Standing on the front deck of my BassCat backstage at the Bassmaster Legends, I could hear the roar of the crowd. No, I'm not talking about some polite applause; I'm talking about a roar. As I was pulled from behind the curtain, there is a sea of pink in the crowd. Not a sea of yellow, or red, or blue, but bright pink. I realized then what it means to have fans.
Kerry and I decided it would be fun to have a few shirts printed for the Legends derby in Little Rock. Thought it would be fun to hand them out to family and friends to wear at the weigh-in. It got a little out of hand from there.
Same pink as the boat, same pink as the shirts. We ordered 100 and when we got them home, I was scared to death that we would never find enough people to put them on. Sunday afternoon, we probably could have sold them. I overheard one man offer another $5 for the pink shirt off his back. The man declined the offer. Too funny.
The tournament itself was like a new reality outdoor show on ESPN. "Hell's Derby" kept going through my mind as the sweat was running between my toes; that's an ugly picture. The fishing itself was tough as the back of Clunn's weathered neck. It's not usually this tough on the Arkansas in August. It is this hot and humid. Between the tough bite, temps in the mid to upper 90's with heat indices in the 100's, it was just a brutal four days of fishing. I love it like that.
I fished the way I wanted to fish. Went out in practice and established two different patterns that would transfer from one pool to another throughout the river system. One involved flipping matted grass off the main river channel with a Zoom Ultravibe Speed Craw and the other centered around finding schools of fish on the main river and figuring out when they were actively chasing shad, then throwing a variety of baits to get them to bite.
The flip bite was Day 1. 25-30 short fish, 3 keeper bites, two of which I got in the boat. Day 2 I travel to Pool 7 to work over the two schools of fish that I have located. Caught one keep before I went through the lock bonus! In Pool 7 I tried to go straight to the school, but one of the other anglers had a jump on me out of the lock. No problem; I don't think he knew what he had.
Went to another school that never fired. Came back to the first school at 10:30, caught two keeps and several short ones. I left them to rest and regroup for a few minutes, only to watch the angler that beat me to the spot that AM pull in on them as I left. Oh well, time to look for another school. Just above the lock I located another school but ran out of time before I could get one of them to bite. Through the lock and back to the spot I started the day on, I lost a fatty in the same area I caught the keep in the morning.
At the show, I am amazed that I have made the cut with my measly 12-9 for two days of fishing. I am also pretty confident that I can catch them in the hole course utilizing the school pattern that I have established in the upper pool.
Saturday morning, Day 3 of the Bassmaster Legends presented by Goodyear, and I am ready to roll. I know that if I can find two schools of fish in any of the holes I can win this thing.
Managed to catch a nice keep first thing off a sand drop in Hole 5, where I started. Finally, I found a school in Hole 3 but I wasn't there at the right time when the fish were active. That's the bad thing about this pattern it's all about timing. You may have to visit the school several times throughout the day to be there at the correct time. With the 1 hour 10 minute time constraints in each hole, that doesn't give you much leeway. I did manage to catch one and it was a fatty. I knew that if I could get to Day 4 and get in Hole 3 at the right time, it was going to be ugly.
I used another one of my nine lives and got to Day 4. Wow. Pulled into Hole 3 at 10:40 and it was ugly. The fish were there and they were chewin'. Caught a keep immediately. A few minutes later, caught two on the same cast. One was 16" and the other was 14". Let's do the math 16 plus 14 equals 30. 30 divided by 2 equals 15. Since they were both caught on the same bait on the same cast, shouldn't I be able to keep both? Wish it worked like that. Managed to catch another fatty before the school broke up. Fun while it lasted.
I searched throughout Holes 4 and 5 for another school, but the dike structure is not the same and there was not anywhere near the amount of bait present. Went back to Hole 3 for the first half of Happy Hour but never had a bite. 3:00 PM quitting time comes too fast.
I told myself Sunday morning that if I caught a limit, I would be tough to beat by anyone in the field. As it turned out, I was correct. Disappointed? Not in the least. Happy to have qualified for the Major's in the first place. Thrilled to have made it through all the cuts. Happy to have performed at the level that I expect from myself in some brutal conditions. Proud that I fished a clean derby without any props.
Satisfied? No. Happy to have the experience and the opportunity, but not satisfied because that trophy is not sitting in my house with a pink T-shirt draped over it.
For more info on Kevin Short or to contact Kevin, check out his website at www.kfshort.com.