This was it, the final event. The culmination of many early mornings, several tournaments, many days of practice and several entry fees all to get here. It was finally upon us. The District 2 Day State Championship. The morning was crisp and cool with a slight fog hovering over the lake. The sun was just starting to crest and the smell of outboard engines was in the air. Man I love tournament mornings. After receiving the rules and safety brief and getting our take-off positions, I climbed aboard my boat. My mind was racing as I triple checked, to ensure all my equipment was in pristine condition, ready to deal a devastating loss to my competition. I watched my opponents walk across the beach and board their vessels. Some where laughing and joking, others appearing to be determined and anxious. In my mind, I rehearsed my strategy in preparation for ooze off….Now hold on a minute. I must digress here. Why do we call it ooze off? Are we really fooling anyone? Have you ever seen a guy start a tournament by gently easing the throttle forward to a comfortable cruising speed while he enjoys a cup of joe and a donut? I never have. What I know is the throttle hammering, blast out of the hole, wave skippin’, cold, tears streaming down your face adrenaline rush called a “blast off”. That’s what I know. That’s what I was mentally preparing for. Let’s be honest and call it what it is. So, as I was preparing for the “blast off” my thoughts were shattered by someone yelling, “LOOK OUT. HE’S GOING TO HIT YOU!” I turned and watched helplessly as another angler fumbled for his throttle, trying to stop his motor from backing into mine. It was too late. As the motors connected, he gunned his engine clipping my prop with his. My boat was still beached and I was out of commission with a large chunk of a prop blade missing. This guy must be a pro, I thought. He managed to eliminate one opponent before we even took off. How did I fail to anticipate that tactic? How could I be so stupid? I didn’t even consider this type of strategy. How clever was this guy? I had no recourse or counter-attack. No way to reinsert myself into the fight, I merely took a whoopin with no way to recover.
It took a moment to realize what had just happened. As my dreams of fame and glory came to a metal crunching end I pondered my next move. Would I just quit? Go home with my tail dragging like a whipped puppy? No! I decided, “If you want to play with the big boys you must overcome adversity”. So that was it, I would fish no matter what. I was able to use the motor to idle around the lake but it severely restricted my ability to get to my spots. I caught a few fish that day but not much for weight.
I replaced the prop that night and started day 2 with a fresh attitude. Today would be the day I etch my name in the tournament books as an angler that never quits, never accepts defeat and is able to rebound from anything you throw at me…NOT!
The launch and “blast off” were uneventful. I raced to one spot, then another trying to limit early. On my third leg of my run-n-gun strategy my dreams of fame n glory didn’t just come crashing down….they exploded on impact! I ran through an area I have run a hundred times only this time I failed to account for the unusually low water levels. Yup, I ran the prop across the bottom with the throttle wide open. I managed to shear the skeg off and fold all three blades over on a prop that had literally only touched the water for about an hour. I limped the boat to the nearest shoreline telling myself that I would finish this tournament no matter what. Yeah right! I was so mad, so mentally defeated that I couldn’t even cast a lure with any accuracy. Two props in two days? Unbelievable! I threw my rod down and spent the next hour and a half idling back to the ramp. Just to add insult to injury, the wind was in my face and blowing hard the whole way. I now carry a spare prop, watch my surroundings and always check for recent changes to the water level. I don’t have a great lesson for you to learn or some great story about overcoming life’ obstacles. This is simply a story about another day in the pursuit of that ever elusive professional angler status.