Captain Dusty left Pensacola at 2300 on Tuesday night headed to Ft Meyers, Fl to pick up our new tournament boat. He arrived around 0900 on Wednesday, took the boat for a test run, loaded it back on the trailer, and headed directly back home. He arrived at my house around 1900 and dropped the boat off so I could take it to Georges Marine Electronics for Jerry to install the new Raymarine A70 on Thursday.
I dropped the boat off at George's at 0700 and headed to continue our prep work. Around 1200 Jerry called to say the boat as ready. Now that's service! Once I got the boat home I finished a few minor details onboard and loaded the equipment I had at the house. I waited for the family to get home, we ate dinner, I hung out with the kids, put them to bed, kissed the wife goodbye and left for Captain DP's house. By 2200 we were west bound on I-10, getting pumped up about the new boat and the pressing tournament.
Friday 6/12 (pre-fishing)
We pulled into Venice an hour or so before daylight, loaded the rods, double checked our equipment, launched the boat, and pulled away from the ramp just after sunrise. We made a bee line to our #1 spot to check on our fish.
This particular place is very shallow, forcing us to stop short and use the trolling motor to take us the remaining 1/8 of a mile. Things were looking up, the dirty water was just beginning to give way to cleaner water and we were starting to see signs of life.
That's about the time the brand new, right out of the box, trolling motor started making a light clicking noise. Dusty tried to turn it off so we could find the noise.....the motor kept right on turning. No matter how you moved the speed control the motor continued to turn at a constant speed, this was not good. We unplugged the trolling motor, opened up the top, and all the wiring looked good. We plugged it back in, same thing.
After our head scratching abated Dusty grabbed the tool bag and commenced opening up the foot of the motor. Upon further inspection we found the source of our problems. The ground wire coming into the foot had somehow been grabbed by the motor itself, destroying the wire and shorting out the control board. Trolling motor officially fried!
This put big damper on our plans. It took us almost an hour to push the boat back into deep enough water to run in. From there we headed for the jetties at one of the passes where we had done well before. There were a few guide boats at the jetty when we showed up, and everyone was catching fish.
We joined right in. Our best two fish added up to 13.5 pounds, probably not enough to place in the tournament, but not bad without a trolling motor, and in just a couple of hours of fishing. But, granted the elite competition, the fact was, that without the trolling motor, our chances of even placing in this tournament were virtually nil.
By 1300 it was time to get back, clean up, rig tackle, eat something, attend the captains meeting, and get some sleep.
Saturday 6/13 Game Day
0400 finds the alarm clock VERY angry, screaming at the top of it's lungs. I couldn't listen to it a second more, and got up. By 0430 we were on our way to the ramp for the 0530 checkout.
We had drawn boat number 14, putting us in the first flight (0530 check-out, 1500 check-in). Once away from the dock we headed straight for the jetties. The new Lake & Bay is FAST! We were the first to arrive at the jetty, beating the guide boats by a half an hour or more.
The bite was way off from yesterday. I broke the ice with a 5 pound Speckled Trout; my biggest Louisiana Trout to date. It was cool and all, but it wasn't a Redfish, and we needed Redfish. Dusty caught a nice Redfish, about 5.5 pounds, and the guides began showing up. Yesterday they stayed at the jetty for hours, today they spent maybe 20 min, caught very few fish, and left. Not a good sign for us, not at all.
We had few choices, pretty much this jetty or the other one, so we continued to plug away with what we had. We caught a few Reds, but upgrading was nearly impossible. By 1130 we had covered every rock at the jetty and decided to move up-river, fishing our way back to the dock.
Diligence is supposed to pay off, right? Maybe, just maybe, if we would have had more time to be diligent, it might have paid off, but there's only so much time in a tournament. We had two fish in the livewell, better than some, but we knew that they weren't going to be big enough to make the board.
Back at the scales, standing in line with teams that had run 40 miles up river and fished in 12" of water, our fish looked even smaller. Our grand total of 11.94 pounds was dwarfed by the leaders 17.7 pound aggregate, but we still felt good doing what we did, under the circumstances. That's tournament fishing. Stuff breaks, boats get stuck in the mud, fuel is mis-managed; you can only push through, try to fix what you can.....and fish real hard.