Mars….not for fishing…

I should have never ventured to Erie. Foreign and far from what I know, but worse, my head was states away.

Now before I go any farther, some of what I write will sound like excuses…some like whining…some just plain crazy. None of those are my intent. Today, it is about catharsis. Maybe too personal….so here is the jumping off point if you like.

If you are still here, strap in, put your head back and prepare for liftoff….we are heading to (my) time at Erie.

(starting somewhere in the middle of my Erie – not eerie – adventure)

I received a call from Anthony Shingler on the Monday before leaving that a spot in the KAST Tennessee state championship had rolled to me because Jacob Wood had decided not to fish. He is an excellent young angler who had bested my largest fish; winning the bid for himself, and deserved to attend. In my head I did not (having chased more KBF than our CAKFG trail), and had planned the Erie trip; so I let it roll on down.

I had to make the trip in order to erase a 48th place finish in the opens – trying to stay in the top ten. It seems I have an open curse….no fish on one day or the other; except Beaver/Grand Lake where I finished 11th. All I would need would be a limit two days……..two small limits would have put me around 20ish….but instead I finished….

….wait for it….

…..48th.

All the conversations I had told me to fish in 30+ foot of water. Y’all who know me will understand that I am not there yet. Hell, this time last year I tied on a Senko for the first time, bought my first jig…fished under the water deeper than a spinner bait just out of sight.

Then there are the issues I seem to have at Guntersville; grass. My worst finishes have come at the hands of grass filled water. I grew up fishing creeks and the Cumberland river, not a lot of grass experience.

So I launched my Hobie from the Lagoon Ramp at Presque Isle ( a grass infested body of water ), and headed out into Misery Bay (the real name, and now I see why – also grass, grass, and more grass) where I actually found a couple of largemouth before moving to the shipping channel that heads out of Presque Isle Bay into Lake Erie.

Ok – lakocean – I heard it said, if you cannot see across it and a foreign country is on the other side….it is an ocean. (See Erie map).

Still convinced my head was in it, I pedaled out against the waves and looked around. My phone rang – I looked and put it back in my pocket (get to that in a minute) and headed back into the bay.

I marked fish all along a channel in 24- 30 ft of water; even saw Mark Edwards pull a small largemouth off the ledge. There were other folks marking the same fish, catching some and moving on. I knew this was the place to catch a limit, but I had found them back in the Lagoon too.

I pedaled over toward the city, the ships and the docks. Then I pedaled all the way across the bay into the Presque Isle Marina, marking fish on humps all along the way. Then I fished around the marina, bluegill steadily bumping the wacky rigged Baby Bass Senko. I knew there would be bass among them, there always was.

My phone rang again. It was a call I had been taking for several days….my daughter’s number, Dishrag on FaceTime, then his little Sis (saying Boppa)…as they traveled from Tennessee to Washington (the state). He talked about some place he was seeing, about the “activities”, the sights. I didn’t pay much attention, still trying to pretend I was ok….then he asked if we (Boppa and Bomma) could come over later. I told him that we probably couldn’t come by, how do you explain to a three year old that he doesn’t live 10 miles away any longer?

I had known they were leaving. I had known where they were moving to; just not when, I didn’t want to know. I had no idea their trip would coincide with my trip to Erie.

I pedaled back to the Lagoon Ramp – covering around ten miles – and loaded up.

I knew I would not venture onto the main lake – cause my head wasn’t in it. I had found bass, so I would target them.   This place was everything I struggled with; deep flat water and thick grass – add that to the fact that my heart was breaking knowing that I couldn’t “come over”. I have never felt so far away from ok as I did pulling away from that ramp.

Joy had been telling me my fishing had “lost its soul” lately; that I didn’t seem to be in it. I was, I am…it is just that I have never felt what I do for those two kids. And I have felt as empty as the horizon on Erie since they started packing to go. And now, I was driving back to the hotel to the love of my life – defeated before lines in – missing my family.

That night, Dishrag gave us a FaceTime tour of their new empty house….Sis walked for the first time on camera…..

Then, lines in….no fish….moved out to where I had marked fish to find the water littered with kayaks…moved back into the lagoon….lines out.

Day one – 0 fish. I had caught 4-5 pike and lost a 17-18 inch bass that had hit like a pike, so I did not set the hook well.

On day one I called Joy and told her it was going bad…she told me I had been defeated before I even launched. She knows me, and was right. I told her I wished my kayak had flipped so I had an excuse. She said stop whining….I haven’t.

Day two – My Joy had told me to get it together. My ego laughed at me for not catching a fish…and I finally caught four. Not going into details, but I had learned from the lake and the other competitors; finding something that worked.

But I was never at Erie. I might as well have been on Mars – I had no idea what to do or where to turn. I was not going to make it thinking about the grandbabies, not a state a way, a universe away.

This week I learned what I already knew was inevitable….I had dropped from the top ten. 8-10 fish would have kept me afloat in the top ten race; a goal I set for myself. Now I am sitting in 15th – respectable considering that I only started kayaking two years ago, and tournament fishing less than two years ago….I have learned so much, met so many great people and am part of a great community of kayak anglers….but it still stings a bit knowing that I had it in my grasp.

Mathematically, I have a chance to get back in, so I will be traveling the next month trying…..the competitor in me has no choice. See you guys on the trail!

Author: Mike Cheatham

Me…Mike Cheatham email…mikecheathamfishing@gmail.com something to know……….fished my whole life; now from a kayak….

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