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Ride of his life

7/24/2007

Editor's note: Charles Waldorf, a recent graduate of Buffalo State University, is fishing the Empire Chase presented by Mahindra Tractors, and agreed to chronicle his week as a co-angler for ESPNOutdoors.com. Check back for daily updates through the remainder of the tournament.

It sure did feel good to sleep in this morning.

Never again will I look back on this tournament and have any negative thoughts. Sure things could have been different. I could have bagged those fish and made some money and maybe place higher then my buddy Jeff, but that was yesterday's news. I took my own advice and sat down and thought about everything that has happen to me the past week. I fished with a living legend in Rick Clunn, I met some truly amazing people Sam, Nick and James, I talked fishing with some of the best bass fishermen in the world, KVD, Skeet Reese, Timmy Horton, A-Mart, John Murray, Chris Lane and Ike to name a few. Guys who up until this week I stalked in parking lots or watched from a distance at the Classic weigh-in in Pittsburg.

Up until about 10:30 a.m. today, I was thinking about not attending today's weigh in. Even though the fish I lost did not lose the chance at fishing today, I did not think I would be able to be in that atmosphere again. But then it hit me: It would not be called fishing if you caught them all the time and I definitely would not be the president of bassaholic anonymous if I caught them all the time. It's the thrill of the chance at catching your biggest fish, it's that scent that's in the air on the water at 5 in the morning, it's the serenity of being in the middle of nowhere, with no cell phone, not thinking about work, really not thinking about anything other then what you might pull up on your next cast; That's what this was all about.

Today at the weigh-in, I heard in the voice of the anglers that came up short that same gut wrenching disappointment that I was feeling yesterday. I approached every one of them and thanked them, thanked them for the amazing time I had and for the way they sucked it up and greeted the fans and sign autographs for the kids that are going to make our sport even stronger. I was one of those kids once watching from the crowd, dreaming of doing this. I also told them to not be too upset, most of them would be on there way to Oneida Lake to start practicing for the Memorial and I would be going to work. The saying really is true "a bad day of fishing greatly out weighs a bad day at work."

With all that being said, I hope this blog hooked at least one person into going out and giving fishing a shot. Trust me, you will not be disappointed if you give it a try, just don't blame me when you fall victim to this addiction. Last but not least, I would like to thank Berkley. No I did not get any buckets of those cool new alive baits but I do Love Berkley series one rods and use them all week matched up with Quantum and Abu Garcia reels (maybe they will hook me up with some free swag for this shameless plug). I would also like to thank all the people at BASS and ESPN who made this a week to remember.

Keep fishing,

Charles Waldorf

Tough final day

Never again will I be throwing a 3/8oz naked jig with a 3-inchwatermelon Senko, on 8-pound test during a tournament. It might seem as if I am harping on this point, but after today I need to reiterate that bass fishing is one of the most mentally taxing sports there is, right up there with golf. And mentally, I've got to start getting past this tournament.

I started off my morning in the worst way possible. When Chris Lane and I rolled up to our first spot, I dropped my Senko to the bottom and bam, just like that, a nice fish. Once again I found myself reeling in my line faster than I am accustomed to, because these fish get a hook in them and come straight to the top. I recall the last tournament I fished, when the pro told me to bury my rod in the water to try to limit the amount of slack in the line when they jump, so I buried my rod tip down about three feet. She made a jump and swam back to the bottom. I would love to write about the next two slobs that I hooked into that did the same exact thing but I think I will just leave it at that.

I then switched to a drop shot set up and struggled to fish. The thoughts going through my head had just totally shaken me up. I finally hooked into a nice one on a 4-inch Finesse power worm, watermelon with red glitter. I have to thank Owner for making a really nice SHARP drop shot hook that helped ensure a hook set that was not coming out.

I went on to catch another fish and weight in two fish for a whopping 6 pounds. I fell from being into the money to 60th place. However, my buddy Jeff I was telling you about really went out and caught them (although he should have, since he was fishing with the Bassmaster Classic champion Boyd Duckett) to finish in 28 th place.

