The decision to fish the Opens is never an easy one. It begins with the dreams of beautiful lakes, giant bass and yes, maybe even fame and fortune. Then come the questions. What will it be like, how will I afford it, what will it be like, will I get my butt kicked by these guys and, most importantly; can I beat these guys? All those dreams and questions were running through my head when I first entered back in September of 1995. I have to admit that most of those questions and even a couple of the dreams have been answered in the years I’ve been on the trail, although not always the way I’d hoped.
I’ve gotten the chance to fish some of the prettiest and fishiest looking water in the country. From my first event at Thousand Islands to events at places like Sam Rayburn, Toledo Bend, Norman, Santee-Cooper, Toho, Douglas Lake, Table Rock and many more, fishing the Opens has given me to opportunity to see places I’d never have gone to otherwise.
I’ve fished in weather ranging from the sweltering heat of Louisiana in August, to snow storms on Lake of the Ozarks, flooding conditions on Table Rock, enough rain to flood the Mississippi, thunderstorms, approaching hurricanes and pretty much everything in between. But for every bad weather day; there have been many clear morning sunrises as you run thorough a light fog to your first spot. There have been picture perfect days. Days where everything was just how you pictured it as you went to sleep the night before and days where nothing seemed to work.
I’ve gotten to fish clear water, muddy water, shallow and deep, grass lakes and rock lakes, to fish for smallmouth, largemouth and spots. I’ve had days that everything went just like I planned it and days where it didn’t work out. I’ve gotten to fish conditions and learn techniques that I’d have never even tried if I stayed around home fishing the same lakes over and over.
Most importantly, I’ve fished with and met some great people. Fellow competitors, co-anglers, tournament officials, industry people, sponsors and fans; all with one thing in common, we all shared that passion and love for bass fishing that has dominated most of my adult life. Some of those people have become occasional fishing partners, some are great people to share a meal with on the road and some have become lifetime friends. Sure, there’ve been a few that I wouldn’t necessarily care to fish with again, but they are few and far between. Good or bad, you always have something in common with everyone you get into the boat with.
As I approach the end of yet another season and what will likely be my final tournament with B.A.S.S., the questions are different. Would I do it again given the chance? You bet I would! Was it worth all the money, time and heartache? Looking back over what I’ve gained, no question it was worth every minute, every dime and yes, even every heartbreak.
Is fishing the Opens for everyone? I can’t truthfully say that it is. But if you’re looking for a challenge or to prove yourself against some of the best fishermen and women around, you owe it to yourself to give it a try. If you have the time, finances, drive and ability, the rewards far outweigh the risks. Plenty of people say they can step up and beat the best, but there’s really no other way to know for sure than to give it a shot. I’m certainly glad that I did.