I remember this………..by John Allen

               I began fishing tournaments beginning with Outhouse Anglers several years ago.  I always wanted to fish bass tournaments, but never had the opportunity until then.  I found Outhouse Anglers on the internet and called Greg Chapman who was listed as the club’s Tournament Director.  He invited me to my first meeting.  We met at Denny’s on Blanding Blvd. back then.  Some of the first people I met were Mike Grant, George Ernst, Greg Chapman, Tuffy Hunter, Karl Hidalgo, Russ Dement, Brad Strayer, Norm James, Matt Fields and many others.  They welcomed me with open arms and made me feel very comfortable in an intimidating situation.  Of course they did…………they wanted my money!  Our first tournament was at Rodman in October.  I thought I was a pretty good fisherman, but quickly found out I was not.  The bite was slow that day (at least for me).  I thought…….well………..slow for me……..nobody will have anything today.  I proceeded to zero.  I do recall catching a 6” bass on a spinnerbait that day.  Boy was that exciting.  At the weigh in, the parade of fish began to file in.  Matt Fields won with five 3 lb fish that all looked like twins.  I think Karl was second with about 13.5 lbs and there were a whole bunch of limits behind them.  I thought maybe I should quit (almost did).  Well, instead of giving up I showed up again to donate.  I quickly decided that I better start fishing with some of these guys so I could watch them.  I didn’t so much care about discovering their secret spots, but I just wanted to watch them and see how they think and where they go different times of the year.  I parked my boat for the next 10 months and asked to draw out with the real fishermen.  Two of the first people I drew were George Ernst and Greg Chapman.  Some of the other guys told me not to get bore-hawged from the back of the boat.  I proceeded to cast over Greg’s shoulder all day in a tournament in the river.  He never said a word, even though I think we both zeroed that day. 


               The first time I remember catching any decent fish in a tournament was with George Ernst at Toho.  I caught an 8 lb’er from the back of his boat.  I yelled “get the net!”…….of course, George had no net.  Anyway, he was kind enough to lip it for me.  We put it in the livewell and then he told me his livewells were not working, so we would have to dip a 32 oz cup into the lake all day to keep our fish alive.  We both caught fish that day and the next.  I came in 3rd behind Brad Strayer and Greg Chapman.  George taught me about trickworms and flukes in that tournament. 


               Several years later we merged with Jacksonville Bass Club and anything I thought I knew about fishing again went out the window.  These guys could flat out fish.  Again, I thought maybe I should quit.  I thought there was no way to keep up with these characters.  I did take a few months off which I certainly regret now.  I came back after almost a year off.  Since then, I have zeroed many more times. 


               I guess it is those days where we go out and whack’em that keeps us coming back.  The great thing about fishing is that anyone can go out and catch’em on any given day, but everyone thinks they can win at the beginning of each new tournament day.  It is that hope that keeps us all coming back.  Every cast could be the one that puts us over.  There is a fine line between fishing and catching.  Most of the time I am just standing on the deck of my boat with my pole in my hand.

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