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Saturday, November 13, 1999
Life on FLW Tour

By Daniel and Annie Keyes

Saturday, May 1
Unfortunately, today is our last day in Vero Beach. This morning Chris and I played tennis, Dan and Kate went rollerblading, and Jeff helped out his grandmother.

Dan and I went back to the motorhome to get things organized and, wouldn't you know it, we have problems. One of the two battery systems was dead. Dan spent the afternoon fixing that, while the rest of us went to the pool and played tennis.

At night the five of us went to a Dodgers' minor-league baseball game. We had a great time and did the hot dogs, the Cracker Jack, and cotton candy, and got home around 10:30 p.m.

Sunday, May 2
This is the end of the vacation. We said goodbye to Dan's parents in Vero, then drove to the Orlando airport where we put the kids on a plane after more teary goodbyes. It is hard to let them go, especially on a day like today, because the rest of the day we spend driving, and when you drive, you think.

Kate called us as soon as she got home and said they had a good flight. Jeff called about an hour later. It was nice to hear from them both.

We drove the rest of the day and stopped for the night at a WalMart near Montgomery, Ala. The fishing mind started coming back involuntarily yesterday (we both had dreams about fishing), but today it is completely back.

Dan is already trying to figure out this next tournament, and both of us are already feeling the pressure to get on some fish here and make some money, and pull us up in the points standings.

The stress levels are rising in both of us already, and we are still days away from getting back in the boat and more than two weeks away from tournament time.

Monday, May 3
Dan started driving while I was still in bed. I have a cold, so I am trying to get some rest. I stayed in bed a full two hours while Dan drove.

  FLW Tour pro Daniel Keyes and his wife Annie are keeping a journal of their year on the tour. Their goal is to provide a glimpse of what life is really like for the majority of professional fishermen, who are struggling to make it big.

It is open, honest, sometimes irrelevant, but always real. You will see how anglers prepare for each FLW Tour event, the emotional pendulum that a wife endures as her husband weighs his fish each day, the approach to practice days on the water, the importance of friends on the road and much more.

Daniel and Annie Keyes currently live in a motor home. They have dedicated their lives to each other and to Daniel's dream of making a career as a professional angler. This is their life on the tour.
When I finally got behind the wheel, Dan did business on the computer, which has been neglected for a week. (One nice thing about our setup now is that we can work on the computer, send and receive e-mail and even surf the web while we drive, through our cell phone online hookup.)

I am taking it easy today as I still do not feel well. Probably kids withdrawal. In addition, by this afternoon the stress levels mentioned yesterday had built up to the point where we could not even talk to each other without getting into an argument.

We drove hard all day and arrived in West Memphis, Ark., (in silence) at 6:30 p.m. It took 30 seconds before we had company: Carol and Jerry Wright. They are parked right next to us here. Dan went to look at Jerry's maps, and the stress balloon burst.

We are back in our fishing mind now, where we're supposed to be, and beginning to relax. We cooked out on the grill and had a nice dinner. Later we got e-mail from both Jeff and Kate, and settled in for the night.

Tuesday, May 4
Dan got up at 5:30 a.m. and went to work on his projects. I slept later, and now feel a little better. We got Cooper back from the kennel, and found that he had lost his voice from barking so much while we were away. It is good to have him back.

Yesterday, we finished unpacking from our vacation. Today, I started packing again, this time for a trip on Saturday to Virginia, for my cousin's wedding.

Dwayne Horton showed up this afternoon, and he and Dan and Jerry talked over the maps a bit, but by mid afternoon we were all preparing for the coming tornadoes. The deadly weather that killed 40-plus people in Oklahoma yesterday is on its way here. We spent time outside tying things down, and looking for a ditch to hide in in case it gets real bad.

We had the TV and the weather radio on, and all afternoon conditions grew worse. At 6 p.m. the sirens went off and the radar detected a tornado -- three miles from where we are right now, but headed in a different direction. This is scary.

We had our emergency gear out and ready, and went to bed with our clothes on, ready to move in an instant.

Wednesday, May 5
As I said, we had slept in our clothes. Some time after midnight we had a storm come through that was bad enough to get us out of bed and into a state of emergency preparedness. It passed, though, without incident, and we made it through the night.

In the morning Dan had to use the four-wheel-drive Bronco to pull Dwayne out of the mud, but that was about it. Dan's parents called this morning from Florida because they had been watching the weather channel and saw the storms on TV.

