Are The Good Times Really Over?
article by DAN CHASON
I remember the first LCG (Liquid Chrystal Graph) that I ever saw. I was a young, aggressive angler who cut my teeth on the massive waters in East Texas named Sam Rayburn and Toledo Bend. Back then, my rig consisted of a 18 1/2-foot Skeeter boat with a 150 GT Johnson. It would run all of about 50 mph and you were lucky to go two tournaments without blowing some component of the motor. It was old and I thought I was in heaven after having won my first tournament in a 14-foot jon boat with no outboard motor. All I had was a foot-controlled trolling motor and a flasher. Now some of you don’t understand the concept of a flasher. The reader only showed the depth but when that is all you have you learned to read not only grass, but could read structure and fish if you knew how to set it. On my Skeeter, I had a flasher on the front and an old Eagle graph on the dash that worked when it felt compelled to do so. That was about it. But if you gave me a hydrilla bed of grass, I could pick it apart by reading that old flasher and I was confident and very successful with it.
I decided I had experienced enough success in East Texas to play with the big boys. I did pretty good on the Angler’s Choice Circuit as well as other smaller circuits and thought it was time to step up my game. I set out to pursue my dream of being a BASS pro but decided to spend one year fishing the same lakes they did and hone my skills. Boy, was it time for an eye-opener. I will never forget one tournament on Toledo Bend. It was an Angler’s Choice Team tournament and my partner was R.D. Lewis from south Texas. R.D. was a jig fisherman. He would fish a jig and when he got done with his jig, he would throw a jig. At that time, he fished for Ranger boats and had the best and latest rig. A 20-foot jewel powered by a 200 Mercury; this thing would fly. I had arrived at the lake to pre-fish and spent a couple of days doing a lot of looking. It was early February and the lake was in its prime. Most creeks were edged by beautiful hydrilla and I found an area where the hydrilla fell from a 7-foot ledge into the creek. I caught several nice fish and was pretty confident that I could catch a limit. I met up with R.D. and we discussed a game plan. Ironically, he had found some fish close to the area I was fishing and we got prepared for the morning. At blast off that morning, the temperature was a blazing 21 degrees and there was ice on the deck of his boat and on the ramp. The 31 mile run was not going to be fun and it wasn’t. I have never been so cold in my life. All the eyelets in my rods were frozen and I was as well. R. D. is not a big guy and as usual, he grabbed his jig rod and made his first pitch into the hydrilla. I had not even made a cast when he hollared, “Net!” and I saw his rod bow up. His first and only fish weighed 8.3 pounds.
Having the latest and greatest bass boat, he had a Lowrance LCG on the console. I was fishing from the back of the boat and throwing a 3/4 ounce Bulldog spinner bait and they were loving it. Long story short, we checked our time and at 2:00 we had a heavy limit. Having a 40-minute return boat ride, we really wanted to push the time as we needed one more kicker. I had told R.D. that there was a lone cypress tree in the middle of the flat and that I had shook off a good one in practice. R.D. idled to the tree and we never dropped the trolling motor. I made one cast with the spinnerbait and a 7.12 pounder nailed it. We came to the scales with five fish weighing 25.02. There were over 100 teams in the tournament and I could not have been more proud. This culminated in my future when I stepped off the stage to a handshake from a bearded guy with a shirt that said “Champion Boats” and “National Sales Director.” I eventually penned a deal with Champion and fished for them for almost 9 years. I was ready….or so I thought I was ready to play with the big boys.
I entered a tournament that mirrored BASS with the same lakes but on alternate days. My bubble was burst on day one of competition as I came back in with a good stringer to the ramp. I pulled up and beached my boat and saw a Nitro Bass rig with a gentleman sitting on the front of the rig. A taxi cab pulled up that said “Houston Airport” on the side and a well known BASS pro stepped out. It was day one of practice for BASS. The guy on the front of the Nitro handed him a sheet of paper and the pro took off. This pro won that BASS tournament. It was my trial by fire as I learned two things: You aren’t competing against another fisherman only. You are fishing against money, contacts and a team of anglers. I will go into depth next month as to the direction that both BASS and MLF have affected professional fishing. I saw this scenario played out over and over but there are more challenges today for anyone wanting to be a competitive fisherman. Much of this has been set in time over the years and nothing has affected fishing more than the new technology, rigs and behind the scenes actions by a few that to me, have affected where this sport will go in the long run. Tune in next month and I’ll elaborate.