Back home from the KBF/FLW event on Lake Oauchita….working on a formal recap, but this is my personal “I always dreamed of being here, there goes Hank Parker, this was AWESOME (except for only finishing 24th – but it was out of 72 anglers)” post. To be honest, I don’t want to spend time talking about the fishing; though it is a beautiful lake, it was tough….I would rather just talk about the experience…from my viewpoint…from the perspective of a guy who believes in the kayak community, that this community does exist, and is real and full of great folks who care about each other; that KBF, Hobie and the hundreds of local kayak groups are all a part of…one family with a passion for being in plastic boats (I always hear Scott Beutjer’s voice when I say or type plastic boats!) – fishing, paddling, pedaling, motoring or just floating.
Let me get this out of the way first….
I made the biggest fan errors of my life at one of the biggest events of my life! The backstory…my favorite bait for bass fishing (that isn’t a top water bait) is the spinner bait. Not just any spinner bait…the Mann’s Classic spinnerbait marketed with Hank Parker’s name on it back in the day. There was a show I watched that showed Hank talking about the St. James River, and his technique, that had me buy one…and keeps me buying them (when I can find them!) when I lose ‘em….and got me 7th in the 2018 KBF National Championship…
…and here he was, walking past me while I was not only attending, but being a part of an FLW event (a dream!)…and I chased him like some crazed stalker, introduced myself…talked about his time in Hobie’s….then said thank you for the time and walked away…without a picture!!!! I had finally met one of the biggest influencers of my fishing, in my (limited) success as an angler…and I didn’t take a picture, didn’t even ask! I had 2000 dollars or more in cameras and lenses hanging around my body, a cell phone….and not a picture!!!! Fail! I did capture a pic (or fifty) of him on stage.
So…back to the KBF/FLW event….we made it to Arkansas barely in time for the dinner with DeeZee, YakAttack and the folks from FLW. Joy and I had just met Arlie Minton’s wife Crystal (I already knew Arlie), Darrell Cornelius and his wife Tanya, Jim Davis (fellow Tennessee dude whom I also knew), George Nemeth….and we talked as if we were life-long friends. While none of us were strangers…we were all already Facebook kinda friends, not all real friends, the “I know you? I think we are friends on Facebook” who share a common interest friends….I sat there thinking this is the kind of folks that kayak tournament fishing attracts. Good folks who enjoy sharing time with fellow humans, and while kayaking broke the ice, it was not long before we discussed occupations and families. Joking and laughing with and about each other, we formed new bonds (now real friends as far as I am concerned!) that will be among my most cherished memories when I cannot pedal out any longer.
During the line to get our food, you could hear people talking and laughing…we were about to fish for a lot of money (a lot of recognition), but you didn’t hear any of that in the conversations. There was a bit of pre-fishing talk, but for the most part it was old and new friends enjoying each other…strengthening the connections that pull this community together and make it strong.
The days I spent on the water, the area I chose was shared with George Nemeth. We talked about what was and wasn’t working for us, where we were from, what brought us to Arkansas…smiled together about how bad our day was going…thinking about it, those days make me miss the interactions if I go a couple of weeks without a tournament.
Joy and Crystal…waiting on us to get done with check-in
When Henry Veggian talked on the biggest stage of anyone’s fishing career after landing in 7th place…he thanked the folks at Albright’s Sunshine Store and Cafe. I mean, the biggest event and he recognized a local place that had become a part of Dwayne Walley, Cory Dreyer, Shelly Efird, George Nemeth and his own stories during their time in Arkansas. They had all been sharing a house together and found a local place that adopted them; and they appreciated each other. Other than announcing Clint Henderson as the champion…and the two Arkansas guys Garret Morgan (3rd place) and Dwain Batey (2nd place)…and this were still very close in comparison…no other words elicited the response that Henry’s words did – the crowd cheered like the café had won….the next time I am in the area, rest assured that I will be finding the Sunshine Store and Cafe in Arkansas!
I bring this up because it too reminds me about the spirit of this group. It reminds me that I am a part of something bigger than us all…again, whether you believe it or not….this community, this willingness to share the stage with people who just in passing touch your life…I am all in for life! When you hear what else Henry was willing to share on tournament day (read official recap coming soon); you will truly feel the soul of this group…I love it!!!
Well, need to work on the official recap. I just wanted to say how proud I am to have been a part of this KBF/FLW/DeeZee/YakAttack/TourneyX event on Lake Ouachita. Say what you will about Chad Hoover, KBF, the Hobie BOS and AJ Mcwhorter…me, my mama…my daddy… (not Joy, dishrag or sis; we might just throw down)…..this was an excellent event…this is an excellent group of folks…and I am grateful and so blessed to be part of all that the community is and has to offer.
Want to give a personal shout out to the folks at the Rose Retreat, the place where Joy and I stayed in Hot Springs Arkansas. They have built a little space close to town (walking distance) with several little cottages – ours was the Monet’s Cottage. It isn’t the kind of place you would take a group of guys to spend a week fishing, but it was a great place for Joy to spend the day knitting and reading while I was on the lake. Cindy and Jim didn’t realize I was bringing a trailered kayak with me, but even with limited parking for all of the other guests, still found a way to make it work for us. Each and every day, we talked about fishing and they always asked how I had done on the lake. If you go back to the area and need a clean, quiet and well-appointed space for the trip….check them out on Evolve. And don’t miss the tiny Elvis gnome….or the pirate out front…quirky cool kinda place!