Every once in awhile an opportunity falls in your lap that is just too cool to pass up. Last September one of those just happened to come my way.
I decided to hold off on telling everyone about it until things actually developed and it was a go. Now things have come together, so I will bring you up to speed.
The beginning of this new opportunity came in the fall of last year when I received a call from a representative of Oakley Fishing. He explained that he was contacting me regarding their Oakley Big Bass Tour and a chance to participate in their TV show. This immediately piqued my interest, since I used Oakley products quite a bit back in my snowboarding days, and unless you've lived in a bomb shelter since the start of the Cold War, you know who they are.
He continued to go over the premise for their 2012 shows. In essence they wanted to follow me as I competed in their tour. The idea was to highlight the challenges of the tour’s format, along with the trials and tribulations of trying to break down lakes that I’d never been to.
After he explained his vision in greater detail, I began to see the potential for such a show, as well as the potential for me as well. When the call ended I was excited about the possibility of such a project coming to fruition, but remained skeptical.
But it was Oakley! So, deep down, I was very hopeful things would work out.
It’s A Go
As the end of 2011 rang in the beginning of 2012, things continued to look good. The Oakley people brought me up to Lake Guntersville for the last event of the '11season – the Gerald Swindle Big Bass Classic. I was able to get a taste for the format of the events and also meet the crew. I had a blast.
Sonar will fish out of the Oakley Infinite Hero-wrapped boat at each of the six events.
Time rolled on, and the project evolved a little bit from that initial call, but overall the concept remained the same, and my skepticism slowly melted away into hopeful optimism. By the time the Classic rolled around, I knew it was a go.
It's almost scary how perfectly this whole deal has come together.
First off, this is my last year before I make the move to fishing the “open” or “tour” level of competition, and since the Oakley Big Bass Tour is an amateur tournament series, I wouldn’t be eligible to do it next year.
Next, the scheduling couldn’t be better. I'll be able to compete in 6 of their 10 events throughout the season. Half of those are after I graduate (hopefully), and the other three are discreet enough to not really affect any school. The greatest thing about the schedule is that so far there are very few conflicts with any of my other tournaments.
The logistics of getting to each event is also pretty cool and too easy. I'm going to be using Oakley’s Infinite Hero-wrapped Nitro Z-8, fully decked out with a 10-foot blade Power-Pole, an impressive Sony stereo and a 225 Mercury. So all I have to do is get there with my equipment and I’m ready to roll.
Another cool deal is that two of my personal sponsors, Navionics and TroKar, are already sponsoring the tour as well.
Finally, the coolest thing about the whole deal is that I'm going to be able to experience new lakes that otherwise I would have to learn on the fly once I hit the tour.
I'll be fishing Lake Norman, Smith Mountain, Table Rock, Lake Murray, Lake Guntersville and Douglas Lake. Can you say heck yeah!
Knowing that I was to be in Arkansas in March for the TBF Championship on Bull Shoals, the Oakley Big Bass staff made plans to come over to Branson, Mo., to film a little for the introduction to the show on Table Rock a week before my championship.
It was a very exciting experience, and I really enjoyed the challenge of filming in a somewhat formal setting, which was new to me.
A really cool part of the Table Rock trip was I got an opportunity to meet the man who would be filming me for the show the entire season, Stuart Penny with Catch Air Films. Stuart and I hit it off and we were both open to ideas, so I was stoked to be able to work with him for the year.
The first tournaments on the schedule have already come and gone. The first was the Jamie McMurray Carolina Big Bass Classic on Lake Norman.
Overall I had a great time, but I will be completely honest, it was challenging trying to find fish with only a couple hours of practice on a lake I had never seen, and then on top of that have to help Stuart provide content for the show. However, overall things went very well, and I had fun, but my fishing left something to be desired.
In the end I didn’t cash a check in North Carolina.
The Blue Ridge Big Bass Classic, on Smith Mountain, was a similar experience. I again had a hard time figuring the new venue out.
I could sit here and blame other factors, but the fact of the matter was that I just plain fished pretty sloppy and never put myself in a mindset that would get me in contention to find that one big bite to win the tournament. Again, I left Virginia without a check.
Looking back at the last couple of weekends, I'm beginning to realize that the trials I'm experiencing with the unique tournament format and the balance between fishing and filming will make me a stronger competitor and on-camera personality. Despite my little bit of frustration, I'm actually thankful for the struggle and really looking forward to getting better at all of it.
I also wouldn’t dream of trading the experience of making new friendships with the OBBT crew and the great people who participate in the events. Oh, and the venues are awesome, too!
Much more fun to come
With four more events coming up in the next 6 months, I'm more pumped up than ever. I'm really beginning to enjoy the challenge that the Big Bass format provides and I'm anticipating the shows that come from all of the events to be really unique, entertaining and informative.
I think that this experience is not only going to be one of the coolest ways to transition from college-level competition to the professional ranks, but also something that will improve my career and my fishing skills forever.
Cool things are happening this year on the Oakley Big Bass Tour.
Miles "Sonar" Burghoff is a student at the University of Central Florida and the winner of the 2011 BoatUS Collegiate Bass Fishing Championship. He's an aspiring professional angler who writes a regular column for BassFan. To visit his website, click here. You can also visit him on Facebook and Twitter.