Monday, March 23, 2015

As the Sun sets, surely another must Rise

Life is precious, life is short, our legacy's live forever. 

This story is not about fish, but rather those that pursue them.  This past year, I have been blessed with several new friends, this is a story about two.  The first I met at the 2014 Bassmaster Central Regional.  I thought I was there for me, an opportunity to shine.  I was not, I was there for him.  We (my wife and I) met Brad and his wife Kim and immediately, something clicked.  They are special, they are real. 

We weren't alone.  Our team, some spouses and even some children were brought together for a week.  Each day we prepared, practiced, competed, and every evening we gathered to reflect on the day.  We came together as acquaintances, oblivious to the battle raging in Brad.  We left as friends, bonded by the experience, forever changed by our new friend.  You see, Brad has cancer. 

Life's not always fair, it's not always certain, but it's always constant. There's always a start and always an end, but the journey defines who we are.

He never complained, there was no excuse.  Every day Brad competed, grinding it out.  Every evening, he laughed, he sang, he visited.  His attitude is infectious, his outlook is inspiring, his faith is eternal.  He embodies the traits we hold precious, persistent and dedicated.  Though his body is broken and will eventually succumb, his spirit, his soul will never relent.

Brad is not a part of Bass Nation, Brad is Bass Nation.

Even though he is weak, even though it's progressed, he still desires to compete.  Brad is entered in this years state tournament.  Defiant, his drive is still there.  My hope above all hope is that he rallies and we are blessed with his presence next month.  Either way, his legacy will remain, he will always be remembered.  Brad will forever be the Nation.

As the Sun sets, surely another must Rise.

Michael's family contacted our state chapter for assistance.  They needed help organizing a benefit tournament.  Unsure where to start, they asked if someone would be willing to help guide them through the process.  In doing so, I've had the pleasure to meet a young boy with a very large passion for bass fishing. 

In 2010, Michael was diagnosed with a rare, life threatening lung disease.  His condition, a form of Children's Interstitial & Diffuse Lung Disease (or chiLD as it's more commonly known), prevents him from participating in many activities we take for granted.  In this, he found fishing, specifically bass fishing.  Though he's dependent upon oxygen, Michael can still function normally with a rod and reel.  Michael is becoming an expert fisherman, complete with a growing desire to compete in bass tournaments.  Though too young to compete in high school bass tournaments, he wants to in the future.  In doing so, his desire is to bring awareness to and raise funds for the chiLD Foundation to support research towards a cure.

When life delivers lemons, make lemonade.

Michael is an energetic, growing boy with a large appetite for life.  Undeterred by his condition, he has found a way to 'Live'.  Which path has he chosen?  The Nation, a path rife with challenge in the pursuit of a quarry that remains ever elusive. 

Our legacy in not in the gifts we give nor the gifts we have, but rather in how the gifts we have are used to impact the lives of those we meet.

To learn more about Michael you can visit

To learn more about the chILD Foundation go to
This is a video about Michael and his Fish-A-Thon event from last year:

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

The Evolution of our Sport

   I have been wanting to write on this for some time and have withheld due to the never ending thoughts I have on the subject.  Bass fishing continues to be a hugely popular sport, but recent trends have it growing at an awkward rate.  The interest level outside the standard demograpic has gained, especially in non-traditional markets.  However, interest in some traditional areas has lagged.  Maybe it's marketing, maybe it's social media, maybe cost, or maybe it's something else.  Whatever it is, make no mistake that people with no interest in fishing now understand what it is and many who fully understand it are losing interest.  Along with this are some alarming trends, some of which I hope we don't lose out on.

Recent Trends
   Social media is largely responsible for much of the gains, with participation increasing in such applications as Facebook and Twitter.  But what is behind it?  Is it the connections, networking, maybe the potential for notoriety?  Maybe, but I'm not buying it.  Participation in most of our circuits seems to lag.  Yes, BASS and FLW continue to have significant participation numbers, but many team circuits have folded.  Others are merging, many are having to re-invent themselves to stay relevant.  So where is the growth?

