Another summer working as a fishing guide in southeast Alaska is in the books and I'm ready to get back to work catching green fish and reclaiming my role as a “road warrior.”
Though the first half of my 2013 season didn’t go as well as I wanted, some clean air from "The Last Frontier” and an overwhelming eagerness to get back out there and compete has got me excited about the remainder of 2013 and getting ready for 2014.
Longest Camping Trip
This was my ninth season of guiding in Alaska for Beyond Boundaries Expeditions, but it was my first working at their Base Camp operation, as I usually work at the Baranof Wilderness Lodge.
Base Camp is a very different experience from the Lodge in that guests (and guides) get to experience the Alaskan wilderness in a more intimate setting, in a location that is shrouded by deafening silence, void of all sights and sounds of civilization. It was so quiet, in fact, that often the only sound I would hear at night was the deep breaths of resting humpback whales from up to several miles away.
Another key difference was the more rugged accommodations in the large base-camp tents, complete with army cots and either wood or propane stoves. Ill be honest, even though I'm used to sleeping in uncomfortable places on the tournament trail, sleeping on a cot was difficult for me and I don’t think I got a full night's sleep all summer long.
Despite the bit of sleep deprivation for 2 months, the summer was full of excellent salmon and halibut fishing, great times with new and old friends, and I finally got to experience some new freshwater fishing locations that the Lodge crew rarely gets to see.
All in all, my first summer at Base Camp was extremely rewarding and I will remember my experiences there for the rest of my life, but I'm still glad to be back to bass fishing.
Han Solo, Brandon Palaniuk and a Spare Tire
If you happen to keep up with my event schedule on SonarFishing.com, you would know that I was supposed to fish the PAA event on Table Rock this month. Well, that was my intention, but as sometimes happens on long treks on the road, I ended up having some unexpected issues that ultimately forced me to withdraw.
Let me paint you a picture.
Imagine a fully rigged tournament bass boat on the side U.S. 63 in eastern Arkansas, surrounded by rural landscape that is visually distorted by the heat of the September sun. Now, also imagine that the boat is not accompanied by a tow vehicle, and is covered in all kinds of storage containers, electronics, clothes – in essence, it looks like a poorly placed roadside yard sale.
Well, as you may have guessed, that was my boat. My stuff.
I was there, too. If you were to pass by you would have noticed a man in a sweat-soaked Navionics shirt, hiding from the sun sitting in a cushion-stuffed spare tire, leaning against the trailer under the hull, reading Volume II of the Han Solo Trilogy (yeah, I’m a Star Wars fan).
If you passed me on the rare occasion the sun was hiding behind some clouds, you may have also barely seen me lying on my memory foam mattress that once found it’s place in my Expedition, but now makes its home in the bottom of my boat.
I was there for 6 hours.
That was the Sunday before practice began, and I was still 250 miles from Branson, Mo., when my truck came to a shaky halt.
“It is what it is,” I thought at the time, and didn’t really fret too much about it – not until I realized that I had let my BoatUS membership run out before going to Alaska and that my AAA wasn’t going to cover the boat trailer under my towing membership.
So, without the money to spare for a tow for my boat, I had AAA drive my truck to the nearest dealership while I stayed with my boat.
If I had kept my BoatUS membership current, I would have had no problems. But unfortunately, I was up a creek without a tow for my boat.
That is until my buddy Brandon Palaniuk offered to take a little drive 500 miles, round trip, to get me to where I needed to go.
Though I know how much most of us road warriors enjoy driving, and I know I would do the same for a friend in need, I cannot tell you how much I appreciate Brandon for his very generous assistance
Brandon got me to a hotel near the dealership my truck was towed to. It was at that time I had to make a decision – to fish or not to fish?
Labor Day Woes
Normally it wouldn’t even be a question whether or not I would fish a tournament due to mechanical issues, since I’ve always fished against the odds in these situations, including when I missed 2 days of practice due to other mechanical issues at the Ft. Loudon-Tellico PAA event this year, but I had one thing that made this situation different – Labor Day.
Since I didn’t know exactly what was wrong with my truck and didn’t know what the cost would be to fix it, the fact that I wouldn’t even be able to get the truck in the shop until Tuesday, because of Labor Day, meant that I would miss at least 2 of the 3 days of practice, and may not even be able to get it fixed that day.
It was because of this predicament that I had to make the difficult decision to contact the PAA on Sunday and let them know I could not make the event.
Though I felt I made the only decision I could rationally make, I was pretty disappointed that I didn’t fish because I have always seemed to do well when my chips were down. I hope I never have to make that decision again.
Though unfortunate, the fact that I missed the Table Rock event isn’t going to slow things for me. I am still going to find myself plenty busy this fall.
The 2013 season was a good trial year at the semi-pro level and I learned a lot about myself as a competitor and learned what I need to improve on for next season. But right now, I'm very excited about 2014 and my tournament schedule, which will be increasing, and my work load along with it.
I admit that not all my short-term goals were accomplished this year, but my long-term goals sure are well on their way to being realized. Never have I been more excited about this sport!
Final Note: I want to again thank Brandon Palaniuk for his help in Arkansas. What he did was a testament to the class act that he truly is and I am eager to pay it forward. Thanks, bro!
(Miles "Sonar" Burghoff, a 2012 graduate of the University of Central Florida and the winner of the 2011 BoatUS Collegiate Bass Fishing Championship, chronicles his quest toward becoming a tour-level angler in his Sonar Sound-Off column. To visit his website, click here. You can also visit him on Facebook and Twitter.)