Biggest tourney catch not found in the water

John Liechty

A few weekends ago, I fished a tournament on New Melones Reservoir. As in every sport or game, there are times when you win and times when you lose. Well, unfortunately, this tournament was the latter, and we struggled to find the larger fish it took to win. We remained positive until the last cast, and headed to the boat launch for the weigh-in.

As we pulled up to the launch, I received a text stating, “We are in the bed of your truck.” It was from my wife, and she had brought my two children with her. This quickly changed my head-down stroll up the ramp to an uplifted speed walk. There they were: my daughter spotted me and waved, yelling, “Dada, Dada.” She was so excited to see me, and to say I felt the same would be an understatement.

I began to give them a brief summary of our day as we hugged and smiled at each other, when all of a sudden, a couple of motorcycles rolled down the road. It was my father-in-law and brother-in-law and they, too, came to see the weigh-in and award ceremony.

We stood together as one happy family and watched everyone bring their fish to the scales. My thoughts of winning, or even doing well in the tournament, faded as my greatest achievements and true happiness were right beside me.

Ever since I was a young child, I was exposed to the ways of competitive fishing. Going to my dad’s tournaments with my brother and mom and watching the boats line up and seeing bags of fish was always a normal thing. But standing there with my wife and her family, I realized that there are a lot of questions many people have about the sport. And from the outside looking in, it’s a pretty interesting procedure that we do on a weekly basis and just take all the intricacies for granted.

For example, as the boats systematically pulled up, one after the other, it was hard not to notice all the contraptions used to catch little green fish. From fancy, self-controlling electric trolling motors on the bows of boats to massive 250-horsepower gas engines on the backs, to television-sized screens on the bows and at the consoles. Then there was the question, “What are those two tall things on each side of the outboard?” Well, those are power poles, or talons, which are lowered into the water and used as an anchor when fishing in shallow water.

Then the fish started to come to the scales in heavy-duty plastic bags and more interest was gained.

“Are they alive?” Yes. “Why do they have two bags?” Because the Department of Fish and Wildlife requires any fish over 5 pounds to be in a separate bag. “Why are their fish all upside down?” Because they don’t know how to use a fizzing needle. “What’s a fizzing needle?” ... You get the idea.

Now, as I would have liked to have done better, I know that you can’t win all the time. I feel like having my family standing by my side and taking interest in an activity that I consume myself with and love, is a win in itself.

John Liechty is the owner of Xperience Fishing Guide Service in Angels Camp. Contact John at 743-9932.

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