Youth Infusion
   Interest in College and High School fishing teams is skyrocketing.  States like Illinois and Kentucky are leading the way in high school participation.  These states along with others now have programs as part of their state athletic associations.  They see the value of strong participation in what has long been considered a family sport, as well as a new scholarship path to Universities eager to recruit.  Both organization groups are garnering significant sponsor commitments.  And why is this?  One possible answer?  Parent and mentor involvement.  Our society is one in which we value children's needs, desires and wants over our own.  Notice I didn't say our children, I specifically meant all children.  This can be a good thing, like groups and individuals that target special needs kids.  I am increasingly reading stories about individuals making sacrifices to get kids outdoors, and I never get tired of reading about it.  I also know several people who want to get more involved, not just with kids but also with groups like disabled vets.  Additionally, many parents are forgoing their own aspirations in order to provide a path to participate, and many of our state agencies are taking notice since these are future license holders. 

   While participation numbers are increasing, that participation is regional.  Many areas are lacking resources, access to waterways is limited or restricted and some still lack interested mentors and leaders.  Cost is another factor.  Our sport continues to escalate in cost while funding shrinks.  This is most apparent at the highest levels, but fully visible even locally.  It is difficult, if not nearly impossible to participate on a self funded budget when transportation and equipment costs continue to rise.  An Opens angler can expect to spend roughly 8 to 10 thousand dollars to participate in a single three tournament division.  How do we expect recent college grads to afford this, especially when competitors with established careers can't?  Add to this that many high school and college teams are self funded, often relying on family to provide trip expenses, and we can see where it is heading. 

   Recent successes such as the Lee brothers, Carl Jocumsen and Ken Iyobe qualifying for the Elites are creating new excitement on the collegiate and international stage.  Add to this a new path to the Classic by way of the Team Championship and we have a recipe for new and sustained growth. 

   So what does all this mean?  How does it affect me?  It depends on what you hope to gain or lose.  If you are a casual angler and could care less, you may lose, you may win.  It is easy to set back and let others do the work.  If you do care and want to have influence over how the sport evolves, get involved.  Even if you disapprove of certain aspects, your participation can influence such outcomes as improved angler access, improved fisheries and maybe reduced costs.  It may also mean the difference in a young persons life.  Maybe your child, grandchild or neighbor will one day desire to participate?  Whichever, one thing is for certain.  This sport will evolve and our influence can and will ensure that it remains for not only our future, but also for generations to come.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

2014 Season Wrapup

Thank you to MOMAN Lures, Okuma Fishing and McKinney Custom Tackle.  

     Well, 2014 is in the books.  I'd like to say it was wildly successful, but that would be a stretch.  However, I can say it was still a good year and there are several positives.  Overall, I finished 56th in points in the Bassmaster Central Division this year.  This is out of over 200 anglers that participated, so I was roughly in the 25th percentile.  Absolutely NOT where I wanted (and nothing like 2013), but it's still a good start for my first year in the Pro Division.
Waiting in bag line

     So, what was good about it?  Let me start by listing what was bad.  First, my year started with a boat issue.  Four holes in my gas tank at Amistad left me in a frazzled state.  I won't revisit how that happened, but none the less, it happened.  I was able to get a temp fix, followed by a permanent one after the first event.  However, it haunted me all year.  Couple this with a small tank (32 gallons) and I found myself wondering if I had enough gas at every event.  It definitely affected how I fished, by influencing where I went.  I never felt comfortable making long runs, since the thought of getting back nagged me all day.  Secondly, on the water decision making cost me.  I made good decisions on the water at every event, just always too late in the day.  I was too stubborn trying to make something work, that I didn't give myself enough time.
    Now what was good.  My preparation was spot on and my practices were great.  I quickly found fish at every event and put together a solid game plan.  I carefully managed bites to only catch a few early in practice (to gauge size) and then to shake off in the official practice.  I was even able to change tactics as the event unfolded, just always too late (as mentioned earlier).  Bottom line, my preparation was good, my execution not so.