I would just like to thank BASS for giving me this opportunity. I mean, writing my own blog about fishing has been great, and meeting the pros I idolize and being able to talk to them made a miserable day on the water worth it, because now I have a week of memories that no one will ever take away. I have never been so lucky in my life. If there is one thing that I wish I would have done differently and one bit of advice I can offer, it is that, once I lost that first fish I wish I would have slowed down. Taking even a minute to recollect myself and to decide that they wouldn't get the best of me would have helped. Oh, and maybe next time I will fish a tournament far, far away from my hometown Buffalo, so the overwhelming pressure of impressing friends and family will not affect me so much.

Thanks everyone and I hope you enjoyed my story of the best week of my fishing life. I'll see you at the final weigh-in Sunday afternoon.

Pro hockey player, football player, baseball star or bass fisherman?

Today I was invited to a broadcast of "Hooked Up," a series of fishing information on ESPNOutdoors.com.

There I met Kevin VanDam, Timmy Horton, Davy Hite, Scott Rook, Paul Hirosky and Skeet Reese, and I got to thinking that if you were to ask anybody the question of which pro athlete does not belong in the above grouping, I believe a majority of them would say bass fisherman.

I would say they are very wrong. Granted, I never played professional hockey, though I had aspirations to when I was in high school and college. I've also played baseball almost as long as I have fished.

However, I love fishing, I've been fishing ever since my family's first trip to the 1,000 islands region in north central New York at the tender age of 5. My whole life I have told people I wanted to be a pro fisherman but until today I was naive to the amount of dedication, hours, and time away from family these men put themselves through.

For the past few weeks I have been telling everyone I know that I was fishing this event. The response from most of them was, "Fishing for a living? How do they do that?"

The answer is, they get up at 4 a.m. every morning for a week. For the first three practice days they fish until or close to dark (amounting to more than 13 hours on the water each day) while maintaining all their equipment to keep it in running order. They constantly study maps and reading about lakes, and they probably spend more time cataloging GPS coordinates than I do photographs. 

All in all, fishing is a very demanding sport. It's also the only sport where there is an "I" in team. These guys have to be mentally tough in order to make it through an eight-hour day of fishing.

Back in the day, almost three years ago I fished a tournament while in college. It was the same type of deal: three days of practice fishing and three days of survival. It was during summer break so free time was easier to come by. I was landscaping and I was able to score the whole week off.

The guy I worked with, also a college student, fished the tournament with me. He and I opted to fish out of our 16-foot aluminum boat with a little 9.9 hp engine, which I will refer to as the Dinger from here on out.

We launched the dinger at a sturgeon point marina, two crazy guys with a 16-foot tin can in the lot amid trailer after trailer of bass boats. We had fished that lake all summer together and had become very adapted to catching some of the monster smallies it has to offer (the biggest of mine being a 6 pound, 3 ouncer that remains my biggest to this day).

So we make our way out in the Dinger and start fishing one of our honey holes when a bass boat rolls up and a man with a strong Southern accent asks, "You guys fish out of that thing a lot out here?"

We told him only when conditions allowed, and that day happened to be one that was pretty close to our limit. The man (whose name I do not recall) was bundled up like it was the dead of winter. He asked (yes, he asked two guys in a tiny boat) if he could fish next to us.

Man, was he in for a treat. It started off a slow day and then started to pick up. We were making drifts to a certain point then running back up (should say walking, compared to the bass boat) to start our drift again. I had been having bad luck snapping off fish, and it came to the point where it was really annoying.

Mind you we watch too much bass fishing on ESPN2, so we both were standing on the wooden seats that ran across the Dinger as we drifted. As we came across some structure, I popped my 3-inch pumpkin seed Senko on a 3/8 oz naked jig off the bottom and felt a hug on the other end.

One thing about the smallmouths up here is that as soon as you hook them they come right to the top, almost as if they've been shot out of a cannon. I dropped my rod down into the water (to prevent them from jumping out of the water) but he just kept jumping. He went up and back down about three times before he ended up snapping my line. All this while Mr. Bass Pro was watching.

Out of a fit of frustration — and I do not recommend this to anyone — I threw my favorite rod and reel into the drink. After thinking about it for about a second I remembered I was not a pro, did not get free stuff and worked hard to buy my equipment.

