Let the adventure begin again

It is almost a year since I participated as an angler in the Fort Frances Canadian Bass Championship.
I wish that I could say I’m a better fisherman for the experience, but I cannot truthfully say that.
My partner last year, John Maffei, has had years of experience tournament fishing across the province and without his expertise and judgment, I doubt I would have had any success.
John is an unflappable angler and had more patience with me than one could imagine. Fortunately, John is my partner again in 2010.
I was the “Nervous Nellie” a year ago—and it remains a miracle that I didn’t break any rods or reels in the six days we fished together. I also was worried about messing up by losing a fish while netting it.
John, after watching me back up the trailer for the first time, gave me a crash course on doing so. Alas, turning the trailer one direction or another still doesn’t come naturally and all my actions still seem jerky.
Most anglers make backing a trailer up seem just too easy.
Anglers will tell you that when you begin pre-fishing or practising, you often will start out with a dozen rod-and-lure combinations and within the first two days, you will have tried another half-dozen combinations.
By the first day of fishing, you probably have narrowed the number of set-ups down to four or five and the most promising combinations will be doubled up. By the last day of competitive fishing, you probably only are depending on two rods—and most likely both are set up the same way.
Joe Thrun and Jim Moynagh have told me that if you still have those dozen combinations to fish with, you are in trouble.
John had us narrowed to three set-ups within the first two days. Two were in-line spinner baits—one with a silver blade, the other with a gold blade.
The gold blade outperformed the silver one, so we had to make a run to a tackle store on the Tuesday before the tournament to pick up more of those (the “northerns” really liked that lip candy).
It was an adventure. When I worried about time getting back to the dock, John calmed me down. When I was apprehensive about catching the minimum five fish a day, John reminded me that he had a secret hole that always could be depended on for five two-pound fish.
We never needed to go there.
And when the third day came, and all of our serious holes seemed exhausted, John said, “ Jimmy, today we are going fishing for fun and are not going to fish anything either of us has ever tried before.”
It was fun day fishing, and a day we caught five walleye that probably would have weighed more than 35 pounds. We also caught enough bass to feel respectful walking across the stage.
Last year, Phil Bangert gave me some advice to thank all my sponsors on the first day because you might not get a second chance. I followed his advice.
John Maffei, meanwhile, told me to tell everyone on the first day what lures we were using. His reasoning? “Nobody will believe you on the first day, so tell them.”
I did.
I said a year ago, “Let the adventure begin.” Well, with only two weeks to go before the tournament begins, I’m again feeling a little nervous.
The lake has changed considerably for this tournament year. The water is considerably warmer, and it will be at the same level as a year ago with our latest rainfall.
Last year, the bass were just coming off or finishing the spawn. This year, they left the nests the first weekend in June. Their patterns this year will be different.
The mayflies hatched last year on the weekend before the tournament. This year, we’ve already had one large hatch about three weeks ago.
There are mixed feeling this year from anglers. Some are predicting the bass will be close to shallows targeting crayfish and minnows for food. Others are expecting the “smallies” to be in deeper water targeting deep-water baitfish.
The truth of where the fish are will be learned on the Saturday afternoon of the tournament.
And I’m still in for the time of my life. The adventure is continuing, and I look forward to waving to you when John and I cross the stage.
See you at the Fort Frances Canadian Bass Championship.

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