Today actually was a very nice day, until mid-afternoon that is. Between 3-7 p.m. we had eight tornado warnings in the Memphis area, including two sighted within three miles of our campground. In the end, though, no great damage was done, and by 7:30 p.m. the sun was out and there was a beautiful rainbow.

Thursday, May 6
A beautiful, sunny day. Dwayne had picked up a map for us yesterday, and Dan spent a couple of hours this morning marking places he'd like to try.

Also this morning he finished installed a new Lowrance satellite GPS mapping system in the boat. Most likely the way to catch fish here is to not fish the river at all, but instead get back into the old oxbow lakes hidden in the woods. Many of these lakes are not easy to find - they may have one little entrance just the width of one boat, all choked up by brush on the banks and floating logs and debris. If you fight your way through the jungle though sometimes it opens up into a beautiful little pond with clear, calm water, unaffected by the current in the mighty Mississippi.

We finally got out on the water at about noon today. We took it easy on the river, getting a feel for it. The river is high and muddy and running fast. It is also full of barge traffic, and there are lots of floating logs and trees to avoid. We didn't fish a whole lot today, instead just looked around a lot, trying to get a feel for what there is available. We quit around 6pm, came home and cooked dinner out on the grill.

Friday, May 7
Dan went out alone today; I stayed home and prepared for our trip tomorrow.

He got back into one long, narrow chute that looked promising, and met up with an old fellow crappie fishing out of a johnboat. This fellow told Dan that he had been catching bass in here right up close to the bank, that the bass were up there eating crayfish. Dan quizzed him some about the types of banks and bait colors and what not, then proceeded to tie on a Gambler crawdad and started pitching to the nearest bank.

Not 30 yards from where he began, he put a solid 4lb. bass in the boat. You'd better believe he felt good about that!

Now here's one of the funny and frustrating things about bass fishing, and it has happened to us countless times. You'll be fishing unsuccessfully for a time with one bait or one method, so you make a switch, and just as soon as you do you catch a fish. And I mean in like the first five casts. You think "Wow, this is it. I've found the magic bait" (or color, or presentation, or whatever you switched). You then go for hours afterwards doing the same thing and never get another bite. Well this of course is what happened with Dan today - he did catch a couple more fish in that area doing other things, but he never had another bite in five hours of pitching that crawdad up to the banks.

Saturday, May 8
Up at 3:30 a.m., fed and watered the dog, finished packing, and out the door to the airport.

The plane left at 6:30. We had a stop in Chicago and arrived in Washington D.C. at 11:30. We had fun at the airports - we were really dressed up, and I had on a big, black sun hat. We actually heard people say that they thought we must be movie stars or models. It was so much fun.

When we got out of the taxi and walked into the hotel lobby, our relatives thought we looked so good that we were already dressed for the wedding. "Oh no," I told them, "these are just our traveling clothes".

Jill & Sean got married on a big paddlewheel riverboat and we went on a 4 hour cruise. It was very nice.

Back at the hotel we changed, had dinner with my brother & sister-in-law, Charlie & Debbie, and then met everyone in the lounge for a great big after-wedding party. It was great fun to see everyone and catch up on things.

Sunday, May 9
We met my parents and Charlie & Debbie at the hotel restaurant for a Mother's Day breakfast. I gave my mom a gift and she gave one to me.

I was very excited to be thought of on Mother's Day, because sometimes as a step-mother people do not appreciate you the same way. I am extremely close to Dan's children and could not imagine life without them.

After breakfast we wandered around on foot for a while with mom, dad, Charlie & Debbie. On the return flight we had a 3 hour layover in Chicago. We went out to dinner and Dan wished me a happy Step-Mother's-Day. It made me cry.

We landed in Memphis at 8:30 and arrived home at 9:00. By this time I was kind of blah. I was thinking about Mother's Day and the fact that I had not heard from the kids. I am pretty emotional when it comes to sentimental things like that.

The first thing I did at home was go online and get our email. Thankfully, Katelyn sent me the most beautiful Mother's Day letter. I could not stop crying, and I am crying right now just writing about it. It made me very happy, and I am very appreciative to have family that cares about me.

Monday, May 10
We're back to fishing again. It was a great day, weather wise, but I don't like this Mississippi River.

The current is very fast and there are trees, logs, and all sorts of debris floating everywhere, as well as "wing dams" and dikes hidden just below the surface of the water that make for very dangerous running conditions. Also, we passed a total of 5 barges throughout the day, and they create huge wakes that spread downriver for 2 or 3 miles each.