   How do I adjust next year?  I tweak the plan.  First off, I sold my boat.  I am in the process of getting a new one, a must to eliminate the gas situation.  Secondly, I'm adjusting my practice slightly.  I plan to do a lot more driving next year, planning my daily runs to include my planned strategy as well as (more importantly) new areas that are similar to what I found fish on.  Lastly, I am changing my strategy.  Too often I went after the better than average fish first instead of concentrating on the limit fish.  I have to reverse this as not filling your limit is crushing.  Yes, if I had caught a limit of the fish I targeted, I would have been in a different position.  However, I didn't and that was costly.
   So, what's next?  I want to expand to fish the Southern Division as well as the Central Division.  If you look at the most successful anglers on the circuit you find two common links. 
   * First, they fish multiple divisions.  The more tournaments fished allow an angler the ability to adapt quicker and be successful faster.  As a good friend put it, the first couple of years is like going to college.  There is a learning curve every time you step up a level.  The Bassmaster Opens are nothing like most large regional tournaments.  The competition is stiff with not only the areas best sticks, but also multiple Bassmaster Elite anglers including legends of the sport.  Add to that the intense pressure a fishery gets with that many quality anglers over a week of practice and the bite is tough. 
   * Second, funding is critical.  Most of the truly successful anglers have sponsors that provide entry fee and expense support.  This support may be self generated by owning a business, family support or representative (sponsored by an organization).  Some even have more than one of the types of support.  Bottom line, this level of competition is expensive and the better funded anglers usually outperform the less funded.  Equipment matters and so does the mentality associated with it. 

So that's about it.  A good start and a solid foundation to build on. 

Until the next time, good fishing and God Bless!

Thursday, September 18, 2014

The Value of a Sponsored Angler

                All across the United States, thousands of anglers gear up, prepare boats and spend significant money to pursue their passion.  The fire burns bright, igniting a drive to pursue an elusive creature for a simple chance to reach a goal.  The goal may be small, local or regional; the goal may be large, semi-national or national.  Regardless, the result is the same.  Anglers will spend time and money to fish, especially to compete.  In this quest, competing anglers travel countless miles driving a vehicle, towing a boat.  Gas is bought, food consumed, rooms rented, tackle purchased and entries paid.  Many outside the angling community view this as the circumference of the fishing industry, but this view falls short of reality.

                These same consumers (anglers) also own homes, small business; they support families, have friends and build social networks within their communities and beyond.  Many are very visible in the public domain.  They visit with strangers at gas stations, stores, restaurants and more.  They are often approached, queried about their rigs, the fishing, and especially logo’s if displayed.  Many will influence purchases and even attract others to specific brands.  Regardless, they make their presence known wherever they visit.  This angler, the competing one, is a perfect fit to represent a brand.

                It’s obvious what a sponsor offers an angler, financial support.  This can be anything from paid entry fees or expenses to equipment.  But what does the angler offer a sponsor?  In its simplest form; exposure, brand awareness, advertising.  This isn’t limited to companies in the fishing industry though.  Any company (brand) can benefit from the competing angler.  

                So how does it work?  The most common form is a vehicle and/or boat wrap coupled with additional media such as clothing and logos (graphics) for social media, web sites, business cards and more.  Sound expensive? Not really.  The competing angler can offer significant exposure for a fraction of a medium advertising budget.  Advertising is expensive, newspapers and magazines charge hefty fees, billboards are costly and television is, well, almost cost prohibitive.  All of these offer static brand exposure.  The biggest benefit of a wrap; however, is in the fluid nature of travel.  A billboard that migrates through cities, across states and visits demographics that may not normally see the media has tremendous benefit.  So how is this different than wrapping corporate cars and trucks?  The boat!  If you have ever travelled with a fully rigged tournament bass boat you know the boat elicits looks, people strain to see it.  They walk to it, look at it and ask questions about it.  Now imagine the boat is fully wrapped.   So is that the full extent?  Absolutely not, the best part is the angler has a vested interest and offers something a static ad cannot, a voice.  Every question is an opportunity to explain the brand, product or service.  The value goes beyond traditional advertising.

                So is that it?  Is it simply advertising and money making a partnership?  Of course it’s not.  There are many additional considerations in play.  Not only are added requirements possible, such as event attendance and representation, but serious attention must be paid to the match.  Not every angler is a match for every company.  Careful attention is required to ensure an angler’s values match the company’s values.  A rude, inattentive angler can sabotage just as effectively.  
                In summary, what is the value of a sponsored angler?  It’s large market exposure on a relatively small budget.  Whether you are in marketing or an angler looking to add a sponsor to your resume, consider a partnership on the advertising highway.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

2013 Conagra Foods United Way drive Harlan County Trip Winners.

This has been a little time coming, but....

CONGRATULATIONS to Jordan Limmer. 

Jordan was the recipient of the 2014 Auction trip benefiting the United Way.  The trip was auctioned in the 2013 United Way drive sponsored through Conagra Foods.  The young men were my guests for a day trip fishing for largemouth on Harlan County Reservoir, including overnight accommodations and a great steak dinner!

