The recent road trip started with the third stop on the Elite Series Trail with the Ramada Quest presented by Rigid Industries on Bull Shoals Lake. This was a special event for me, as my girlfriend Chantel, my parents and grandparents came to watch from across the country. Going into the tournament, I was feeling pretty good about my chances. I had prior tournament experience on the lake, and it fit my fishing style well. Practice was good and I was able to pick a section of the lake that I felt had the fish to place high in the tournament (if I was right about one thing, this was it. I started next to tournament winner Jason Christie both of the first two days). Day one of the tournament was a roller coaster ride.
Day one of the tournament was a roller coaster ride. The morning started off with 15-20 short fish in the boat and three good ones coming unbuttoned before I landed a keeper. After not catching many small fish in practice, this had me wondering where the big fish had gone. During spring tournaments like these, it is not uncommon to see fish quickly migrate further in or out of creeks with changing water conditions and the need to spawn. Around 11:00, things began to happen as I picked up a largemouth pushing five pounds on a Jerk Bait. An hour later, another five pounder finds its way into the livewell thanks to a Pepper Jig. I’m thinking to myself, two five pounders on Bull Shoals will be good enough for a top five bag if I can find three more decent fish. A three pound Smallmouth was the last bite I got around 2:00 PM giving me just shy of 13 pounds. After weigh in, I was invited to have dinner with the rest of the Nitro/Bass Pro Shops Team at Gaston’s resort. It was fun to sit down with the guys and share some fishing stories. It always amazes me how a guy like Edwin Evers or Matt Reed can fish nearly every day for their entire life, fish hard all tournament day, and want to talk about fishing throughout dinner that night! I guess I’m the same way…
Looking ahead to the second day, I was well above the cut line, and only needed about 10 pounds for a guaranteed check and a chance at the final day. After having such a disappointing first morning, I decided to spend less time in my primary area and spend more time fishing areas where I was likely to catch better numbers of keepers. It seemed as if this day just flew by, and check in time hit me quickly. The better bites I had on the second day did not find their way into the boat, and I was left with a small limit for about 9.5 pounds. After weigh in, I watched and waited hoping it might be enough to sneak in to the cut. Unfortunately, I was a few ounces short and I was off early to start practice on the Red River for the season’s first Bass Master Central Open.
This tournament epitomized the importance of seizing an opportunity when you have the chance. With the two giants I had in the livewell day one, it was a crushing blow to miss the cut. Looking back, I wish I could have made a few adjustments to scrape out two more keepers. With this type of competition, not weighing in a limit on a good lake like Bull Shoals will put you behind the eight ball. This was an event that I was counting on a good finish, so the pain was sharp as I looked forward to the next two fisheries on the Elite Series, which I knew nothing about.