So what did I do? As fast as I could, I emptied my pockets of my cell phone and camera and jumped in after it. Man, I thought Mr. Bass Pro was going to have a heart attack. I made one swipe out of desperation at the sinking rig and ended up catching it. I re-surfaced to a round of applause from my buddy and the pro. I went on to do well in the tournament, placing 12th out of 200-something.

So, yeah, dedication. I have it, but these guys display it on a whole other level. On that note I am going to try and get some sleep before Day Three of my Elite Series debut, which I'll be fishing in Chris Lane's boat. Wish me luck.

Elite anticipation

It was Sunday July 15th, the day before practice started for my first Elite Series event. The anticipation for the tournament had begun on January 7, a blistering cold day when 3 feet of snow lay on the ground in Buffalo.

I was locked onto my computer to enter in the most outrageous fishing purchase to date. I had fished a few other tourneys on Lake Erie, but none of them could compare to fishing with all the pros I have grown up reading about in the pages of Bassmaster Magazine and watching on ESPN2 on Saturday mornings.

I had a few things to do on Sunday that involved running back home to Angola. To travel from Buffalo to Angola you have to pass through Hamburg, the town where most of the anglers were lodging.

What I did next was very uncharacteristic; as a matter of fact it is down right embarrassing. Driving with my girlfriend, I intentionally took a detour to ensure I would pass by some of the hotels the pros were staying at. That's right: I did a drive by.

I then took it upon myself to pull into the hotel and talk to the anglers. My intent was to score a ride with one of them the following morning for practice. The first person I spoke to was Derek Remitz. He told me he had not heard from his co-angler and would be happy to take me if he did not show.

After that I walk down the rows of bass boats looking like a kid in a candy store, or as my friends pointed out to me, a 13-year-old girl at a Backstreet Boys concert, talking to all the anglers I have read so much about.  

July 16, 2007

Late Sunday night I spoke with Derek and he had told me his co-angler had contacted him and he would be practicing with him in the morning.

I asked Derek what time he anticipated that he and the other pros would be leaving for practice, and was shocked when he told me 4:30 a.m. So I called my friend Jeff Stahl, who is also fishing the tournament, and told him we would have to meet at 4:30 down at the dock.

There wasn't a boat in sight until about 5, when Derek pulled in. Another hour passed before a co-anglerless boat arrived, and seeing as how I did the scouting, I had dibs. When I read the name on the side of the boat my hands started shaking, and they did not stop shaking until I was brought back to the docks later that day.

The angler that pulled in without a co-angler was none other then RICK CLUNN! I think I learned more fishing eight hours with him than I have amassed in my 24 years of fishing. OK maybe not quite, but it sounds good and I did learn a ton.

So I thought  long and hard about posting this and I did not know if I wanted to or not, but after thinking about it, I am going to share and hopefully it will teach a person a thing or two.

When I first approached Mr. Clunn he told me no, and he was going to give me a reason why but I told him the situation did not warrant one. I would be hesitant to pick some kid up off the lawn of a boat ramp to take fishing with me if I were him, too.

After he dropped his boat into the drink, he pulled forward and asked me where I was from. I told him Buffalo and he said "So you have been on this lake a lot."

I told him I grew up on it and occasionally I fished it off of a 16-foot aluminum boat with a little 9.9 hp motor. He then said, "If you want to go fishing, put your stuff in the boat and I will be right down."

Once we started talking, Mr. Clunn told me that there are a lot of loudmouth co-anglers out there. So many co-anglers have ruined opportunities like this by giving away anglers' spots, setups, and lures after the pros have been gracious enough to welcome them on their boat. I have nothing but the utmost respect for Mr. Clunn after that day of fishing.

And further more I would hope that by calling out blabbermouth co-anglers maybe they will think twice about sharing information in the future.

July 18th, 2007

The night before the big day: I had mixed emotions, and I was really nervous about the draw at the angler's meeting at Hamburg High School. I have seen firsthand what can happen if you draw the wrong person. Then again those are the rules and that is what keeps everything fair.

Again walking into a room full of the most elite 108 anglers was an amazing feeling. I tried to control myself a little more this time. I thought it was great to be sitting in a room full of bass fishermen all watching reruns of ESPN2 tournament coverage.

Dinner was great, and then it was time for the draw. My friend Jeff was like the ninth person called and drew Scott Rook. As for myself, I had to wait all the way to the 96th pairing, when I was placed with John Murray out of Phoenix.

