2017 saw me compete in two national championship events, fish a top 12 in the Grand Lake BASS Open, finish 25th overall in the Central Open Division and take home numerous checks. Here is how it happened.
The year started with the sale of my very first Phoenix 921 to a local purchaser and the arrival of my second Phoenix 921. I’m still blown away by the overall performance of these boats. They are without a doubt the finest riding and best performing bass boat I’ve had the pleasure of operating.
One of my goals for the year was making the BFL All American. Although this goal would be derailed by shoulder surgery in April, I got off to a good start.January 21 was the first Cowboy Division BFL on Sam Rayburn. Although a 65th place finish was not my goal, I did manage a small check, which is always good.
February saw participation in the second Cowboy Div. BFL, which was also on Sam Rayburn. This event went much better than the first resulting in a 7th place finish and good start to the season. Rayburn was also the site of the first Southwest Div. of the FLW Costa series Feb. 23-25. A pretty good first day left promise for day two but the fish from day one grew smaller on day two and I lost a lot ground. This would come back to haunt me later in the year.
March was the month of the first BASS Central Open on Table Rock Lake. As has happened to me many times on this lake, I had a strong pattern in practice that completely disappeared on the first day of the tournament. Scrambling on day 1 is never good and I was unable to relocate the fish I had found in practice.
April arrived with great hope as I first participated in the ABA Ram Truck Series National Championship on Old Hickory Lake in Tenn. It had been a long time since I had fished Old Hickory. It was not a good lake then and some things never change! I found a fairly strong shad spawn bite during practice and although I didn’t think I could win, I thought I would have the opportunity to do well. As is often the case, Mother Nature surprised the area with a chilling cold front and rain so powerful, day one of the event was cancelled. The cold front destroyed the shad spawn and my hopes for the tournament.
Almost immediately after the National Championship I traveled to Grand Lake, OK for the second FLW Costa series event. Cold rainy weather again prevailed causing me to scrap everything I had found in practice again. Only this time the rising water played into my hands as the fish on Grand quickly moved to any bushes that were in the water. On day one I made a good decision to move to the bushes where I found good fish. On day two I left the bushes a bit too early but I still managed to earn a decent check in the event.
April was the end of my fishing for quite some time as a scheduled surgery on my right shoulder took place on the 26th. Years of baseball, bow hunting, and fishing had taken its toll on my shoulder. I had managed the pain for years but in January while lifting I tore a tendon in my right arm making the surgery necessary. In the end, the Dr. fixed the torn tendon, torn rotator cuff, torn labrum and removed a major bone spur. The surgery shut me down for 6 weeks and required 12 weeks of therapy.
In June I felt I was ready to compete in the second BASS Central Open on the Sabine River, Orange, TX. In the end this may have been a bit ambitious on my part. I am a right handed flipper and although I had practiced flipping and casting left handed for hours following the surgery, there’s nothing quite like doing it under tournament conditions. In practice I had found a small canal about 45min. away from Orange. Although I shook everything off, I felt there were some quality fish in the area. On day 1 I pretty much had the canal to myself and managed a limit of 9.4, a good bag for this event. I was hopeful the canal would replenish and I could catch a bigger bag on day 2. On day 2 saw many other competitors come into the canal and the pressure shut down the fish. Although I did manage another limit, it only weighed 7.15. Fortunately, I was able to claim the last check in the event making it a success. A very rewarding accomplishment considering I did it with one arm! My shoulder would remind me of this event for weeks to come!
July is a time of year I always look forward to as Kurt Dove’s Pro Bass Camp for Kids takes place on Lake Amistad. As an instructor over the last 6yrs I have met some amazing young anglers who are so eager to learn everything they can about the sport. Young anglers who are not only respectful the instructors but also to each other and who make you feel good as you help them shorten their learning curve. This years camp was once again a big success!
