Well, it looks like my annual “winter depression” has just begun. This portion of the year where I tend to sulk a bit is pretty common for me after I finish fishing the final events of the year, and it lasts until January when things pick up again.
For the last month and a half I've been on the road and have fished five different events – one FLW College Fishing event, a BFL and three different Oakley Big Bass tournaments.
Now my road trip is over, and though I'm weary and exhausted from all the travel, I will no doubt still miss the thrill of living on the road and fishing tournaments.
Although I was successful in postponing the end of my FLW College Fishing Career for a while longer by qualifying for the National Championship, this trip did mark the end of a tournament series that I thoroughly enjoyed this year – the Oakley Big Bass Tour. I was lucky enough to fish six of the OBBT events and serve as a co-host for their television show that is shown on Fox Midwest.
I must admit that the first three events of the season were very tough for me, and I didn’t fish or finish all that well in them, but the final three events I pulled things together and ended my year on the OBBT satisfied with my performance.
I had just finished fishing the FLW College Fishing Southeastern Conference Championship when I made the short trek down to Lake Murray in South Carolina to fish the first of the OBBT fall events that I’d compete in – the Jason Williamson Big Bass Classic. I'd already missed a day of the tournament since the college event overlapped with the first day on Murray.
I wasn’t brimming with confidence going into the one day I got to fish, since I hadn’t had time to do much research and I'd only gotten to fish Murray for one day of practice a week prior. I was, however, excited because I love fishing for schooling, blueback herring-oriented fish.
Lake Murray was an impressive fishery. I ended up spending the entire day chasing these big, unpredictable, schools of 3- to 5-pound largemouth. I probably only made about 100 casts the entire day, since I would just sit and wait for the schools to come up and bust on the bluebacks.
I was casting a large walking topwater with light braided line in an effort to get right on top of a schooling pig, but alas, I was only able to catch small fish, with my biggest being a touch under 3 pounds.
Even though I left once again without a check, it was a fun day on the water.
All year long I had been waiting for the OBBT to make its swing to Lake Guntersville. I knew that regardless of whether I made a check or not, I would have a great time.
Another reason I was excited was because I knew I would have several days of practice, which would be a first for me since I had been fishing the Oakley events.
My practice was actually pretty disappointing. The first real cold fronts of the season had hit the G-Ville area and I knew that the frog bite that I had banked on was going to be tough during practice. However, the weather was supposed to get real warm during the tournament, which I knew would turn the bite back on.
It was really tough trying to figure out where the big fish were without having that frog bite during practice, but I ended up fishing enough areas that I knew where the best matted hydrilla and milfoil were. Even if I couldn’t get them to bite when it was cold, I was sure at least some of the areas would produce when it warmed up.
I also was able to find a big-fish bite in some of the yacht marinas by skipping a swimbait around the giant hulls and dock floats. I felt it was a good backup if the frog bite never turned on.
Well, my prediction was right and the frog bite turned on in a big way at the end of Saturday afternoon, and I was able to pull four fish over 4 pounds that weekend, including a 5 1/2-pounder I also caught a 4 1/2 with the swimbait pattern and ended up cashing four hourly weigh-in checks that totaled $800.
I was so stoked to finally be able to cash some OBBT checks, and the fishing was just so much fun! The television show from this event is going to be so sweet!
After the G-Ville slugfest I was eager to get back on the water. Luckily the next event was the following weekend on Douglas Lake in Tennessee.
My practice on Douglas was once again tough. I literally caught a total of five fish in 3 days of practice, but I knew that the deep bite I was going to focus on would get better during the weekend.
Once again I was rolling the dice and gambling that my predictions would be correct. Fortunately they were and the deep bite prevailed, and although I couldn’t catch them long-lining crankbaits like I was doing during practice, I was able to catch a bunch of fish both days on a football jig and a Carolina-rig.
I ended up once again cashing some checks, with a 3 1/2-pounder being my biggest. The two checks I made totaled $500, making it another decent showing.
Though I was thankful to finish off my Oakley Big Bass Tour career with a couple good showings at the end, I am pretty sad it's all over. In the beginning I didn’t know how I would like the big-bass format, but I ended up really enjoying it quite a bit.
I also really enjoyed filming the OBBT television shows, and look forward to the last episodes, which I will be posting on my Facebook page if you miss them on Fox Midwest.
More importantly, I was able to meet some great people and make some great friends among the OBBT crew. They are a special group of people who put on some world-class fishing events that provide amateur anglers some real opportunities to cash in on big prizes. I'll really miss travelling with those guys.
Though I may be depressed that it has all ended, I feel blessed that I was able to be part of it.
Miles "Sonar" Burghoff is a recent graduate of 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.