I was excited, because I knew the only lakes out on the west cost were very deep lakes and keying in on structure would be part of Murray's plan. I also knew that out of 125 entries in BASS tournaments, Mr. Murray placed in the money 64 times. That is quite the ratio. We exchanged numbers and discussed our meeting time and away we went.

Sleeping that night did not come easy. Ever since I entered the tournament I have been hearing how crazy I was to drop that much money — $750 — into a fishing event. I want nothing more then to prove everyone wrong, and I have very high expectations of the position I can achieve.

July 19th, 2007

Never in my life have I been on Lake Erie when the waves have been that high. It was treacherous!

I met John in the morning and we sat in the long line of anglers to be launched. It was finally our turn to go, and it was the start of a great day.

We rounded the corner of the last break wall to greet a nice, calm, flat lake. What we would be arriving back to eight hours later would be a very different story.

We went out to John's spot and did just about what every other fisherman was doing that day.  John did very well in the morning and I finally caught my first fish around 8 o'clock. I can not put into words the relief I felt after catching that first fish. I would compare it to the pressure felt being up to bat in the bottom of the ninth with two outs and the winning run on third base.

After my first fish I lost one right at the side of the boat. Not being able to use nets really makes it hard when you are trying to reel in a tireless freight train of a smallie. Pound for pound, they're the toughest-fighting fish out there.

Now I was baffled. I had been watching John hock the fish right over the side of the boat and knew I would not want to chance trying it with my 6-pound Seaguar InvizX. So I opted to start fishing with my medium heavy St. Croix rod and Quantum Accurist reel, with 12lb Seaguar InvizX.

I hooked up with what appeared to be my biggest fish thus far. I played him (or her) for a really long time hoping to tire the beast out, and had plans of sliding it right up the back of the boat the next time we road a wave down. When I though it had finally tired out, I went to slide 'er right on up and then, BAM, gone. She found some energy and spit out my tube faster then most of the southern boys left the lake at 10 a.m.

Then the wind picked up. I knew the conditions of the lake could pick up this quick but had never seen it firsthand. The best way to describe it to you all is being in the middle of the ocean in a bass boat. At one point I looked up and all I could see was water on either side of us.

I went on to lose one more fish which was riding the top of a wave and decided my tube was not good enough for it. I caught two that were not of legal length, and then ended up catching a limit.

I caught my last fish at 2:50. We weren't due in until the next-to-last flight at 4:10, but our fish were not liking the waves as much as some of the other guys on the water and we had to get them weighed in and released to be caught another day.

I weighed in five fish that went 13-4, good for 36th place.

July 20, 2007

I never knew how tiring bass fishing really is. I woke up at 4 again this morning — something that I don't even do for my day job as a photographer at New Era Cap. I rolled out of bed and threw on the same lucky clothes as Thursday.

I knew something was up when I walked out the door of my apartment and the neighbor's wind chimes were playing something that sounded like a heavy metal song. I drove to the ramp and waited on the dock to find my Day Two partner Chris Lane. Keith Alan informed me that he was scurrying around for a kill switch. I waited and before I was even able to meet up with Mr. Lane, Trip made the announcement that Day Two had been cancelled.

Most people were happy. I felt good sitting in a money spot and thought it would be a true test of an anglers' ability to go fish the Niagara River.

I have lived in Buffalo my whole life but can count on one hand how many times I have fished the river. I never thought I would say I wanted to fish the river but I am ever studying the way these guys fish and really felt as if I would have got my money's worth watching them trying adapt to fishing the river; after all, it was the back-up plan.

So now I sit waiting for Saturday. Hopefully a much calmer day, a day where we can all enjoy Lake Erie and its abundance of smallmouth freight trains.  

Editor's note: Check in daily during the tournament for live video of the weigh-ins and a realtime leaderboard at 3 p.m. ET Thursday through Saturday. ESPNOutdoors.com will air Hooked Up, the live Internet shows, on Sunday at 8 a.m., 10 a.m. and noon ET on Sunday. The 45-minute Hooked Up show begins at 3 p.m. ET on Sunday, leading into the final live weigh-in and a realtime leaderboard at 3:45 p.m. ET.

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