We worked hard all day - about half our time is spent fishing and half looking for access to backwater lakes. At 1:00, after struggling through about a half mile of flooded forest, we finally emerged into a beautiful, pristine lake, one side bordering a farmer's field and the other lined with buck brush. We fished it hard for 3 hours, but by the time we reached the far end Dan had flipped up only one fish and I had caught one on a Rattletrap.

We got on the big motor and headed back to the entrance, where Dan said "Let's fish this end again before leaving." We did, and for some reason in the next 30 minutes I caught 1 more and Dan flipped 4 more out of the bushes. It was like someone just turned on the switch and the fish started biting. We were happy to have found some fish, but didn't know what to do to make them start eating; that is, how to turn them "on" when they are "off". It was like this the other day for Dan, too, when he got 3 fairly quick bites in one area and then nothing for the rest of the day.

We got home at 6:40 and found a box of cookies left on our doorstep. They were from Dick Bowman. His wife Lena does not get to come with him, but she and I email each other often. She sent him to the tournament with cookies for us. Dan and Dick are going to work together for a few days, and try to get a plane to fly over the river so they can check it out from the air. Dan cooked dinner tonight while I finished unpacking from our trip. Cookies for desert!

Tuesday, May 11
Dan left the house at 5:30am. He told me I could stay home today since he and Dick were fishing together, and then were going to check on a plane in the afternoon. I have been paying our bills and catching up on projects.

Lots of other fisherman arrived at the campground today. I went to visit Glenn Rogers and his gang. I needed to borrow some milk from them. John & Laraine Hobbie came in around 7:30 with Mike Watson. We visited awhile, and I started to worry about Dan. When he finally arrived home it was after 8:00. It is scary being stuck at the campground waiting for your husband, and knowing that the river is as dangerous as it is.

Dan and Dick went in two boats today. Dick just followed wherever Dan went, and when they found a place to fish they would split up and try different things to get some bites. At 9am they started to get bit. Dick caught 2 and Dan caught 2, including a 4 lb'er, but by 10:00 the bite was over. By the end of the day, after 13 hours on the water, they had not had another bite.

Wednesday, May 12
Dan is totally in his fishing mode now. Yesterday he was gone from 5:30am until 8:30pm. Today it started over at 4am, when he got up to work on some OMC sponsor paperwork he needed to get out.

At 8:00 Dan and Dick left for the airport, to check into chartering a plane. I went to the laundry room. Perhaps the best thing about this campground is - FREE LAUNDRY! We've never seen this anywhere (except at my mother's house).

Dan returned an hour later - they are scheduled to fly now at 5pm. He and Dick got the boats and went out on the water again. The fishing today was even tougher than yesterday. They got into one backwater lake that was the best they had seen yet -but still neither one of them had a single bite all day. This is very frustrating, because you know there are bass in there - it was not a "dead" lake, because there were gar and crappie, as well as shad and other bait fish in abundance.

At 3:00 they pulled out, and met up with a friend of Dick's at the launch ramp. He had just got down from flying over the river himself. After talking with him, the guys opted to cancel their 5:00 flight. They've found plenty of backwater area to fish, now it's a matter of figuring out how to make the fish in them bite.

Dan came home at 4pm and spent the next hour washing his boat. We wipe down the boat every day after fishing, but here in the muddy Mississippi it gets real dirty, real fast, so we have to work extra hard to keep it clean. On the other hand, if you clean it every day then it never gets to that point where you say "Forget it, it's TOO dirty to clean today." Dan worked so hard at cleaning it that I felt obligated to get out the vacuum when he was done; I vacuumed out the boat and the Bronco.

So far all of our fishing has been north of Memphis. We keep hearing that "they're catchin' 'em good" down south, so tomorrow we're going south, to check it out. Dan feels that we'll be wasting a day doing this, that in all likelihood they're not biting any better down there than they are up north. There is no point in locating a slow to mediocre bite south, 50 to 100 miles away from our slow bite north, when there is now way to fish both areas in one tournament day. I convinced him though that if he doesn't go and check it out for himself, then when tournament time comes he will have a nagging doubt in the back of his mind, and therefore will not have the confidence necessary to fish his own areas effectively.

Thursday, May 13
We left the camper at 5:15am, met Dick and trailered the boats down to Tunica.

