Bear down


After my first Elite Series win last year out of Fort Madison, Iowa on the Mississippi River, I asked multi-time Elite Series winner, Mike McClelland, if his second win came easier than the first. His reply? "Not so much. They're all hard to win in this crowd." Well, that gives a guy a lot of hope, doesn't it?

I have to admit that the win in Iowa came as a shock. If you haven't, you can read about how the derby went down here. Going into the final day, I was sitting in sixth place and just shy of five pounds behind the lead. Five pounds behind is not a huge deal on some of the ponds that we visit on the Elite Series trail, but five pounds on pools 18  20 of the Mississippi River in June is like 10 pounds behind on Guntersville in April. Not out of the realm of possibility, but not high on the probability scale to come from that far behind for the win. "Shocked" might not be a strong enough word for watching the whole last day at Iowa unfold in front of me up to and through the final weigh-in.

By contrast, the recent win at Pickwick was just that  almost a complete 180. After leading the first two days, I slipped 7 ounces behind the lead to a tie for third at the end of Day Three, thanks to a "fish care penalty" that occurred on Day Two. My fault. The 4 1/2-pounder had my E1 so far back in its throat that I had to get my side cutters out and cut the split ring off the bait to free the rear hook and get it out of the fish's gills. Gotta hate it when they're eating your bait that well. If not for that lost 8 ounces, I would have gone wire to wire. No one picked up on that little tidbit of info.

Being out in front for the first two days, I'm not going to go all out and say that I expected to win, that would be pretty& umm, presumptuous, maybe? Even after slipping a little on Day Three by bringing in just shy of 13 pounds, I knew I was in the area to have a shot at winning. I also knew at the end of Day Three that I had missed some little piece of the puzzle out there in the midst of the cypress trees. Some little piece that would fit together to make it all come clear as to what I needed to do to catch another 20 pound sack.

Something that I've noticed over the course of fishing several years of multi day tournaments is that I've never focused on winning any of the events. Even those that I've won, I've rarely thought about actually "winning" the event during the course of a day's fishing. During my first Open win in 2003, I never really thought about winning until I was sitting on the stage, sweating my butt off in the Mississippi August heat, while waiting for someone to bump me from the really hot "hot seat". It never happened. The longer I sat there sweltering in the sun, the more time I had to think about the "W".

On the water that last day of the Open, all I had in front of me was the thought of catching the biggest bag of fish that I could  and I did. In fact, I brought in the biggest bag of the week and beat the field by almost 5 pounds. Shocked everyone else and myself too. Hey, it was just one of those days when the juju was flowing, all the stars and planets aligned, and the bass were snapping.

While winning a BFL Regional that same year, I don't remember thinking about winning during any of the three days. I only remember going out each day and focusing on doing everything to the best of my ability all day long. During that event, I do remember bearing down on that last day. It was during a brief thunderstorm shortly before I was due to check in. I had come back to a small backwater area close to the ramp to try and cull up a few ounces. During the brief downpour, it would have been very easy to sit down in the boat and wait out the storm. Instead, I kept throwing my spinnerbait and culled 3 times. That may be the difference in first and second place  knowing when to bear down.

During Day Four of the Elite Series River Rumble last year, I might have let a little glimmer of hope creep in thinking about holding one of those big, blue trophies over my head, but I was focused more on catching five fish. I knew during the day that it was time to bear down and do the best that I could do. On the boat ride back down the Mississippi River, I knew that I had fished well during an extremely tough tournament and I was proud of the fact that I had gone out and brought in a limit all four days of the event. Where I finished in the event was secondary to what I felt I had accomplished on a personal level. Again with the hot seat and having to sit through five other anglers to see who would hoist the blue hardware. Shocker  it was me.

The Pickwick event was the first derby where I knew at a point in time during the day that I was the winner. It actually happened around 9:00 the morning of Day Four. Fishing through a weather-shortened, five hour day, by 8 a.m. I had put just over 20 pounds in the boat. Shortly before 9 a.m. I caught another behemoth that pushed the scales over 6 pounds, giving me somewhere in the 23 pound range. No one had even come close to 23 pounds during the event in a nine hour day. On Day Three, Dean Rojas had dropped 20-13 on the scales for the biggest sack of the week and I was way past that with a couple of hours to fish.

I knew. I knew that going out that day only 7 ounces out of the lead and with 23 in the box at 9 a.m. someone was going to have to beat me. I heard someone say after the weigh-in "Well, if Skeet had another four hours, he could have&" What? He could have what? Caught another 20 pounds? So? Another 20 would have put him in, oh, I don't know, still not first. With another 4 hours of fishing, who's to say that K-Pink doesn't cull the measly little 3-pounder with another 5 or 6, or even 7-pounder? Could have. They were in there and I knew how to catch them.

Sixty days after the win, I'm still not sure it has sunk in. Thanks to Pickwick being the second of four tournaments crammed in to six weeks, there was no rest for the weary. Monday morning saw the pink Jewelbait.com BassCat out on Guntersville shortly after daybreak. I was tired. Instead of bearing down and pushing through the weariness, I was beat down. And still had at least five days of fishing ahead of me. Then a three day writer's conference, then work at the BassCat Owner's Invitational, then a flight back to Augusta on Sunday to get ready for the next Elite event on Clark's Hill on Monday. Whipped.

At a time I should have bore down, I let up. Let the weariness creep in and it shows in the standings of Guntersville and Clark's Hill. My hat's off to Skeet for making all those Top 12's in a row during an extremely grueling schedule. Not surprised that he had a little hiccup at Clark's Hill. Surely his yellow butt was dragging by the time he got there. Pretty sure the rest of us were. Who schedules this stuff anyway?

Living the dream, baby, living the dream.


By the time we rolled into the K-Pink driveway after 7 weeks on the road, I was ready to go inside, pull the blinds, bolt the doors, turn off the phones, and make the world go away. It didn't work like that, though. Stuff to do. People to see. Places to go. No rest for the wicked. Yet. Time to get a little rest and get ready to bear down for the last two events.

For more info on Kevin or to contact him, visit his website at kfshort.com.