Past week among my top highlights

The past week went by in a blur for me but it was one of the highlights of my life.
I participated in my first-ever pro-level bass tournament, fishing the FLW Tour Open at Lake Okeechobee in Florida. The past week included a three-day practice period where I had my Dad down to fish with me, followed by the tournament.
Having never fished on Lake Okeechobee before, trying to break it down and find some good places to fish was challenging. But we were fortunate to find a couple of good areas, which I was able to mine for some quality fish during the tournament.
We had a day off between the practice and the tournament, which was nice. I was able to get my boat and equipment all ready for the tournament during the morning, then attended a rules meeting in the afternoon with many of my fishing idols.
Some of my favourite anglers were fishing this tournament, so to sit in a room with all of them was quite the experience. Guys like Roland Martin, Larry Nixon, and fellow Canadian Bob Izumi, not to mention the star-studded lineup of regulars who fish this tour.
On the first day of the tournament, we were faced with strong winds that made the fishing tough for many.
I had two areas that I was planning to fish: a stretch on the main lake, where I was able to catch good numbers of smaller fish during practice, and an area in the north end of the lake, where I could catch bigger fish.
Alas, the wind blew into my numbers stretch really hard on the opening morning and basically pushed the fish out of this zone on me. I fished it for about an hour and did not catch a bass.
I actually thought I might be in big trouble because I was depending on these fish to fill out my limit before I started hunting for bigger one.
I ran to my big-fish area, which was somewhat protected, and caught a four- and a six-pound bass on my first drift through the large weedbed I was fishing.
The rest of the day was struggle, but I was able to catch three more small fish and make it in with a limit that weighed 15.02 pounds and left me in 40th place after Day 1.
We were faced with much better conditions on Day 2, with just moderate winds. I again made a stop on my numbers spot on the way up the lake, and my co-angler and I each caught our limit of five fish in about 20 minutes on rattle baits (I caught them on a Rapala Rippin’ Rap).
We then ran up to my weedbed and again worked it for the rest of the day. I caught another six-pounder for the second day in a row and put together a much better bag that came in at 19.02 pounds, so I was able to jump into 18th position.
This was important because only the top 20 after Day 2 made the cut to fish on Day 3.
I had some pretty good entertainment on Day 2 when eventual tournament winner Randall Tharp pulled up across the channel from where I was fishing and caught a bunch of big fish about 200 yards away from me.
He ended up bringing in a 30-pound limit that day and I watched him catch most of those fish. He was using some different techniques than I was, so I got educated a little bit on what I need to do next year if the tour goes back to Okeechobee.
The pressure was off for Day 3 since the worst I could do was 20th place.
Since the money was basically the same between 11th place and 20th place, I decided to skip the numbers spot on the morning of Day 3 and go straight to my big-fish stuff to try and make a run at the top 10.
The weather was really tough on Day 3 as temperatures dropped and the wind blew hard from the north.
One thing about Florida bass is they are a different strain than our northern fish and they do not like cold weather! Fishing was tough for me and I only managed to boat two keepers.
The good news is 20th was the worst place I could finish and it was good for a $12,000 (U.S.) cheque!
Overall, the week was a great experience that I will remember for a long time! The support I got from all of my friends in the north was incredible—I literally had hundreds of text messages and e-mails each day of the tournament.
It was really awesome so thank you to everybody who was following along and sending messages my way.
The hard part is that now I have to put my boat away until spring and get back on the ice to catch a fish!

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