We've heard that the fishing's been great in Tunica Lake, an oxbow lake off the Mississippi River, and this is where the tournament will be won. The fellow at the bait shop there told us some things. The lake is 17 miles long, it is 74 miles from Memphis, where the tournament is being held, and there is no boat gas available between here and there. Most bass boats cannot go 150 miles without refueling, so the arrangement he is making is that anyone who wants to fish there can buy portable gas cans, put their names on them and fill them with gas, and he will store them at his shop and carry them down to the dock on tournament days.

The fishing would have to be real good here to warrant all that. Once again though, we spent the entire day fishing without a single bite. Same with Dick. At least we checked it, and now can concentrate on our fishing up north.

Oh, here's something that Dan forgot to tell me: This place has SNAKES! Big, bad snakes! Some days you see one or two, other days there are lots. We have to search out little cuts through the bank to get into the backwater areas, so we're pushing through narrow openings that may be just wider than the boat and up to a mile long. These cuts are often choked with floating logs and debris, with overhanging branches to slap you in the face and drop snakes into your boat. Mike Watson broke his flipping rod getting out of the way when he and a Cottonmouth came face to face yesterday.

The snakes like to sun themselves on top of the floating log jams, and can be difficult to see unless they move. When you have to get to the far side and there is no way around, you just push straight though. When the logs don't move, you drive up and over them. We were doing this today when we came across the mother of all snakes. About ten feet in front of the boat was a Cottonmouth about seven feet long and as big around as Dan's arm. It looked like a Boa Constrictor, and could have swallowed a tennis ball. Fortunately, the cut we were in dead-ended right there and we did not have to play chicken with that snake.

Sonny Lee arrived today, and is staying with Dick. We had them both over for dinner, discussed strategy for tomorrow, and went to bed.

Friday, May 14
We met Sonny and Dick up in Brandywine Chute. Together, our three boats fought through the trees and back in towards a place called South Lake on the map.

After perhaps a half hour we arrived, only to encounter an unyielding gentleman with a shotgun, and the name "Slade" on his shirt. Slade and his partner informed us in no uncertain terms that we were trespassing and that a private club leased this lake and all the land around it, and that we were NOT going to take their fish down to Memphis. We left!

On the way out we encountered another club member confronting another bass boat who was also headed up to the private lake. Sonny, with his East Tennessee humor, indicated to this fellow that Dick and I were "Yankees" and said "Hey you'd better watch out, these guys whooped you once, and like it or not they'll whoop you again!" He did not find this humorous, (neither did we, under the circumstances) and all four of us left.

Later, when we met Sonny for dinner at the Flying J, he told us he had written a song about "Shotgun Slade", and proceeded to sing it for us there in the restaurant booth. It was a riot.

We got home at 7:30 p.m. The wives asked me to go out with them tomorrow and do the town, but I told them I was going fishing with Dan. We had only three bites today - things are not looking good and I feel I should be out there helping him. Today is Jeff's 14th birthday so we called him to wish him a great day. We were in bed at 7:52.

Saturday, May 15
Dan would not shut-up today. He must have started singing "Shotgun Slade" a hundred times, and since he only knows about two lines of it, he was really getting on my nerves.

We trailered the boat up to Osceola today. It is 50 miles up the river, and from there we fished up another 20 and back down about 10. The river is now dropping quickly, and we found very little water to fish. In fact, even though we left at 6 a.m., I don't think we made a single cast until noontime or 1:00. The rest of that time we just spent looking for places to fish. We didn't find any. We eliminated a lot of water today.

When we got home we got our email. Dick's wife Lena has been sending us messages almost every night with words of encouragement. It is almost like she is here with us. Later, Dick and Sonny called to share information. They found a few fish today, and we told them about our day. We think it is working out well with the three guys working together, and would like to do it more often. However, It is hard to find the right person. Some guys only share when they are not catching them well, and when they are doing well they keep to themselves. I think Dick, Dan and Sonny work well together, and hopefully we can do this again in Detroit next month.

Tonight I am exhausted. My body is sore just from riding in the boat all day, and it has been fairly calm. I would hate to be here when the water is rough. The wives all asked me again to go with them tomorrow, and I said I had to go to work with Dan. They do not understand why, but it basically boils down to two things: 1) we need the money, and 2) we're struggling to keep this career alive. If we don't catch fish, we're not going to be able to fish again next year.

Sunday, May 16
We were just about to leave this morning when Dan remembered that he had knocked the transducer off his trolling motor yesterday. He worked on fixing that, which gave me time to clean the dew off the boat and vacuum the house.

