By Tom Billings
Let me start by thanking the crew at Stray Casts for presenting to me the opportunity to share my thoughts and ideas on tournament fishing for the region. I am very excited to be able to converse with my fellow anglers about this sport we all love so much.
We are rounding that bend in the weather. Soon the lakes will be ice free and our passion for catching bass will again be in full swing. For many of us that also means the start of the tournament season. There are several great tournament organizations that we fish, for me, I will be competing in the Anglers Dream Division 8 and also with the Fish Lake Bassmasters. These events bring out the competitive nature many of us have in our psychological makeup. I don’t know about you but I can hardly sleep the night before, why? Why do we wake at 2am? Why do we go out in the wind and the rain? Why do we put up with cold and heat? Everyone that fishes tournaments know what I’m talking about. As my wife often says to me, “Why don’t you just give me the $130 and I will kick you in the balls and it will be the same at the end of the day” She does have a good point. More often than not I limp into the house at 4PM after leaving at 2AM tired and sore, with an empty pocket.
Many might say well it’s because we have the opportunity to “cash a check” I really think that many people who don’t fish, or don’t fish competitively, think that. Maybe even many of you who do fish tournaments think that and judge your success by how many checks you cash. However, I think really at the heart of the matter it’s deeper than that. It took me a few years to realize this myself but it became clear to me a few years ago what tournament fishing is really about. I will take you down memory lane to my path of tournament consciousness. Several years ago I had finished a tournament and was leaving for St. Clair right after the event. The tournament ended and my buddy and I started on our trip to smallmouth heaven. Excitement and loud music was present in the F150 as we started down the highway. Only a few miles down the road that excitement turned to concern as I noticed something wasn’t right. Quickly pulling over I realized I had a problem (no need to explain my misfortune at this point). There was nothing I could do and I knew I needed help. My mind reached for a solution and it came to fruition by contacting some fellow competitors from the tournament I had just finished. In short order I had help. The problem was solved and I was able to get back on the road. It doesn’t stop there though. My boat was not useable and my much anticipated trip was not going to happen. One of my tournament buddies called to get a status report on the situation. After explaining that we were back in action but not going to St. Clair due the boat I told “Yes you are, I’m pulling into your driveway right now and unhitching my boat. Take my boat up there”….wow!
In the end we made that trip and absolutely smashed them. As I drifted that weekend on St. Clair my mind digested what had transpired the day before. That was when I realized that the real “check to cash” in these tournaments are the relationships that come from being a tournament angler! At this point in my life almost all of my very close friends are people I fish with and have meet through tournament fishing. We as a group in the region, have our disagreements at times. Some of us might not get along all the time but I think it’s safe to say that, we will help each other out (for the most part). So as we begin the season let’s not forget that the real payoff in these crazy tournaments is the opportunity to meet and develop friendships with some great people.
Be Positive, Be Prepared, Be Successful…..