So our start to the 2018 IFA season in Jacksonville, Florida didn't go as planned, to say the least.
Welcome to the third installment of my blog series. When introduced it said that I would be getting down and dirty about my experiences on the tournament trail. I also said I would make this blog interesting for those who read and follow this series. I think it would be a disservice to not be real so I write this blog to allow those interested to get a real feel for what it's like to be a angler on a professional level.
So our start to the 2018 IFA season in Jacksonville Florida didn't go as planned, to say the least. Who would have thought after several weeks of summer-like weather conditions we would be fishing in below freezing temperatures, in the sunshine state. I love the challenge of what comes with tournament fishing and all the uncertainties a locked date brings. Weather is always a factor, for example last year I stayed at Quality Inn in Georgetown SC for a week pre-fishing for a tournament that got canceled because of a approaching hurricane. I then went to a Championship only two days after another one ripped through Louisiana. By now, nothing surprises me when it's time to fish and to be honest I expect the worse and hope for the best.
It is not easy to get out of a warm bed at 4:00 am to go fish when you have to wait for the iced windshield on my truck to thaw, knowing you are facing a very chilly boat ride to where you are fishing. Adverse conditions are hard to deal with no matter what your job is, mine is fishing and I love it and all that comes with it. We located a good many fish and with the cold temp as everyone was experiencing we had trouble getting them to eat. We did a lot of looking instead of catching on purpose until the tournament. Blasting off number seventy of seventy seven gave us the benefit of a little more time to fish the outgoing tide.
Tournament morning brought the warmest temps of the week. Settling in on our spot we hooked up on some trout and a few under slots and finally managed to get a six pounder in the livewell. With the conditions we were stoked to have what we had. Fishing to the last minute, down to a last cast I could make while my partner buttoned everything up. Knowing there would be many teams to zero, we were glad to have at least one good fish to weigh in. We left for weigh-in with only thirty minutes to make it back, which was doable, until we caught the end of a sand bar and couldn't quite push our Sportsman off. We were stuck!
The water was muddy with a kicked up breeze and a very small path to get out. The adrenaline already up we jumped out the boat to push her off with a very low and still falling tide. I have done some amazing things with my Sportsman 234 in very shallow water but this time we found it's limit. The wind had blown the water out and the bullet we dodged all day while fishing got us.
Upset, wore out from pushing on the boat, just praying somehow we could get unstuck ,the clock and reality sank in. I reluctantly released our fish. Try to imagine the disappointment that lasted for the next two hours as we waited for the tide to turn. My phone was going off constantly with other teams wondering where we ended up and sharing their story of coming up short with no fish as we expected. This only privately added to my frustration watching the Redfish I caught linger around the boat as if to say "hey I did my part". In every tournament, someone finds the fish and some teams do well but this one was tough with almost half the field catching nothing. There is no doubt those who participate, pay for entry's and spend countless hours searching for fish all think they can win. Teams want to win that's why they compete. It's not all about whether you win. If an angler is concerned with only winning he or she is missing out on the friendship and camaraderie of all in this industry offers. The end result doesn’t always represent the effort. Some who read this may say well they only had one fish and true enough that was not going to win us any money but it would have improved our finish to the upper side of the results. A top twenty is better than being randomly placed with those who came up short without any fish.
This is the first time I have ever been stuck on a bar. The reality is when you're fishing in so many different unfamiliar areas it happens to us all eventually. A disappointing tournament and although I am not pressured by my sponsors to do well it is alway on my mind. There is nothing I want more than to give them a good result. So here's to all that roll with the punches this sport brings, who like me will continue to get up, brushes themselves off and will never give up. In a sport that is filled with emotion, the highs of catching, the lows of not, I admire those who pursue there craft with passion. Perhaps seeing the effort will create more interest in what we do.
Thanks for reading my blog!
Until next time be safe out there and see ya on the water.
Tony "Redfish" Gaskin