Bryant Ailor, another fisherman friend, stopped by. He was just moving over to this campground because there were no other fisherman staying where he had been. We talked for a bit about the tough fishing, and then he followed us to the launch ramp so he would know where it was.

Our fishing today started out promising. We had three bites early on. Dan missed his two but I caught a nice three pound fish. That was at 9 a.m. We didn't get another bite for many hours afterward. At one point we took a break and pulled the boat up onto a pretty sandbar where we went for a swim and let the dog play. Finally around 5 p.m. I caught another fish. That makes the score two to nothing - Dan cooks dinner.

By the time we loaded the boat, got gas and went to WalMart, it was 8:30, and dark when we got home. Our neighbors had been worrying about us. Dan cooked some pork out on the grill for dinner, then we visited with the neighbors until almost 11.

Monday, May 17
The other wives went to the casinos today and wanted me to go. I said no, this was my day home. Dan went fishing alone, and I caught up on things around the house. I did dogsit and let everyone's animals out for them while they were gone. They brought me home little presents, too - a necklace, and a picture frame, and a Graceland hat. They can be so sweet.

Dan met Dick and Sonny at the ramp this morning, and they all went back up north to find some fish. Finally, today, things worked out for them. They were mostly flipping and pitching, but after Dan caught his second spinnerbait fish he found the guys and told them, and they all tied on similar-looking spinnerbaits. Within about two hours all three of them had had five or more bites (they covered their hook points so as not to "stick" the fish), and at least six of those bites were from fish in the three to five pound range.

They were all feeling pretty good about that, but, they also had that "this is too good to be true" feeling. After the practice we've had, where you could go three days without a single bite, there's something funny going on to all of a sudden start catching them like this. Whatever it is, it probably won't last. Even so, there's no getting around the fact that this was by far the best practice day we've had out here. There are obviously plenty of fish in the area the guys were fishing, so we're pretty optimistic.

Tuesday, May 18
Dan was out the door at 5:30 a.m. for the final day of practice. He spent three hours fishing one big backwater chute, with only one bite. At 9:00 he ran back up to where they got bit so well yesterday. He wanted to go in and find out whether they were still hitting the spinnerbait and what he should be throwing as a backup bait. He also wanted to locate the biggest concentration of fish so he can run to that spot first thing in the morning.

Fishing today was much slower than yesterday, as expected, and Dan did not catch any fish for an hour or two. But then he found the honey hole. He got to one little area, and found fish who would eat the spinnerbait. He put that down, and began pitching a lizard around the trees and bushes. Within a half hour he had eight more bites. He came home early in the afternoon very excited. Now, it's a matter of drawing a good starting number at the meeting tonight. If he can get a good number, he can run to this spot first thing in the morning. If there's nobody else there, he feels he can catch a good limit in 15 minutes practically without moving the boat.

I stayed home again today, and did six loads of laundry. I also sewed a new sponsor patch (from Lowrance) onto Dan's tournament shirt. When Dan got home he washed the boat, re-strung line on his rods, sharpened hooks and organized his tackle. We then got cleaned up and went off to the registration meeting.

At registration, we met up with Dick and Sonny. They, along with everyone else it seemed, talked about the importance of drawing a good boat number for the morning. Well, Dan is the one who got it. He drew number 33, out of 165, and none of the other guys who he knows is going up there drew out ahead of him. We are very happy with number 33 tonight. We tend to be very guarded in our optimism (especially Dan) but we fully expect to have a good bag of fish tomorrow unless something goes wrong.

Wednesday, May 19
Today Dan ran straight up to his spot from yesterday. When he got to the entrance of the creek, he was the first one there. What he also found though was that someone had come in overnight with a chainsaw and cut a huge tree, and dropped it purposefully straight across the narrow entrance to the creek in an attempt to keep boats out. After the hundreds of trees that we have bumped, jumped, crashed into and crashed over this week, neither Dan nor any of the boats that followed were going to let one more prevent them from getting to their spot.

Dan didn't even stop to investigate, he drove straight through, snapping branches, spewing leaves, and slashing a path with the help of 225 horses and a 4 bladed stainless steel prop. Once beyond this obstacle, it was back up on plane to run the last mile or two to his spot. When he arrived though, conditions had changed. The water had fallen almost another two feet, and the fish he found yesterday, congregated on a five foot deep bar across the channel, found the lower water today unacceptable and had moved off somewhere. While Dan and Dick searched above and below the bar, another boat fished the narrow channel at the end of the bar, perhaps 10 feet across and 30 feet long. The fish were stacked up in there, but Dan and Dick couldn't get to them. This other guy never moved his boat all day - he ended up catching 19 lbs, which put him in sixth place at the end of the day.

