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Cursed at Chickamauga

Posted by todd on July 5, 2013

Coming into the last regular season FLW Tour event at Lake Chickamauga, I was sitting just outside the Top 39 cut to qualify for the Forrest Wood Cup at 43rd place.  A solid finish there, and I was sure to qualify for another Cup appearance and a shot at $500,000 there.  The anticipation had built all year, through ups and downs, and I still had a shot at accomplishing my major goal to finish the year.

Practice was decent, but the fact that Chickamauga was going to fish very small led to alot of anxiety amongst the field.  I had found ways to catch fish both shallow and deep, and felt like 15-18 pounds/day was very possible, with the chance to make the Top 20 cut.  Many were hoping for good boat draws so they could get to their best area first.  I drew out boat #57 on Day 1, so I knew I would have plenty of options to start on and get off to a good start.

5 miles into my 30 mile ride, I spun a hub on my prop and apparently lost the gears in my lower unit as well.  I had to troll over 2 miles, upstream in heavy current, to get to the nearest ramp.  My father-in-law was right there waiting for me, and after a 2 hour delay, we were off to the Dayton Boat Dock to get my motor repaired and try to salvage the day.  With a new lower unit and prop and a prompt fix at the Evinrude service trailer, I was back on the water at 10:00AM.  With a 3:15 check in time, I still had plenty of time to salvage the day.  Unfortunately, the problem wasn't fixed....I spun another hub 5 miles into my trip and was forced to head to the shore to put another prop on.  I quickly worked to put on my spare prop and decided to run the motor lightly the rest of the day, even though I knew it would cost me fishing time on the water.  I felt that if I could put 10-12 pounds together, I still had a shot at recovering on day two with 15+ and still making the top 50 and the Cup.  Unfortunately, by the time I got to my best areas at around 11:00AM most of the best spots were already occupied, while others had been picked over by competitors during the morning while I sat at the service trailer.  I scraped up as much as I could and finished with four fish for eight pounds.  I would need 18-20 pounds on Day Two to accomplish my goals, but I felt it was possible. 

Without writing all of the details and having to re-live the experience, I'll spare you most of what happened on Day Two.  I spun four more hubs before getting to the real problem in my lower unit, which turned out to be a clogged exhaust hose from debris build-up.  I made my first cast on Day Two at 12:15PM and only had three hours of fishing time.  I was determined not to let the mechanical issues affect my event, and furthermore, the destiny of my season and ultimately qualifying for the Forrest Wood Cup.  I knew I had found a few groups of fish that had the potential of turning up 20+ pounds.  I was probably more calm on this day than any other day of the season, for some odd reason.  It always amazes me how God graces us with strength and persistence, even in our most trying times.  I caught a limit in 15 minutes on a River Rat Tackle jig and continued to grind and cull up my weight throughout the day.  Unfortunately, I was ultimately one bite away from making the Top 50 with a Day Two weight of 15-15 and 24-00 overall.  I finished the event in 70th place. 

When the final points standings were posted after the event, I landed in 44th place in the points - a mere 16 points from make the Championship and my overall season goal.  A 3-pound fish on Day 1 would have done it.  A 5-pound fish on Day 2 would have done it.  One more keeper on Day 2 at Grand would have done it.  I'll be honest - I was temporarily devastated.  In fact, it still hurts to write about it.  At the highest level of the sport and fishing against the best fishermen in the world, there is little room for error. 

My family had made the trip down to watch the weigh-in's and spend the weekend in Chattanooga with me to celebrate the end-of-the-year event.  We took the following day to visit downtown Chattanooga - an awesome place and one I'd recommend to anyone.  We checked out the Aquarium and had a nice meal in Soddy Daisy on our way home.  Even though I felt like crawling in a hole for a few days, they are the most supportive a family can be for a professional fisherman.  They deserved to be treated to some fun and some family time.  They love me when I catch fish and when I don't.  How blessed can a man be?