By Clark Reehm
This is the first of what I hope will be many tour journals and “life on the road” exposes that I’m going to write for Bass East. I know that a lot of other Elite Series pros keep an online diary of their efforts, so you’re probably wondering why you should read this one in particular. Good question.
Here’s my answer: I’m not KVD, I’m not Skeet. I’d like to be, but I’m not there yet. But I am a regular guy trying to live his dream and unlike some of my peers I have no reason to sugarcoat things. If you’ve ever read my Facebook page or my Twitter feed, you probably understand that I tell it like it is. That may offend people, but how can you argue with the truth?
I was excited about California. We all know that the Delta and Clear Lake are great fisheries and I had some pretty good help. Yes, you heard that right – I had some local info. All of us on tour do it, it’s just that most of us don’t admit to it. There’s no reason for me to lie, although I’m not sure the guys who helped me want it known that they did so, so I’m not going to call them out. As far as I’m concerned, getting the best possible information (within the rules) is part of my job, whether that means using the internet for map study or to read past tournament results, or whether it means getting basic areas and lures to try when I get on the water.
Now that the trip is over and I have two checks in my pocket (well, I had two checks…they’ve gone entirely to bills and debt), I can tell you that it wasn’t a specific spot or a specific lure that helped me do well in California. The lesson I took away is how critical it is to go where they live and fish your strengths. Clichés? I guess so, but it’s the truth. For example, I had five great areas identified at Clear Lake, but when I checked them out I couldn’t catch squat doing what the dock talk said to do so I went back to what I know and that’s how I earned my money.
At Clear Lake, it was a textbook pattern, slow rolling a chatterbait down the gut of a spawning canal. Those fish wanted to move up, but the cold kept pushing them off the cover.
At the Delta, my practice was terrible. To tell you the truth, practice sucked at both lakes, but the Delta was especially bad. I only caught a total of four bass in three days, so during the tournament I hit some community holes. They’re community holes for a reason – they hold fish. Day One they only gave up 7 pounds, but that was enough to keep me in it. I’m not a flipper or a pitcher or a Senko guy, but when the clouds came out on Day Two I knew those guys would struggle and I’d be able to do some damage.
I took out a 3/8 ounce Mister Hooty spinnerbait and went to work. It’s an old school bait that we use in Arkansas and Louisiana whenever we need a limit. It’s got a flat rubber skirt and with twin Indiana blades it moves a lot of water. I had 19 pounds that day and easily made the cut. Believe me, making that cut was huge to me, as it was at Clear Lake. I still have to chase checks out here. The A-level guys can go for broke, but the other 80 or so of us out here are still teetering on the financial edge. That’s why I never really chased the swimbait bite at Clear Lake. Going in, that’s all you heard about – swimbaits, swimbaits, swimbaits – but I never picked it up. I can tell you where to throw it, but if it wasn’t happening for most of the so-called experts, I probably wasn’t going to be able to make it work. Just because you want fish to bite a particular bait doesn’t mean they will. Besides, by the end of practice I’d caught just enough four- to six-pounders on the chatterbait that I knew I didn’t have to mess with anything different.
I’m in 24th place in the points race and I’ve already earned as many checks as I got all of last year, so you might think it’s all gravy from here, but I cant’ look at it this way. As I said above, I still have to chase checks. We have two payments due to BASS remaining. The next one, for $8,000, is due in just a few weeks, which means that my $10,000 from Clear Lake is now down to $2,000. Factoring in expenses, that means I’m in the hole from the trip west. And in addition to the two payments for this year, we’ll have another one due in October for next year. I’m constantly playing catch-up from debt. It’s a vicious cycle. If you don’t have two or three good years in a row, it’s easy to lose your shirt.
I’m confident in the six bodies of water that we have left, but I also know that I’m a streaky fisherman. These guys can all catch them, and I’ll probably have a bomb at some point. I hope not, but based on my history there’s a pretty good chance. I’ll keep chasing checks – three or four more and I just might find myself on the Louisiana Delta for next February’s Classic. That’s exactly what I need at this point in my career.