Dan had a total of six bites today, all flipping a lizard to the base of the trees, but somehow managed to miss five out of those six bites. He was very discouraged. You simply cannot afford to miss a single fish when you get so few opportunities, especially when you're competing against this caliber of fishermen. He is sure that he could have weighed 12 to 15 lbs and been in the hunt if he had put those fish in the boat. Instead, he weighed in only one fish, for 2 + lbs.

Myself, I was trying not to think of fishing too much today. I dog sat Chuck Economu's dog, and went to lunch with the other wives before heading over to the weigh-in. Dan felt that he could go out and catch fish today, so I was awfully excited waiting for him to come in. When he came in with only one fish, it was a huge disappointment. The good thing is, though, that there is a lot going on today that helps keep your mind off of that disappointment. There is the excitement of the weigh-in itself, checking with all our friends to see how they fared, comparing notes and getting hints about how others caught fish today, and preparing for tomorrow by retying baits, fueling the boat, and charging batteries. The fact that Dan did at least get bit out there today; that has us optimistic that he can catch some tomorrow.

Before retiring for the night, Dan had a long, instructional talk with Ken Ellis. Dan described his frustration over the fact that yesterday, when he was just searching for bites and not setting the hook, the fish held on to the bait so hard and so long that it was difficult to shake them off. Today though, when he was trying to catch those fish, he couldn't do it. Ken made some suggestions. He changed the hook Dan was using to one that will not bend - even with the 80 lb. Spiderwire he is flipping with, and he made changes to Dan's hook-setting technique. Most importantly though he explained to Dan that he needs to slow down and prepare before setting the hook, especially when flipping around heavy wood cover. As evidenced yesterday, those fish will hold on a long time.

Thursday, May 20
Every once in a while we are reminded of the dangers involved in tournament fishing. Last night after getting back to the campground, we found out that Marty, one of our friends who is also camping here, had an accident. The boat he was riding in had hit something underwater at 60+ mph - a log or a tree or a wing dam. Both he and his partner had been ejected from the boat, and the engine was torn off and sank to the bottom. Marty can not swim. Fortunately another boat came quickly to the rescue, and they found Marty semi-conscious and bleeding badly from the head. They managed to get everyone into the second boat and race back to Memphis, where Marty was taken by ambulance to the hospital. He was finally picked up by his buddies and brought back to the campground at midnight last night, with a huge bandage on his head.

We've heard that the fishing's been great in Tunica Lake, an oxbow lake off the Mississippi River, and this is where the tournament will be won. The fellow at the bait shop there told us some things. The lake is 17 miles long, it is 74 miles from Memphis, where the tournament is being held, and there is no boat gas available between here and there. Most bass boats cannot go 150 miles without refueling, so the arrangement he is making is that anyone who wants to fish there can buy portable gas cans, put their names on them and fill them with gas, and he will store them at his shop and carry them down to the dock on tournament days.

Dan woke me early this morning. The guys wanted me to check on Marty during the day to make sure he was all right; he'll be staying in Glenn's motorhome. I told him I was already planning on it.

During the day I nursed Marty and changed his bandage. I had lunch with the other wives at Laraine's camper, and I used her shower since our hot water heater is not working all of a sudden. I helped Marty find his fishing equipment and gear from yesterday, and then we went and had his prescription filled.

When I got to the weigh-in at Mud Island, a man approached and asked if I was Annie Keyes. He was a writer for the local newspaper, and had interviewed Dan for a half hour this morning before take off. He talked with me a while, had a photographer assigned to shoot us during the weigh-in, and said we could expect a feature in the Saturday paper.

Dan did his thing today, flipping and pitching to the trees like yesterday, but it did not work. He had only one bite all day, and doesn't want to talk much about it. He and his partner each weighed in one fish. This is another huge disappointment for both of us. There are so many ups and downs in this sport. Even throughout the course of one day, we can get real excited about one thing, this newspaper interview for instance, and then look at the big picture and get very discouraged. After all the hard work, money and effort that we put in to it, dealing with the disappointment of a poor tournament finish is becoming extremely difficult for us. Dan has revealed that he has reached the point where he no longer prays and asks God to help us catch fish, or even just help us do our best; he is now praying and simply asking Him ahead of time to help us deal with the disappointment and depression that inevitably follows.

