Tournaments Teach Fishermen

Outdoors with Forda Birds—By John Andreoni

I’ve got a minor case of cabin fever that needs to be addressed before it gets any worse. The easiest way to put a dent in it is to hit the gym and get my endorphin fix. Unfortunately, that’s easy to put off when there’s a recliner close by. However, since I’m supposed to be exercising at least five times a week, I need to get my priorities straight. Another approach I use to get my mind off the winter blahs is to focus on spring. A season change is good for both the body and soul and making plans seems to take the sting out of being cooped up. One thing that always cheers me up is figuring out how much fishing I want to do and how much time I want to be on the water. For many, that doesn’t seem like a problem, but I need an incentive. I need a reason to get on the water and wet a line. Any fishing time after that is frosting on the cake.

Over the years, I’ve found that fishing tournaments make me get on the water. First, it’s a scheduled time, and that means it’s harder to make excuses. The commitment gives the event some importance. Second, I’ve found that when I’m in a tournament of some sort, I concentrate more on fishing, which increases catching, which increases the excitement. Third, when fishing with other fishermen, the likelihood of learning something new is always there. I’ve been fortunate over the years to have fishing partners who were much better at the sport than I was. Consequently, I know I’ve become a better fisherman because of them. Back in the day, Steve Moor and Charlie Huddleston taught me a lot about bass fishing. Jeff Toben tutored me to the point where I’ve caught more big crappies in the last five years than I ever did before. Joe Vanover, the most all-around outdoorsman I know, added plenty to my catfish education. Finally, fishing with friends, in or out of competition, is generally more fun.

I don’t necessarily need to be in a fishing tournament to enjoy myself on the water, and the idea of winning isn’t the primary reason I compete. Getting in the money is nice, but trying to make a living or make a boat payment doesn’t flip my trigger. I know full well that I don’t have the skill-set necessary to win against the guys who live on the water. I can compete with them, but on any given day, they will catch more fish than I will. They’ve honed their sport to a science and can generally catch fish on demand and consistently. It is true that 5% of the fishermen catch 95% of the fish, and one doesn’t reach that status by luck alone. Knowing that, I still enjoy fishing in a tournament because sometimes luck does become an equalizer. It also helps fishing with a partner who is one of the 5%.

Regardless, I’m making my tournament plans for 2019. I probably won’t fish all of the events, but I’m looking forward to an enjoyable time when I do. The Catmaster Tournament Series at Lake St. Marys will probably be on my preferred list. The tentative schedule shows seven tournaments total ending with the Classic on September 7. Tournaments are monthly and start on March 23. There are tournaments on April 20, May 11, June 22, July 13, August 17, ending with the invitational event. The Grand Lake Crappie Series has three spring tournaments and four fall tournaments ending with their invitational classic. Tournament dates are: April 28, May 5, May 19, September 15, September 22, September 29, and October 13.

In addition, there are a few other tournaments I would like to take part in. The Crappie U.S.A. Super Tournament will be held on April 26 and April 27. This is a big-time event with a guaranteed payout of $10,000 and prizes. I’m not sure if I have enough gas in the tank to fish 19 hours over two days, especially if the weather happened to be less than pleasant. Also, I’m going to need a partner, preferably one that knows more than I do. The date for the Freedom Outdoors bass tournament hasn’t been announced, but that’s the one bass event I plan on entering. Hopefully, I can find a partner and also spend some time pre-fishing to shake the dust off of my bass tackle. The final event I’m considering is the big catfish tournament at Indian Lake. The date hasn’t been announced that I know of, but it usually runs in August for four days. That will give me an excuse to fish for and catch a big flathead, something that is on my bucket list.

I’m feeling warmer already thinking about the fishing season to come. How many events I actually fish is still up in the air, but if by some miracle I make them all, that will be one heck of a year.