strong current and the
wind direction made it too hard and I didn’t make the changes to catch them on
the first day with 5 bass for 13lb I was in the hundreds.

The weights were close and I knew
the next day if I could put a big limit together I would make a huge jump in
the standings and my area had the fish to do it, so I went back at them, this
time making the changes to get the right bites. It’s a great feeling when it
happens but then another curve ball.

I changed to a Drop Shot with a
heavy weight to keep my lure off the bottom and away from the sharp zebra
mussels that littered the bottom, but I went with 6lb leader in the hope of
getting more bites and bigger ones in the crystal clear water and first drop I
was on to a 6lb smallmouth. I knew I was on them again and I could make a run
at it. As the fish leapt from the water and made a run and tink my line broke
like thread. It didn’t bother me I knew how many were down there: well it did a
little but I retied and was back down there.

Next drop 4lb plus in the boat, next
drop another 6lb just falls off the hook. Plain bad luck. A few minutes late
another 4lb plus almost to the boat, tink, my line breaks again. With the
strong current, giant smallmouth and razor sharp zebra mussels my 6lb leader
was no match. The mussels were putting tiny nicks in my line and no matter how
easy I went on them there was nothing I could do.

When I changed to heavier leader my
non-boater put 3 good ones in the boat and started to throw 4lb fish back so I
went back to 6lb as all my big bites came on 6lb. The fish were telling me I
needed to use that light leader to get the big bites, but looking back at it
now it made no difference, it was just a coincidence that happened but it was
enough at the time to make me go back to the lighter leader and sure enough I
broke another 2 big ones off at the boat.

I lost over 24lb of smallmouth and
still came in with almost 17lb. That limit would have jumped me into the top 12
and I would be now looking at an Elite Series berth, but that’s fishing it

I was happy with the way I handled
it all. It was enough to make a grown man drop to his knees and cry like a
baby.  I didn’t let it get to me and
never gave up all session till the last cast. There was nothing I could do about
it and it was a huge learning curve on the smallmouth. They will be in trouble
if I ever get back there. A good night’s sleep and it was all in the past and I
was back in the truck on the road and was looking forward to getting back to
Oklahoma to start my road trip with Jas.

Jas Wilhelm flew into Tulsa Oklahoma
and I was there to pick him up. He had a 2 week crash course tour of the
country and he was just blown away by it all, which was really cool. We fished
several different lakes as we made our way across the county to watch Moto GP World
Champ Casey Stoner race at Laguna Seca, California.

Just like these fish did to me, they
truly intrigued Jas and I got the same reaction out of Kris and Ian when I
first took them on the water, they were all basically gob smacked at how much
there is to learn and how much great stuff there is to bring back to Aus.

After 2 weeks of non-stop action of
fishing, hunting, watching Casey race and once again win, Jas dint want to go
home. The fishing was tough as we were in the middle of a heat wave and the
fish weren’t real active but Jas worked hard and on the last afternoon before
he flew out he was rewarded with a 6lb largemouth on the California Delta. It
blew through an inch thick matt of weed and engulfed his Frog and was a fitting
end to a unforgettable trip.

The next day Jas was back on the
plane for Aus and I was making my way back across the country, 4 days drive
away to Lake Cayuga in New York for the final Northern Open. This round made the bad finish at
StClair even worse as anything better than 50th there would have
guaranteed me in the Elites and anything above 30th I would have won
AOY Angler of the Year. But even knowing it was a long shot at making the
Elites through the Northern I made the drive up there.

I had also put a lot of time on this
lake a few months prior but after spending a few days here it was completely
different. Things just seem to change over here more than they do back home.
Big storms in the afternoons rolled in with Tornado Sirens sounding in the
nearby towns; it was an eerie feeling on the water. It didn’t help the nerves
to settle down and fish.

Fred and I worked together and eventually
after a few tough days, Fred keyed me in on a bite that not many of the field
was onto. They were in the thickest weed you have ever seen. If anyone from Aus
saw it you would say there is no way there is any fish living in there. But
underneath it all there a small tunnels that the fish use to move in and out of
and it’s a great feeding spot for when a baitfish tries to swim by.

We were flipping heavy weights with
bluegill imitation baits rigged completely weedless on 65lb braid I use the new
Power Pro Super Slick and it has been awesome. On the first day of the
tournament we came to realize that it was an afternoon bite only, they were
moving out to feed early then holding tight in the weed when the sun got high.
That only gave us a few hours to catch our fish and I was lucky enough to put
my 5th fish in the boat with 5 min to go and had me sitting in 30th after day one.

It is one of my favourite ways of
fishing over here besides frog fishing. You make a short flip in front of the
boat let it slide down through the weed give it a small twitch then crank it in
as fast as you can and flip it back to another spot and after 100 flips of
nothing all of a sudden you will get a solid tick on your line and you need
lightning fast reflexes to set the hook as hard as you can and try and crank
them out of there with all you have. It gets my blood pumping just thinking
about it.

Some people say largemouth bass
don’t fight but a lot of it is because you don’t really let them as they are
always in the tightest cover and you need heavy gear to get them out, that’s
another discussion that I’ll get into detail another time.

The next morning we were sure not to
make the same mistake and with some cloud cover coming in and the weather
turning muggy we knew there was a potential frog bite early. The work I had put
in a few months earlier paid off as I went to an area I found some Frog-eating
fish in months prior. I came out of there with 4 fish; 2 big ones and 2 average
and it was about the time to go flipping where I put another 2 upgrades in the
boat. I was on my way to a huge limit.

I had one small one to get rid of
but just could not do it. I knew I was going to make a jump in the leader board
and be close to making the 12 cut and once again I found myself falling short
by 10oz.

Still being so close I was happy
with the finish against a mixed field of veteran Elite anglers that I have
looked up to since a kid and local Cayuga Pros. Fred knew I had a great day on
the second day when I showed him the bruised lashings down the side of my left
rib cage where I use the butt of the rod as leverage to set the hook and fight
them in, its seriously addicting.

When you see the over sized hook
sets that a lot of the guys do over here it has nothing to do with putting on a
show like people think, it’s absolute precision from their line size and type
to the type of hook and hook diameter, the action of the rod to the cover they
are fighting the fish in to get the best penetration of the hook through the
plastic and into the jaw past the barb without breaking your line and then
getting the fish out. They are consummate professionals.

After the final Open I spent a few
days in New York at some other close lakes, had a night in Buffalo and called
in and saw Casey and Adri when I passed through Indianapolis. Casey could not
walk and had his leg up on pillows after his big crash in Qualifying. His ankle
was 2 times the size it should be and was black and blue – he basically did
everything but break it. For him to get back on that bike the next day and race
and then almost take a podium finish is ridicules and shows just how much guts
he has and determination to win every race even knowing he is retiring at the
end of the year. I couldn’t believe he still raced, you won’t see me
complaining about a sore anything after a long day’s fishing anymore. I’ll just
suck it up!

For now I’m writing this from my
cheap motel room in Wagoner Oklahoma a few minutes’ drive from the Fort Gibson
boat ramp, I have 10 days on the lake to find enough fish to get me a top 20
finish. It’s a tough lake and I haven’t found a great deal yet but I have plenty
of time.

Congrats to Dan Clancy for his ABT
BASS AOY. I keep a close eye on it always to see who is coming up the ranks.
Dan’s a top guy and a great fisherman and the accolade is well deserved.

That’s it for me. Another early
start in the morning. Will I be fishing against the top hundred Bass Anglers in
the world next year? We are a few weeks from finding out!

Until then Fish Hard!