Myself, I managed to hold it together until we got home. Dan kept asking me if I was mad or disappointed in him. I said no, and this is true. I am just so damned discouraged. Dan is in bed right now, so I can finally let it out and cry. I keep trying to be optimistic, but we just seem to be getting further behind. Everyone keeps telling us, don't give up now, don't quit now, our time will come. Well maybe it will, but when it finally does, will we still be here?

Friday, May 21
One of the ways we deal with the post-tournament blues is to stay as busy as possible. Many of the fishermen just weigh their fish, load their boat up and leave, without even watching the end of the weigh-in! We, on the other hand, stay involved as much as possible and are usually one of the last boats out of the water. We talk to tons of people, and watch 'till the end of the weigh-in when the top 10 pros and top 10 amateurs are announced. After that, Dan attends a meeting for the top 10 fishermen, the camera crews and tournament staff.

Today, Dan stays busy by driving the camera boat. He gets to follow Larry Nixon, so is excited about that. I stayed home and worked on the boat, got it cleaned, organized, washed, and covered, and it is ready for the long trip home. John & Laraine went gambling today and left their motorhome open so I could use their shower again. At 4:00 I went to the weigh-in, and afterwards we went downtown with some of the camera and production crew to sample the famous Memphis barbecue. It was 11:00 when we got home, and when we opened the door to let Cooper out, he was not there. John and Laraine had kidnapped him and were holding him at their house. We went to visit for a bit, and found that aside from caring for the dog, John had fixed our water heater for us while we were gone! This will be something like Dan's 12th night in a row with 6 hours or less of sleep, so we went to bed shortly afterward.

Saturday, May 22
I got up at 5:00 this morning to bring Dan to the launch ramp. On the way we stopped and bought the paper, and sure enough there was a feature article about us, with a picture, on the front page of the sports section.

When I got back to the campground I was planning on going back to bed, but ended up doing laundry instead, at 6am. I am still not myself. Ever since this tournament ended for Dan I have been kind of blah. I hung around and finished preparing for the trip home.

At 2:30 I went to the weigh-in to meet Dan. He followed Craig Powers today - Larry caught only two fish yesterday and didn't make the cut. Craig didn't do well today, either. In the end it came down to two guys fighting for 1st and 2nd place. Gary Klien ended up winning, and we're happy for him. He has averaged 4 lbs for every fish he weighed this tournament. The guy who took 2nd place though, and we're not happy about this, did so by fishing Shotgun Slade's private pond for 4 days straight. In fact, he was guided during practice by one of the members of this private hunting and fishing club. This, remember, is the pond that we got run out of a week or so ago by one of the club members with a shotgun, and with the assurance that none of the FLW guys would be allowed to fish there during the tournament.

That is the part that we're upset about - that the members of this club outright lied to us, and then guided another fisherman to win $40,000. We're not holding it against the 2nd place finisher - he apparently was within his rights to be fishing in there, but we would have had to force the issue and generate ill-will between the locals and the FLW Tour in order to get in there ourselves.

After the weigh-in we packed up and started driving. We had been here so long that when we left, and drove over the Mississippi River and looked down on Memphis and all that had become so familiar to us, we felt like we were leaving home. We accomplished only 34 miles before stopping for the night at a Walmart parking lot. The long ride home, though, has begun.

Sunday, May 23
We didn't wake up until 8am, and started driving around 9:00. Just east of Nashville we stopped at a rest area and took a nap. We were awakened by thunder, and decided to start driving to keep ahead of the storm. 20 minutes later we heard emergency weather radio bulletins reporting a tornado that had touched down right on I-40, in fact right in the vicinity of our rest area!

By the end of the day we had made it to just south of Knoxville, where we stayed at a Flying J truck stop for the night. We drove about 400 miles today.

Monday, May 24
We made it to the top of Virginia today. We drove about 450 miles, and are 600 more miles from home. I am beginning the mindset switch from fishing over to home life. Dan doesn't do the switch until the day we reach home - he refuses to deal with issues and problems associated with being home, until he is close enough to be able to do something about them. He claims it creates too much anxiety. This creates tension between us, because I tend to keep ALL of the issues up front, regardless of where we are. I, for instance, want to know where we are going to live when we get home; Dan says things like he doesn't know, there is no way that he CAN know when he's 1000 miles away, and we'll figure it out when we get there. I hate that, and that's just one example. I feel like we will only be home for a short time and we need to utilize every hour of every day in order to get things accomplished.

