"Dreaming, after all, is a form of planning"
Ever since I can remember, fishing has always been apart of my life. At a younger age we were always taking a family outing to Sabine Lake and as I got older, the allure of fishing turned into much more. What once was a hobby quickly turned into a passion that has lead me down a road of uncertainty. It is not my destination that I am uncertain of but the path that I will be taking to get there. I envision myself competing amongst a group of the greatest anglers ever composed with the goal of being recognized as one of the best in our field. Obtaining this achievement is very doable but has always left me puzzled; how do you get to this level?
A few months back I learned that The Elite Redfish Series was coming to Orange, Texas. I also found out that they needed marshals to ride around with the pros and this was an opportunity that I was not going to miss. These are guys that are able to travel and fish all across the coast so I know they have a wealth of knowledge. I had several questions that I wanted to ask these anglers; How did you get to where you are at now? When you go to a new area how do you target fish? Why are you using the lures you have tied on? And the list goes on.
I currently have diminished this post to just an overall summary. My original plan was to write a day by day experience but I quickly realized that it was entirely to much for me and you (the reader). So here are a few things that I learned in my 3 days.
"Don't over think things, have fun and do what you do best"
The first thing that I learned and I took it to heart; some may not see it as a lesson or something worth learning, but I did. The night at the Captains Meeting I was paired up with Rob Ferris. Before I left that night I asked him if we were going to the marsh or the jetties? His answer was simple...
"We're going fishing"
He made it seem like that I didn't need to worry about where we are going. Hell it seemed like he didn't even know what he wanted to do but he said it with enough confidence that I knew he had a plan. He made me believe that tomorrow is just another day and there is no reason to over complicate it; we are going fishing and that is exactly what we did.
"Whatever your style of fishing may be, have the equipment that will suit you best"
The first morning when I arrived to the launch I quickly realized that this was indeed the big leagues! The dock was lined with the competitors boats and it reminded me of a classic car show. They were the best boats that money can buy and every vessel was individually customized to their drivers specifications that suited their style of fishing. Some were plain and others had every gadget that could be attached but at the end, it was their boat and they had it exactly how they wanted it.
Some people like to stand 8' on a platform...
and others like to pole around when necessary.
"You can tell a lot about a fish just by the way it looks."
On day 3, I was paired with Jamie Hough and he taught me a great amount about fish and the sport. In conversation he brought up that he can tell where a fish was caught and it's diet just by looking at a picture someone had posted. He explained that if a red is darker with a more orange/golden color that they are in fresher water. Also he could tell their diet by looking at the color of their tail; if it has a blueish tint then they have been eating shellfish--- shrimp, crabs, etc. "Think about it, when you crush a crab, what color does it bleed? ......Blue" The iodine in the shellfish is what will make their tail turn to that blueish color. There is your FunFact for the day, your welcome!
"Be confident in your lure selection"
The one aspect I was looking forward to seeing was their choice of lures. Out of the 3 days, nearly every boat that had their rods out, I made a point to see what they were throwing. Popping cork (of course, never leave home without it), A Johnson Spoon (Classic!), and this is the one lure that I never seen used or ever thought about using and that was a large paddle tail (the guys I rode with were using Yum Money Minnow, I seen others with different brands but same style). That being said, these guys were very confident in what they were throwing and it worked. I watched a few reds hammer that Money Minnow!
The thing that got me most came on day 2. I rode with Chris Rosengarten and I watched him go to the same pond that Rob and I were in on the previous day. I watched him pull out 2 tailing fish that Rob could not get to bite. Both were throwing Johnson Spoons but the ONLY difference was Chris was throwing a half silver half chartreuse spoon vs. Rob's proven gold spoon. For some reason that just dumfounds me but Chris had it tied on for a reason and it worked. Confidence is key.
"From Texas to Carolina, they are the same fish"
I asked Jamie Hough on Day 3 how does he come to a new area (in this case halfway across the country) and produce quality fish on tournament day? He quickly asked me "Do I like my steak with a bone-in or bone-out?" His question caught me off guard but I understood the point he was trying to make. "You can go to any town in the country and you know exactly what kind of steak you want and you know where to find it. It's the same with redfish; they are the same fish across the coast and have the same habits." He has a valid point, these fish will tend to stick to the same habitat, have the same diet and are consistent everywhere you go.
"The 3 P's: Points, Pockets and Patches of grass"
That pretty much explains it; hit the points, fish the back pockets and around patches of grass. The last Lone Star Kayak Series I did just that. I had one fish in the box and I loaded up and went down the road to another launch site. I knew that I should of been able to go back to this marsh and find at least 1 fish and I was pressed with time. I would only cast to a point, a back pocket or patches of widgeon grass along the shoreline. After a quick hour of doing so, I pulled out a nice 27", 7.5 lb red and that completed my stringer.
"There are no guarantee's when it comes to catching fish. Amateur's to professionals, everyone has that day."
Fishing is a sport that will always keep you guessing. If someone says they know everything there is to fishing and they always catch fish, they obviously don't know what they are talking about. I watched an angler make several precise cast to a few different fish that were tailing and they would not strike! This is a move pulled right out of "Catching Redfish 101"! That should be a caught fish 10 out 10 times but it was not the angler, it was not the lure, it was not the cast, it was the fish and you can't make them eat. Everyone has experienced days like that and no matter who you may be, it's inevitable......that's fishing.
"It's not about being the greatest fisherman, it is about being a good person"
How do you get to this level? I asked this question to the guys I rode with and a few other anglers that I had a chance to have a conversation with at the scales.The gist of EVERY response included that it all is about being a good person. Make yourself known, make sure people remember who you are and leave a good impression and the rest will happen. I firmly believe in this industry your integrity and ethics will get you further than your tournament resume when it comes to receiving help from other anglers and sponsors. That being said, after meeting all the anglers who are apart of the Elite Series, I know how they got here.
After my 3 days I believe that I came out with a much better understanding of the sport. It takes a lot of work to get to this point and requires sacrifices that some may not be willing to make. It requires a lot of money for travel expenses, entry fee and maintenance on your equipment. You will also be spending a lot of time away from your home and family. These are things that have to be done and considered when chasing after your dream.
My overall experience was nothing short of incredible and something that I am glad I did. I already have caught a few fish using the tips and tricks I learned on my 3 days. Huge thanks to Rob Ferris, Chris Rosengarten and Jamie Hough for letting me ride with y'all; also thanks for sharing information and answering any question that I might of had. I now have a better perception of what it takes to get to this level and that entails a lot of work- both on and off the field. With everything I learned, I am one step closer to my goal and the path getting there has become a little more clear.