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Up, Then Down Again

Up, Then Down Again
JT Kenney blog

Editor’s Note: The writer's opinions and observations expressed here are his own, and do not necessarily reflect or represent the views, policies or positions of FLW.

The highs and lows in this sport are amazing. They are amazing and sometimes hard to deal with. Sometimes you just have to test yourself on how thick your skin really is. For example, consider my highs and lows in the last few months.

At the end of 2014 I was pretty low. I was coming off a year that was sub-par even by a liberal standard. I missed qualifying for the Forrest Wood Cup for the first time in eight years and then lost my title sponsor. When I found out about the sponsor change, it was so late in the season that there was no chance any potential title sponsor had any budget left for 2015. As I said, I was pretty low.

What do you do? You stop whining, put on your big boy pants and go make life happen. I developed a plan. I focused on two things and two things only: rebuilding my sponsor portfolio and the Lake Toho Walmart FLW Tour opener.

From mid-November on I stayed true to the course. I ate, slept and breathed Lake Toho and sponsorship opportunities. Slowly the sponsors started to appear – after hundreds of phone calls and thousands of media kits were mailed out. I also heard “no” many, many times, and some maybes and – lo and behold – a few yessirees! Meanwhile, I was spending every other couple of days on Toho and Kissimmee. The fishing was slowly starting to come together too. The lows weren’t so low anymore, I thought – until I checked the bank account. I said the sponsor stuff was turning around, right?

Well, even though I got some new sponsors, and some I’d had for a while stepped up a little more, they don’t just send checks right away. It’s done on a quarterly basis, meaning my first checks from these new sponsors weren’t going to show up until around the first of April. So back low I went. In situations like this, bills start stacking up: house payments, health insurance etc., etc.

The only way out was to start selling stuff. My saltwater boat was the first to go. Anybody that knows me knows that was hard. I’d rather watch my dog get run over than sell my saltwater boat. Within a month after that I had sold half my fishing gear and anything that wasn’t bolted down around the house. Thank heaven for Craigslist. I even sold the patio furniture.

Once the bills were caught up I had enough gas money to keep going over and learning every inch of Kissimmee. Low wasn’t so low again. Then came the B.A.S.S. Open on Toho. I got plenty of time on the water and thought it was going to go good. Two flaccidly uneventful tournament days resulted in a 52nd-place no-check-getting stinker to show for it. Back low again.

The next morning I woke up mad; not mad at anyone in particular, not mad at myself, not mad at the industry or sponsors … MAD at the fish! I was a man on a mission then, and I was going to win the FLW event on Toho. No matter what, with two weeks of pre-fishing left. I spent every day over there, formulating plans, removing myself from outside influences and focusing like I never had before. Fast-forward to the final day of the Walmart FLW Tour Toho event. There I am, standing there holding the big cardboard check. It worked out. I won. Highest of highs. Not only did it work out, but I found the formula. Almost like Luke Skywalker learning to use the force.

I found my force and how to use it. Lewis Smith Lake and AOY, here I come. Practice went great at Smith. I had two patterns going and a mountain of confidence built. I had a pretty good bag on day one. But as my co-angler and I bagged our fish, I discovered I’d made a grave error – wait, that’s not strong enough: I made an error of biblical proportions. I had six fish in the livewell. I’d been culling all day, but not enough. Somehow down on the bottom of the livewell where I had my five good-sized fish, there it was: a scrawny 12-inch spot. No. 6. Are you kidding me? Really? No!! This couldn’t be happening.

How could I have made such a rookie mistake; I’m a pro. Well, guess what, pro – you did. After the penalty (2 pounds) I found myself in 128th place. Low again. In fact, back low from a high I didn’t think I could ever come down from. Oh well, shake it off. Day two is a day of redemption. I went out and caught four pretty good fish and one little guy. Then there’s THE BITE. It was a spotted bass of 4 pounds plus. My co scooped it in the net just as the jerkbait popped out of its mouth. Too late, it’s in the net. Actually, though, not so perfectly. It slipped through a hole in the net I didn’t know was there, bounced across the front deck as my co-angler and I frantically tried to re-catch it and SPLASH – back in the pond. Wow. Two days in a row. Two rookie mistakes.

As I consider my current state of being, I conclude that I’ve found my personal formula for catching fish, but I have to learn how to count and also to take better care of my equipment.

So here I am back to lower than low. I had the fish caught and in the boat to finish in the 20s at Lewis Smith and be in contention for AOY – not to mention have a very nice payday. Instead, I somehow managed to leave there with a 103rd-place finish and am sitting in 40th in the AOY race.

It has come full circle. I am MAD at the fish again. Watch out, Beaver Lake, I’m coming for your bass …

Tags: lewis-smith  jt-kenney  blog 

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