The BFL season has come and gone in what seems like a few brief seconds, and taken my regional opportunity with it. That’s right, for the first time in three years I failed to make the regional cut, and by a long shot to put the nail in the coffin. After five events I ended my year in 98th Place over-all, a heartbreaking ending after an 18th Place finish in ’14 and a 17th Place over-all in ’15. If anything is to be learned from my season, it’s that the margin for error at any level of bass fishing competition is incredibly small. Every fish counts, and I failed to put them in the boat. If nothing else I understand never to take for granted the opportunities of qualifying for the postseason.
Event: Potomac River (2 Day)
Date(s): August 27–28
Season Standing: 98th
The start of the tournament day was an outgoing tide in the area that first year boater Craig Wheeler and I were fishing. Wheeler picked up a small keeper that barely made it across the 12-inch minimum length, followed by a four-pounder in the same creek. The tide fell out quickly, and we lost a good chunk of the tournament day idling out of the shallow area.
While we waited for the tide to come back in on our original location, we ran up to an area known as the spoils, just past the Woodrow Wilson Bridge just outside of Washington DC. Getting to the area meant another large idle and no wake zone that ate up even more fishing time. As we fished the spoils, I broke off on one of the many pieces of hard cover that line the area. Failing to loosen my drag after breaking off the shaky head, I broke off a large fish that I believe was a catfish, making a large run and snapping my line under too much tension. I say it was a large catfish for sanity’s sake. That’ll teach me not to forget to change the drag on my spinning reel! I would hook up again within a few casts around a large cement structure, a catfish that would leave my line nice and slimy. Although a fun fight, wrong species! That would conclude my bites for the day…
We fished one other creek, and unfortunately fishing from the back of the boat puts a co-angler at a huge disadvantage when fishing areas no wider than a boats length. Considering how shallow the water was, the boat was kicking up the sediment beneath us in the already muddied up area, leaving a mud trail for me to fish. I attempted to punch my bait into the thick vegetation and pitch into small holes within the mats, but failed to get a single bite. I changed baits regularly, and made SO many casts, but as the day went on I saw my regional dreams slipping from my fingers. I’m not quite sure how much weight I would have needed to make the charge from 78th to the 50th place regional cut line, but the areas we fished definitely didn’t help the co-angler cause.
Lessons Learned/Concepts Reiterated
If you view my blog after last year’s regular season entitled “Regional Bound,” you will notice a very different perspective and outlook having just qualified for my third regional. As I expressed, qualification consists of the culmination of points from the five regular season events, and I only finished outside the Top 50 on one occasion.
This year, you will see a very different circumstance. With two fishless tournaments and not weighing more than two fish in any event, Regional dreams were a long stretch.
Local regionals draw the largest seasonal numbers of boaters, which increases the Co-Angler attendance as well. For those of you not familiar with the BFL Series, “linking” as it is called is when a boater and co-angler sign up together. This guarantees a co-angler the opportunity to fish and maintains balance in both categories.
This year the regional will be on Kerr Lake located on the Virginia – North Carolina state line. Whereas last year’s regional was on Lake Wateree in South Carolina, anglers knew they would not need to travel as far, making the 2016 season a better investment from a money and time perspective. In last year’s two-day Potomac event, there were 73 boats; this year, there were 126 boats, a large change from just a year prior. Considering there were as many as 180 boats in events (this not the) season, the competition was the stiffest I have ever witnessed.
Something that a lot of co-anglers will fail to admit is that the boaters you draw really do play a large role in the success of your day. I am not here to bash any boater I have ever had or to sound like a whining back boater. After fishing the BFLs for four full seasons, I have seen the good and the bad. One thing that often gets me is the failure to give the co-angler equal casting opportunities, the most obvious being bed fishing and fishing shallow, skinny creeks. Luckily I have experienced many great days as a co-angler, but for someone just getting into the sport, it is a true deterrent from coming back. It’s the luck of the draw and I don’t have a clear solution to this issue, other than to say these scenarios are where dreams go to die.
Distractions off the water can play a large role in your mental state on the water. This year I didn’t fish with a clear head at times and between that and a loss of some confidence, I felt as though I wasn’t in the zone as I have been in the past. Both financial concerns and a lack of fishing opportunities between events lead to some loss of focus. It is my hope that by next season a fresh slate will help to alleviate some of these outside pressures.
At the end of the season I often experience a sense of relief for a short period of time. We often put an incredible amount of pressure on ourselves as anglers to preform to the best of out abilities, and when things don’t go the way we had envisioned it could be a true crush to our psyche. When the season ends, even if the pain may hang around, it is an opportunity to regroup and get back to simply fun fishing without the pressures of filling the livewell. Getting into the woods is another way I cure the bass fishing blues, and I look forward to another trip to West Virginia in October, and a few days of open firearms season here in Virginia. There’s no doubt that the downtime will be good more me, and before we know it, the 2017 season will soon be upon us once again!