No matter how long I do this, it’s the same every time. As the last few notes of the national anthem finish, the anticipation builds. It’s time to head out for the first morning of the tournament.
When B.A.S.S. Open tournament director, Chris Bowes calls out boat 1 and my heart rate goes up. Today, I’m the first boat in the 6th flight, exactly halfway in the field of 156 boats, so it’ll be a few minutes until he calls my number, but I’m ready to go. The cameras are running, life jacket is on and zipped up, live wells are open and running, and the navigation lights are in and turned on. It’s almost time to find out if the days of preparation and the money spent to get here will all be worthwhile.
The boat numbers continue to be called and the anticipation continues to build. As I move closer to the take off line, my mind is filled with many thoughts. Have I made the right choices about what to do? Am I starting at the right place? What do I do if that doesn’t work? What will I do if I catch an early limit? How can I catch that kicker fish if I need it? These questions and many more fill my head, just as they’ve done since I cut the lights off and tried to get to sleep last night. We’ll know the answers soon enough now!
Finally, Chris calls “Boat 78, Scott McGehee” and it’s my turn to head out. As I idle past the takeoff dock, the first checkpoint is livewells. Next comes the question, “what time are you due back in?” I respond “4:00pm” and check the time written on the back of my hand to make sure I have it right. Then, they toss a key fob with our number on it to my partner and tell me to move past the end of the dock and pull my kill switch. We’re set to go.
As the bow drops down and my Phoenix accelerates, a transformation occurs. All of stress and the questions that seemed so important a few minutes ago, fall away. It’s me against the fish. As I run down the lake, it obvious that despite the September Oklahoma heat, it’s going to be a beautiful day. I’m getting to do what I love and live to do and if I don’t want to be there, there are thousands of people who would love to be in my place.
I rarely feel more alive than I do at these moments. It’s the thrill of competition, but it’s also so much more. Each new tournament morning is full of promise and hope. Some days will be great and some not so great; but during that morning run, I always feel like I’m going to have the best fishing day of my life. Even if things don’t go as planned, I can’t complain. I get to experience another day on the water and that’s always a great day. Catching them is just a bonus.
Thanks to the sponsors who make this all possible: Scoutlookweather.com, Lowrance Electronics, Phoenix Bass Boats, BoatUS Angler, Power Pole, Costa del Mar Sunglasses and Mississippi Van Lines. Without all of you, none of this would be possible.