Well, I've now had more than a week to rest after my intense 2-week tournament schedule that included the BFL All-American on the Potomac River, the Oakley KVD Big Bass Classic on Table Rock and my final Association of Collegiate Anglers Championship on Pickwick. Though the trip went well, logistically speaking, it left something to be desired as far as the fishing and competing aspects.
The lack of sleep, the mileage that I accrued, along with the stress of all this travel, ended up making me very susceptible to getting sick. Unfortunately that is exactly what happened, and this took a little wind out of my sails for all three events.
Here is how things went down.
By the time I landed at Baltimore’s BWI airport, I was pretty beat. A day before I had dropped my boat off at a friend’s house in Alabama, then made the drive over to Branson, Mo., to catch my flight.
I made it to DC and settled into the Gaylord National Hotel, where I was to stay for the week. I was able to work on tackle a little before things started rolling.
When the registration meeting came around I began to notice that I was feeling a little off. I started sweating heavily and I was just overall feeling like you normally would when you are coming down with something. I quickly found some Zicam and started taking those like my life depended on it.
Unfortunately, I got hit pretty hard later that night with a fever, and I spent the whole night sweating, coughing and shaking in a pitiful fetal position.
The official practice day was pretty awful. I had a dinger of a fever, and in the calm 85-degree sun I was neither very efficient or effective. In the end, I could only handle a little more than half of the practice day, and decided to go in to get some rest.
I was hoping the extra rest combined with the increased intake of Zicam might make me feel better for my first day fishing the biggest event I have competed in to this point. The next day I woke up feeling even worse, but I knew I had to just man-up and go to work.
With the whole field limited to the river above the Woodrow Wilson Bridge, I had decided early on that I would concentrate on the eastern side between that bridge and a place called Oxon Cove. This portion of the river contains several places that had potential to win the tournament. Places like Fox Ferry Point and the Spoils were well-known for producing the best bags in that part of the river. My plan was to try to get the timing on those spots down better than anyone.
Unfortunately, as confident as I was going into the day, I was constantly making the right moves at the wrong times, which is a recipe for disaster on a tidal fishery.
I was throwing a green-pumpkin Secret Lures Stupid Tube to isolated wood and rock cover in the Spoils and I got two fish pretty quickly, but I made a move to Oxon Cove, which proved to be the beginning of a string of bad timing.
I only ended up catching one more keeper in Oxon, and when I came back to the Spoils later I found that I had just missed the bite in there, and there were about 10 people thrashing the place.
In the end I was physically and emotionally drained, and I weighed only three fish.
Not being the kind to sulk over a single bad day, I was ready for day 2. With such light weights being brought in, a solid 16-pound day would put me right back in the mix and I knew I was around that kind of weight.
I decided to start in Oxon for the first few hours of the falling tide. I caught one decent fish in there, but in the end, after the best tide had passed, I couldn’t make it up the rest of the day.
I only caught one other keeper all day long and came to the scales with two fish.
I felt awful! I had just flopped the biggest tournament of my life so far, and I was as sick as a dog, but I tried hard to keep things in perspective and remind myself that I had qualified for the All-American, and that it was a great achievement just to be there.
A private jet transported Sonar from the nation's capital to Springfield, Mo.
I ended up scrambling to get all my stuff out of the FLW Ranger and out of the hotel, then I caught a $135 cab to the airport where my private flight provided by one of my sponsors, Business Air, was waiting.
Man, what an awesome experience! I had never been in a private jet before. The closest I have been to one is the floatplane I ride in in Alaska, but this was first class!
It was the perfect ending to such a stressful week, and I ended up stretching out and sleeping the entire time.
KVD Big Bass Classic
Next on the agenda was the Oakley KVD Big Bass Classic on Table Rock.
Business Air had flown me into Springfield, so the only thing left was for someone to bring me to Branson to reunite with my truck.
I had spent the night in a hotel since it was so late when I touched down. The Oakley guys were trying to figure out who could come and pick me up, and they told me they would text me in the morning with plans.
At 8:30 I woke up to a text on my phone: “You’re going to ride with KVD. He arrives at Springfield at 9:58. Meet him there.”
I met KVD at he airport and had a great time talking with him the whole way to Branson.
After I picked up my truck and got to Table Rock, I quickly started getting my stuff ready so I could get at least a couple hours on the lake during the first day of the event. I ended up catching a couple fish for the camera, but nothing that I was able to weigh in.
During the next day I struggled to get bit all day with the calm, sunny conditions. I got more and more frustrated as the day progressed. I was frustrated with everything – not catching fish, my bad performance at the All-American, being sick. At one time I just sat down on the Nitro and gathered my thoughts and tried to put things in perspective.
I pulled myself together, but in the end I finished the day without weighing a big bass, and I left for Birmingham feeling beaten.
Boat US Championship
After picking up my boat in Birmingham, I made the 3-hour drive up to my new home for the week – Florence, Ala. Casey O’Donnell and I were ready to try to defend our title, and I know I was ready to turn things around and walk away with a decent finish.
Practice was pretty bad. We had missed 1 day due to my travel schedule, and though we knew it would be won on ledges somewhere, we couldn’t find the right schools to contend.
We ended up running shallow the last hour or 2 of the last practice day, and though we knew we couldn’t win there, we felt comfortable with what we saw.
The first day we ran straight into the back of Coffee Slough and fished there all day. I had a blast! We caught so many fish back there, and though they weren’t the quality to win with, I was just happy to have a groove again.
We ended the day in 15th out of the 180-something field with 16 pounds even.
Day 2 was a bit tougher. Though we caught more fish, we lost a couple of our key bites, and were only able to muster a little over 11 pounds, falling three places to 18th.
Though I was shooting for no less than a 5th-place showing, I think both Casey and I were content with our performance considering our awful practice.
The ride back home to Florida seemed short.
R & R
When I returned to Orlando, I was pretty beaten down. I had just experienced a whirlwind of travel and emotional competition, and my overall results were more than disappointing.
Fortunately, I had my good friend Katie coming in from California to hang out with me for a week. We went fishing once, but overall we did things that I never get to do normally. We went to the Kennedy Space Center, a water park, Daytona Beach and all kinds of other stuff that I am so close to but never do. I was able to really just let loose and relax and enjoy the company of a good friend.
Now I have a break for a while and I am concentrating on school and trying hard to make up the two weeks I missed for those three tournaments. I'll be honest – it's difficult to not have any tournaments to look forward to until the end of summer, but maybe that’s exactly what I need.
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.