April 3 - Its over 20 hours drive to Rogers, Arkansas. So the plan is to drive somewhere close to Little Rock today and finish the trip tomorrow. I will meet Chris somewhere on I40 via cb. This is one tournament I look forward to, since I did well there last year placing in the top 10. The weather for the drive is nice, mild temps but very windy. I can feel the wind whooping the boat behind me. Going up an down the big mountain in Asheville is hairy enough without wind gust.
April 4 - Back on the road again after a quick muffin and cup of coffee in hotel lobby. We think we are about 5 or 6 hours from Beaver Lake. The wind is still blowing, but it warm enough to wear shorts. Last year, the tournament was a week later, so the question is if the fish will be bedding again. When we arrive at our home for the week, which is on the lake shores, we quickly notice this year will be different. Last year, the lake was 10 feet above normal, this year, it looks like it down 5 feet. Thats a 15 foot change from last year. A quick run into town for license, grocery store and supper, then time to prepare for practice.
April 5 - First day on the water. The water temps are in the mid 50's but I'm not sure the fish are spawing. After running a few banks, its pretty obvious they are not. But the weather is warm and sunny, and they could begin any day. The water is crystal clear everywhere and I find the bite tough. I only manage a few small fish, not many keepers. Chris reports he had a great day with a suspending jerkbait. Thats not my forta, but will give it a go tomorrow.
April 6 - The weather man is calling for a major front to pass thru late today or tonight. Its pretty windy now, but the sun is out. I will fish the upper end of Beaver today. The water is alittle more color than lower. What I mean by that is, you can only see 10 feet instead of 15 ! I have never been a fan of a jerkbait, but work it most of the day. I have several fish follow the bait, and some small takers. By afternoon, the weather has turned cool and windy. The place we are staying offers free sheltered mooring, but with the inpending storm, I will trailer my boat.
April 7 - The front has come with a vengence. We awake to roaring winds, thunder booming and hail. We also get a early morning wake up call from the owner of the lodge saying "Your boat is in stall 9 and its come loose from its mooring and getting the crap beat out of it on the dock". Well, I do have slip 9, but I took my boat out last night and someone else decided to use it. It must be 30 or more degrees colder. With the wind and rain, I decide not to rush out on the lake today. The storm is predicted to move out by mid morning and does. I start putting on every stitch of warm clothing I have brought to go out, but Chris says "You're crazy if you go out, theres another line of storms on radar heading our way by afternoon." I'm not on crap, so I ask him to help me launch my boat and hit the water. Chris stays in for the day, and on second thought that night, I should have too. When I got to where I was planning on practicing, I was numb from the cold and wind. After about 2 hours out, a storm bigger than the early morn one brewed up. It had tornado strength wind and severe hail stones. I was fortunate to find an empty dock with a covered slip to wait it out for a couple hours so I could make the run back in. Thank goodness I had some Skippy peanut butter and bread to eat during.
April 8 - The weather is freezing ! My boat has frost on it. As I prepare to launch my boat, several other pros who are staying in the lodge come over to me and make the comment, "We watched you launch your boat yesterday and go out in that storm, you got more guts than us, we stayed in all day and watched tv"! My comment is "When you're not on them, you have to keep looking". Its a miserble day, cold and blistering wind. The water temps are in the low 40's, there will be no sight fishing this year. Today I will slow down, use some light line and a crankbait. Not my style, but it will be tough cold front conditions. Today will be a long day for me.
April 9 - Last night we made a deseparation trip into town for gloves, thermo underwear and toboggans . Neither of which can be found in this town, not even at Wal-Mart. We got lucky and stopped in some last minute Dollar store and found a large rack of each. I have every one of them on. My boat is like a skating ring, white from frost. Chris still is doing well with a jerkbait, so here I go again trying to make it work. By 11 am, it begins to snow, yes snow. Chris calls me on the cell phone to see if I have figured them out. I tell him that it is snowing on me and he remarks "I better get out of the cold, its making me delirious". But soon the flakes begin to fall on the upper end and Chris, and we both retreat to the room. I do not feel good about the tournament. I did manage to catch a limit one day in practice, guess I will go there and hope for the best. Tonight is registration and pairings in town. My co-angler for tomorrow is from Chicago. Hope he is use to cold and wind being from Windy City.
April 10 - I am boat # 97 out today. The run is long and will be brutal with sub freezing temps this morning. The day does not go well at all for me. I manage only 3 lbs and had a couple keepers get off that hurt. Money cut is around 9 lbs, should have been near that. My crankbait bite really died today. Tomorrow I wil change up some, go to light line, small finese worms and try and get a limit of spots to atleast get some points. Not how I had planned on the outcome of the tournament.
April 11 - Chris makes the comment he wish he had a picture of my boat. I have two spinning reels, and one rod with a jerkbait on deck. A first and probably last assortment for me. The morning frost is solid on our boats today. The fog is thick has pea soup today, not good since we are launching our boats at our camp and running to take off sight, about 10 minutes away. After some hairy moments, we manage to get to take off via gps. There was really no need to rush, we will suffer a 3 hour fog delay today. When the tournament officials finally let us loose, on the run down the lake, we run into another fog bank. Its crazy and dangerous, with boats zooming by no one knowing where everyone is. I tell my co-angler "This is stupid, I'm pulling into the next shoreline I can see and start fishing". He agrees, better than getting run over. The stop proves to be a good one for my co-angler. He immediately lands a nice 3 lb largemouth. All I can mustard is small ones. The day is a long one again for me, managing only a little over 4 lbs. There is some good news, my co-angler has caught enough to make the Top 10 cut for co-anglers. He is excited.
April 12- 13 - The next two days will be hectic. There is some of the biggest crowds to date visiting the FLW Fun Zone and Hellmann's booth. The weather is gorgous, sunny and mid 70's. Where was this last week. Tracey Byrd will give a free concert one night. This is the home of Wal-Mart. The store we are set up at is the first and orginal Wal-Mart store, its huge just like the crowds. My plan was to leave for home tonite, start the 20 hour journey back home, but instead have agreed to stay over two more days and work a charity event on behalf of Hellmann's. Its a Childrens Miracle Network event, with activities starting Sunday afternoon and a charity tournament on Monday. Its a good cause and good exposure for Hellmann's. I will be Tuesday before I am home.