Tuesday, May 25
Today we took turns having Cooper ride with each of us. I don't know why, since all he does is sleep. We stopped and cooked hot dogs for lunch, and Dan had a couple of business calls to make. We stopped again to buy candy bars, for a quick energy boost. We knew if we drove hard we could make it home tonight.

The motorhome seemed to be getting tired pulling the boat up the hills of western Massachusetts, so we stopped and switched the boat over to the Bronco. That helped, for a while anyway. Exactly 4 miles from the New Hampshire state line, the motorhome had had enough. Ahead of me on the highway, Dan pulled over into the breakdown lane, then continued over into the grass. The transmission was shot, and he could not move another inch, forward or back.

It was raining, and dark, and 9:30pm. We tried for an hour and a half with the cell phone to get emergency road service, but no one could tow a 34' motorhome at that hour. We called the state police, who said that we could stay there overnight so long as we were off the road. So we camped there on the side of the highway, a busy highway all night long, and got absolutely no sleep. Every time a truck would go by it sounded and felt like he was driving right though the bedroom.

Thursday, May 27
We had left Hilda, our old Mercedes, at my parents house the last time we were home. Well guess what - she wouldn't start for us again today. We didn't want to fool with it, so Annie went out in the Bronco to run errands while Dan stayed in and worked on some business. Later we went to the garage to check on the motorhome, but they informed us that the whole transmission needed to be replaced. We packed some more clothes and planned on sleeping at my parent's house again.

At 5:30 we went to Chris's baseball game, and took some neat pictures of he and Jeff with our new digital camera. We then went to pick up Kate and bring her over to Alfred's house for a while.

Friday, May 28
Today Dan and Jeff went shopping for a compound bow, for Jeff's birthday. I went to visit my niece Kaitlyn, who had just come down with chicken pox. Later, we picked up Chris after school, then picked up the motorhome (with the new transmission,) and camped for the night in my parents front yard. At 11:00 I went to pick up Kate, at Alfred's house, while the others were watching "Austin Powers" on video.

Saturday, May 29
We decided to go to the lake house for the weekend. Dan's parents have a great big place on Lake Winnipesaukee, and they're still in Florida for another month. Throughout the summer, Dan and his two brothers, along with their families and whatever friends they want to bring along, can pretty much just show up and stay for a few days. First though, we went to Chris's baseball game this morning, then we split up. We were bringing Kate's friend Merideth with us to the lake for the weekend, so Dan and the boys went in the motorhome while Kate and I took the Bronco and the boat. The guys went to look at a bow for sale that we saw in the newspaper, and it was just what we were looking for - bow, 5 arrows, quiver and case for $75.00, so they bought it. Us girls headed up to the lake, but detoured at the outlet stores on the way to do a little shopping.

It was a pretty busy day. I feel really stressed out, and I have not stopped since we got home to New Hampshire. I hope to relax and unwind some this weekend.

The kids all slept in the house last night, along with Dan's brother Kevin and his family and some of their friends, who are all here also. Dan and I slept outside in the motorhome, in our own bed. I was awoken at 7:00 this morning by my wonderful husband, who had just gone out in his pajamas and picked me a bouquet of wildflowers. I knew right then that we were going to have a good day. The weather was beautiful today - sunny, high 80's, with no wind. We spent the day outside - Dan took the boys fishing and the girls and I lounged in the sand at the water's edge. We played tennis, whiffle-ball, and basketball. It could not have been a better day.

Monday, May 31
Memorial Day - a carbon-copy day of yesterday, with perfect weather, and absolutely fantastic fishing. The water temperature is 68-70 degrees, and the Smallmouth's are on the beds and extremely aggressive. Dan estimates that he has put in maybe eight hours of fishing in the last two days, has covered no more than a half-mile of randomly chosen shoreline, and has caught about 50 fish! And the best part - they're all on topwater baits! It just doesn't get any better than this. As a pick-me-up, as a remedy for his low self-confidence of late, there is nothing better than to be able to go out and catch fish at will like this. Us girls on the other hand were more concerned with getting an even tan. When the boys came back, though, and told us how many fish they'd caught, we left them on the beach and ventured out on the trolling motor ourselves. And guess what - we caught 'em too, just like they said.