As the years have gone by, my fishing endeavors have shifted focus. For many years it was just for the love of the outdoors and the challenge of tricking the fish into biting. This aspect is still a major part of my passion and will always be. However, with a competitive side, I soon found myself intrigued by the tournament aspect of the sport; to be able to do what I love and be in a game environment added a whole new dynamic.
I spent years doing tournaments, and each weekend I would travel to a different destination and put my money and fishing experience on the line for some great cash and prizes. This time of my life was a lot of fun and we cashed some checks and ended up at the top of the field on many events. We also had our fair share of defeat and took some losses. All-in-all, it helped me become the angler I am today.
With life, work and the start of a beautiful family, the competitive side had to be put on the back burner and I wouldn’t change that for the world. As my work shifted to my own business, I found less time for the tournament game and slowly fizzled it out of my fishing approach.
My new and primary focus became guiding, which to date has been the most rewarding way to spend my time on the water. Guiding incorporates all the aspects of fishing I truly love. First and foremost, I could not choose a better occupation. I’m immersed in the outdoors on a daily basis and the camaraderie and friendships I have acquired are priceless.
However, now and then, I still find myself craving that tournament-style fishing and have dabbled in it more frequently in the past couple of years. I’ve learned a lot and have more to learn, but each victory, or coming close to victory, is one step closer to finding maximum efficiency.
Recently, my tournament partner, Rob Betsch, and I decided to fish a local American Bass tournament on Lake McClure. To have any kind of success in competition, one must devote at least one day to practice prior to the event. Multiple days is even better.
With only the day before the event, we headed over to the lake, knowing we would have to work double time to find productive water and eliminate unproductive water. We spent hours fishing each and every portion of the lake, from deep to shallow, with a variety of offerings. We found just a minimal amount of success and discovered a ton of areas that just weren’t working.
Sometimes not finding fish is a good thing because it keeps you off unproductive water on game day. And, that is exactly what happened. We went all-in on the few locations that seemed to hold fish and caught fish all day long in just small stretches on water.
Now, this tournament was far from a slugfest. In fact, it was an absolute grind for the biggest small limit. We spent the day upgrading by ounces and never broke the two-pound mark on the scale. After the prior day and recent results on this body of water, we felt like we were doing OK and might have a shot at first place.
Approaching the scales, we talked with a few other anglers and determined our bag was better than average. When our fish hit the official scale, the director smirked, repositioned the fish and smirked again. Soon followed the most dreaded words.
“The weight leading is 8.42-pounds. And you guys have 8.4 ... 0.”
We all chuckled in disbelief. We did good, but lost by the slightest of margins.
Overall, the tournament was a success and we left with our heads held high. We fished clean and didn’t make any decisions that we regretted. It just wasn’t our day, but congratulations to the first team for barely edging us out. The fire had been lit and it is on to the next.
John Liechty is the owner of Xperience Fishing Guide Service in Angels Camp. Contact John at (209) 743-9932.