It was a bonus to find Jordan is a member of the University of Nebraska Omaha Bass fishing team.  I look forward to following his year as he competes at the college level.

The guys caught several fish and even ended the day on a double.  A special thanks to Moman Lures and McKinney custom tackle for providing samples.  The guys got a crash course in flipping tubes and did an impressive job.

It's always fun to meet new friends and share the boat for a day.  Congratulations fellas!

Friday, May 16, 2014

Mid Season Report

Well, so far this year has been mediocre.  Average finishes at every event (65th of 166, 98th of 182 and a 58th I believe of 160).  The weather has been a killer for me, as I found fish in every event only to get swindled by changing conditions.  The good part is that at every event I made the right decision and adjusted correctly.  The bad is that I didn't recognize and change early enough (trying to grind it out).  Decisions are the difference, especially at the Open level.  These guys (and Gals) are too good.  Someone(s) will always make the right decision and catch a good sack.  You have to match that and get enough just to stay in contention. 

With 2 events remaining, at least, I still have hope.  Although my goals have changed slightly, I still have a lot to fish for.  A top 50 finish is a must in the Opens.  It secures priority entry and makes it easier for next season.  I am currently sitting in 72nd, so a good finish at the Arkansas can salvage the season.  Additionally, I still have two options at making the Classic.  I feel good about my chances at Muskogee since I won the Co-angler title last year.  I learned how to fish the river and what it takes to do well there.  Yes, conditions will be different; however, the type of fishing doesn't change only the places. 

Before that though, is the 2014 B.A.S.S. Nation Central Divisional on Lake Eufaula, Oklahoma.  A qualification at the Divisional will put me in Nationals this October and another chance at the Classic.  So to write off this season is a big mistake.  I am planning even harder, prepping better (I hope) and excited as I am more comfortable fishing the summer conditions we will experience.

On another note, congratulations to Jordan Limmer of the UNO Bass fishing team.  Jordan is the recipient of a guided trip on Harlan County Reservoir via last years United Way auction at Conagra Foods.  I will follow-up on my next post with pictures from the trip.

I also want to say a big "Thank You" to Moman Lures, McKinney Custom Tackle (402-301-5987) and Okuma.  Moman Tubes, Custom jigs and cranks from Chris McKinney and my Okuma gear have been instrumental in salvaging my season so far.

Til next time, good fishing and God Bless.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Set-up on Harlan

Finally got the boat back and nice to be on the water.  Spent a couple of hours fishing with my daughter on Harlan County Reservoir.  First time this year, and things are beginning to get started.  Two bass in two hours, a 3 and this 4 1/2. 

Caught both on a custom football jig from McKinney custom tackle (blue pumpkin).  Water temps hovering near 50 with a slight stain to the water.  Harlan is going to be good this year.  Water levels are down, but that is good (historically) for catch rates.

As for the gear, I am throwing two main setups this year. Okuma C3-40x Concept rods paired with either Okuma Serrano or Shimano Curado casting reels and Cabela's new Tournament ZX rods paired with Cabela's ZX or Okuma Krios casting reels.  This particular rod/reel is an Okuma C3-40x heavy Jig rod paired with a Curado and spooled with Seaguar 15lb InvizX flourocarbon.  This is the ideal jig setup as everything is in sync.  Smooth, light, sensitive and a breeze to set the hook and land quality fish.  I also threw a bladed jig on a Tournament ZX paired with a Krios.  That, my friends, is a pairing where 2 manufacturers couldn't have matched any better.  More on that later as I plan a full review after the upcoming Bassmaster Central #2 on the Red River.

Final thoughts, when gearing up with new rods and reels buy as much as you afford.  Not quantity, but quality.  It doesn't matter what brand you prefer, we all have our own preferences.  However, with every brand, you do get what you pay for.  Higher cost items usually have better materials and last much longer.  Having said that, many manufacturers make very good mid range gear.  Just keep in mind, you will need to maintain this gear more often.  I give all my reels a thorough cleaning once a year (complete diss-assembly) and partial cleaning monthly.  If they get especially dirty, like fishing through heavy rainstorms, I'll completely clean them mid-season.  A little TLC goes a long way.

So til next time, God Bless and Good Fishing!