Through the year I continued to guide on both Toledo Bend and Sam Rayburn. However in July I experienced a first with guide clients. I guided a couple, Chris and Stacey from Oklahoma. Both had roots here on Toledo Bend as their parents had brought them to fish here many years ago. Although they had not been to the lake in a very long time, both had fond memories of catching fish with family members. Their trip to the lake was two fold; one to rekindle those memories and the other was to celebrate their love for each other as Chris proposed to Stacey. Although I rarely allow alcohol on my boat, this was a special occasion as the three of us shared a toast of Champagne in red solo cups at 7am! Another special moment occurred when Stacey caught several fish on a top water prop bait her Dad had left to her before he passed on. This may have been my best guide trip ever! Thanks Chris and Stacey!
The tournament season resumed in September with the 3rd and final FLW Costa Series on Lake Texoma. This lake has never been good to me and it was not once again. There was a lot on the line as I sat in 38th place in points and needed to catch a limit each day in order to stay in contention for the Costa Series Championship. During practice I located numerous brush piles that held fish and had one of the most phenomenal top water bites going. It was so good that on day 2 of practice I removed the hooks off my spook. At times it was still hard to get the bait away from the fish. However, as so often happens, a front came through on day 1 bringing high winds and blue skies that changed everything, including the brush pile bite. Two small fish on day 1 caused me to trash the game plan on day 2. Fishing rocky points with a Texas rigged stick bait led to a solid 13lb limit and kept my hopes alive for staying in the Championship hunt. It’s funny how we often remember one fish. On day 2, late in the day knowing I needed one good fish to make the Championship, I was retrieving my bait. I looked down to see a 3 ½ lber right behind it. I dropped my rod and the fish grabbed the bait but with only a foot or two of line out, I had to set to the hook as soon as he grabbed it. Unfortunately the fish only had the bait and not the hook, pulling the bait down and going free. A few minutes later my co-angler caught that fish. It propelled him into the finals for the event, so some good did come out my mishap. Regrettably, my poor performance caused me to fall from 38th to 42nd place and out of the Championship.
I would later gain entry into the Costa Championship for the 5th consecutive time.
October brought the final BASS Central Open of the year and I found myself back on Grand Lake, OK. The cold front, major weather change theme that was so prevalent throughout the year again came to the tournament waters. In practice I experienced a strong jig bite on bluff walls. On day 1 of the tournament that bite completely vanished and never returned. On this occasion I did what I normally do under tough bite conditions in the fall. I look for wood cover, as the fish seem to gravitate to it. The colder it gets the tighter they get to the cover. By mid-morning on day 1 I picked up my flipping stick and flipped a stick bait with 3/8 weight on every piece of wood I saw either visually or on my side scan. The result was 5 for 11.15. Day 2 I continued to flip the same bait but it was not until I found a small creek leading through a large flat with lots of laydowns that things started to come together. From 12:30 to 2:30 I caught 5 for 12.5 and made the final day cut in 8th place and within striking distance of a win. I was going to Bass Pro Shops! Years of experience have taught me that when you make the finals you must go for broke. Winning always makes you the happiest! Day 3 saw high winds, blue bird skies and cold temps. Although I knew the sun was important to my bite, I returned to my creek early hoping to get a few bites before the sun hit the laydowns. By midday I only had two fish in the well. I left the area knowing I really had nothing to fall back on. There was a small area nearby that held similar laydowns near a creek. I had what I thought were three quality bites here but I lost all three fish. The end result was 2 fish for the day. However, in the end I finished my season on a very positive note in front of a great crowd at the Broken Arrow, OK Bass Pro Shops. Not bad if I do say so myself!
Late October arrived with an invitation to my fifth consecutive FLW Costa Series Championship that took place the first week of November. I had never fished Kentucky Lake and knowing its history, was anxious to get there. When I arrived I found the lake had been drawn down some 6 or 7 feet and a major cold front had arrived. In four days of practice I managed to catch 5 keepers. Again, in championship moments I’ve learned to go for broke. No one remembers who finished second. Although the plan failed, I competed with some of the best fishermen in the country. I feel good about that.
Overall, 2017 was a great year and I am blessed to do what I love.
Special thanks to all my sponsors who help make this dream possible: