The tone of his voice told the whole story. Robert Degraffenreid was still blown-away. Three days earlier, cold, wicked winds swept through the BASS Federation Nation Championship in Kansas and turned Milford Lake into 16,000 surface acres of bass fishing misery for 55 of the best amateur anglers in the world – Degraffenreid being one of them.
He had beat dozens of the best BASS Federation Nation anglers in his home state of Oklahoma, a hundred or so more at the Divisional in South Dakota, and was poised to take one more giant step into a tournament he had dreamed of being a part of for 20 years – the Bassmaster Classic.
Instead, Degraffenreid and 29 other guys never caught a keeper-sized bass in two days. Not because he stunk it up, but because Milford Lake became more the site of a crappy crapshoot than a national bass fishing championship. The catching was so bad that it took two days for Texan Bryan Schmidt to wrangle three bass weighing a total of 9-pounds to win the whole shootin match.
“It’s so hard to make it to the Nationals, then you make it, and you end up battling 25 mph winds and air temps that never got out of the 40’s on a fishery that was fairly poor to begin with. I knew it would be tough, but none of us could have imagined it would turn out as poorly as it did. Before it all started, I thought I could slow-roll a spinnerbait and drag a jig, hopefully catch three keepers a day, and do well, but in the end, nothing worked. I never caught a bass in two days of fishing. Unfortunately the hybrid white bass that I caught don’t count,” said Degraffenreid, a normally jovial 46 year old lawn man from Oklahoma City.
“I’ve experienced enough big waves and water on Texoma, Eufaula and Grand, that I can say with confidence my mind was at peace about the conditions. I fished in the moment, and stayed focused, but still, I got to the point of just wanting to catch a single keeper bass to keep from feeling like an idiot,” explained Degraffenreid.
“I can’t feel too bad though. Heck, there was one bass caught in two days among the nine guys that represented the Southern Division. Plus, I’m happy for Bryan Schmidt (the tournament winner); he’s a super nice, unassuming guy that just won around $100,000 for catching three bass. I’ll just get ready for 2009, focus on making the State Team, going to the Divisionals, and hopefully I’ll get another chance to make up for this past week by going to the Nationals. That’s all you can do, set goals and try again,” concluded Degraffenreid.
Don’t bet against him. He’s been to five BASS Federation Nation Divisionals. Reaching number six is now filled with self-motivation from what blew away in the cold Kansas wind last week.