recap Ohio….and the Big Butter Man…

The reality of trying to maintain a full time job and chase tournaments is far from the romantic version that plays in my head during meetings…and not the version I tell most people who ask.  I mean how do you turn working long hours as a manufacturing engineer, then driving anywhere from one to thirteen hours (one way) every weekend into a good idea that can be explained to anyone?  I even ask myself if it is just a mid life crisis that has consumed me; left me incapable of rational thought or normalcy?  Then on top of that, I spend what little free time I have – time I should be sleeping – on this Macbook writing about it all; trying with all my soul to turn this into a living knowing the odds are against a soon to be 57 year old with a bad back and possibly worse heart.

Just last weekend I left work late in the afternoon, drove home, loaded up my Tennessee Trailer that always holds my Hobie PA14 in my two and a half car garage that I cannot walk through for the kayaks, fishing gear, camping gear, Halloween decorations (the only real holiday)…the boat that has only been out of the garage twice – once to wash it, once to replace the water heater – in the last two years.  Back on track…loaded up the kayak and drove just shy of nine hours to the KBF East/West Harbor event with Joy (got there after midnight), slept in a Wal-Mart parking lot about twenty minutes outside the boundaries for three hours; watched her sleep for a while wondering what she thinks about my insanity, wondering if she regrets riding up with me and sleeping in the parking lot…then rolled up to a launch, blind, and pushed the kayak off the trailer.  I fished the entire day, losing a limit of good fish…caught some smaller fish…and one 18 inch largemouth (my only measurable keeper).  Then I loaded up the kayak, drove to check-in…..and in spite of the sucky finish….I talked and laughed with fellow anglers (friends and extended family) as if I had finished in the top ten.

It was an incredible event hosted by the MI-OH Kayak Anglers and the Buckeye Kayak Fishing Trail; an event that was above average.  With the extra sponsorship and prizes provided by Dakota Lithium, I was more than impressed…but it was more about seeing Tim Issacs back on the water, talking with Matt Ball and meeting his wife, reminiscing with Russell Johnson and Casey Reed about the perfect day we spent on lake 14 at Bienville, watching the guys who figured it out and learning how they did it……talking about the New River with Mark Edwards and silently wishing it had not been on the same day so I could have gone to that event….laughing with Jim Strunk about how bad the day sucked for me…

Then Joy and I drove part of the way home (she had to drive a bit) and stopped to see the sight of Big Butter Jesus.  I hope I don’t offend anyone, I promise that is not my intent, but Joy had told me about the Big Butter Jesus song….and though it isn’t the original Big Butter Jesus, I couldn’t resist.  It is part of what we do when we travel to tournaments, stop at odd things or places (or drive 7 more hours to Niagra Falls)….and it was a bit weird as I stood on the grounds and looked up at the EXTREMELY large statue of Jesus with that silly song in my head as a sermon played over the sound of the fountains.

We made it home Saturday night, after midnight, and I finally slept good.

I woke Sunday, having stunk up Ohio, exhausted….and I still smiled and decided that I will be going to the FLW tournament.  I had just had close to my worst performance since stepping in a kayak (top five worst!) and I was still so freaking happy that I had gone…that there are more coming…

I just read what I had typed and am thinking that I should look up the number to some therapist in case I am lost in a crisis; in case I have stepped over the edge, I mean it isn’t like I…well…like…where was I….

… what lures should I carry to Arkansas, how do I make sure I finish well enough locally to make the Tennessee State Championship, LaCrosse in October, where is the next Hobie BOS…what can I do to get more time off from work…when does the new Hobie 360 come out!


So there is no way to make sense of it….unless you are one of those who drove that far or will be driving that far soon.  There is no way to paint a pretty picture that will sell anyone who doesn’t have the addiction on the idea that they should join up and chase the tournaments with us.  So I ain’t even gonna try to make sense of it.  I only know one thing to do….look for the next event; find the next foamhenge, big ball of twine or Wal-Mart parking lot…

Got a brand new plan….

How do you decide where to launch for tournaments when your pre-fishing has revealed nothing about where the fish are located?

You are on Kentucky Lake, the water is 87-90 degrees (in the shade), you fished a local CAKFG tournament the week before with mediocre results…they have opened up Barkley, but you haven’t fished your bestest most favoritest spots since February or March…the guys who dominated the CAKFG were in an area you never fished, but you know exactly where they are; but that would be wrong to take a guys spot when you know he always fishes there…..wouldn’t it?  You call some friends and they tell you that maybe fish will be in a certain spot, but that again is another spot you have never fished….what to do….

It is Thursday before the tournament and you still haven’t signed up and you are finding hundreds of excuses why you should just stay home; it is going to be super hot, super humid, super sunny….super silly to try that escape route, because you know you are going anyway….then you sign up.  Scouring Hummingbird maps, Navionics and your memory is not shedding any light – and no one is finding fish on the legendary ledges of Kentucky Lake anyway – plus, you have to work all week, so no time is left….

Well, not sure what everyone else does, but I signed up on Friday.  Then I loaded up my kayak when I made it home from work.  Then I ate, rigged up a rod or two with random “I have no clue where I am going or what to fish with” stuff; Rapala Skitterpop, Gary Yamamoto Senko, Mann’s Classic Spinnerbait, small Charlie Brewer swimbait, a Rapala squarebill craw pattern crankbait, a Texas rigged (nothing on it) setup and a Heddon Spook Jr…when in doubt, always have extra top water tied on is my theory.  Then I watched some TV with my Joy….and dozed off about midnight.

Woke up at two, still with no clue or no idea what to do…pulled out a sheet of paper and wrote down my favorite Barkley spot (Yellow Creek), a maybe spot (secret now), another maybe spot (Standing Rock) and the spot where I was mediocre (Byrd Bay)….tore them apart, folded them in half and chose out of a hat.  I didn’t like the first draw because I had never fished it, so I said the first place I drew out more than one was the choice.  It ended up as the first place I drew out anyway….so I drove out of the driveway toward Kentucky Lake.

About the third cast, lost a 19-20 inch (had changed to a whopper plopper while pedaling to the spot in my Hobie) on a Whopper Plopper.  Then caught about 4 more from the same spot.

Then they stopped biting.

Switched to the Charlie Brewer, caught an 18+ and a 19.5….and several more.

Moved to another spot at 10 am.

Pedaled across a bay and decided that I was done about 12:45 because the oppressive heat had beaten me to submission and I was certain that death was imminent.

Loaded up.

Drove to Paris.

Ended up third in the KBF Pro Division and 10th in the Trail.


Sitting here writing names on a sheet of paper for the next three tournaments.

Skipping the map study; it really hasn’t paid off this year.

Going to try what worked.


Also, I received a lesson from young Cortland Atkins that I plan to deploy from this point forward. His dad Jeff had left this on my desk last week (yes, I used it during the Kentucky Lake event).  It seems that he had caught a fish while they were out, and then proceeded to give lessons.

I am too hard headed and stubborn to listen most days…and I am usually not one to steal others ideas, but since I am giving credit it doesn’t feel like theft….and it is one of the problems I have been having…getting back to basics….

Since I am certain he wouldn’t mind if you used his knowledge (and out of the mouth of babes comes wisdom – well, as it is said today anyway, not the true biblical quote), I am going to share his roadmap to success.