UPCOMING EVENT: PHOENIX BASS FISHING LEAGUE - 2020 - Sam Rayburn Reservoir

So Close, Yet So Far Away

So Close, Yet So Far Away

(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.)


You know the saying: Close only counts in horseshoes and hand grenades.

Well, being close without it counting might apply to professional bass fishing more than any other sport. Think about it. In what other sport can you literally drive by $125,000 only to miss it by 100 yards or less? It happens all the time on the Walmart FLW Tour.

Everyone has stories of lost fish and missed opportunities, but the true pain comes from being close, yet so far away from the trophy at the same time. Let me tell you how close it can be.

The first Tour event of my pro career on Lake Okeechobee a few weeks ago was an eventful one. Practice was tough on everyone, but I managed to get confidence in three areas.

As practice concluded, Wesley Strader and I talked about how we both felt we had been in the winning area at some point during the three days we spent digging around on the Big O. Did we think we had found the winning fish? No. Not by a long shot. Yet, we felt we had found areas that definitely had the potential to kick out a W.

In practice, the lake was changing every single day, with the weather warming and the water temperature rising. We felt it could explode at any moment.

When day one of the derby came around I had a decision to make. I had found fish on the far north end of the big lake, as well as the south end. Deciding where to go seems simple enough, but there is only so much time in a tournament day. After launching my boat without the plug in and running into the FLW boat-check pontoon (Did I mention I am rookie?), I chose to go north. Wesley decided to go south to an area he and I had both found in practice.

Luke Dunkin

After spending most of the day up North without much success, I pulled the plug on that plan (not literally this time) and ran back south with a little time to spare and put together a limit. The limit included a 7-pound Big O behemoth that bit a Zoom Speed Craw with 20 minutes to go. Not a bad way to end your first day on Tour, right? I felt really good about it and felt like I could build on what I learned during the day to potentially make a charge at the top-20 cut.

The area that I wound up in gave up several bags in the top 20 on day one, including Brandon McMillan’s second-place limit of 22 pounds, 8 ounces.

Wesley finished the day a couple ounces behind me in my other area but had some interesting news. It seemed a waypoint I had shared with Wes was not far at all from where Bradley Hallman was boat-flipping giants.

While I was casting my Dirty Jigs Swim Jig in practice and getting consistent bites, ol’ Bradley was apparently doing work flipping the reed heads. I was close, but not close enough.

Why didn’t I flip, you ask? I did. For miles. I came to Clewiston with the mindset that I was going to catch them flipping or bust. After almost two days of flipping in practice with nothing to lean on, I picked up my Horny Toad and swim jig. Bites started coming in, and I put down my Level flipping stick for good.

I found the area where Bradley did his damage on the last day of practice. I never once flipped the reeds. I foolishly threw my swim jig in between the reeds. Oh, and where did most of my bites come? Whenever I got close to a reed head. Genius move, rookie. I even told my co-angler practice partner that once the tournament began I would slow down and flip. I never did. Heck, I didn’t even go to the area in the tournament.

On day two I hunkered down in the area where I’d caught them late on day one. I caught 20 or more keepers in the horrible north wind but never got a good bite. I made a plan and stuck with it. The end result just wasn’t what I wanted. Close doesn’t pay very well. I finished 78th and didn’t cash a check.

To add insult to injury – and to my bank account – four guys in the top 10 were in the same area as Bradley, where I didn’t end up fishing, and three others were in the area where I caught most of my fish. They all got to hang out on stage at Walmart with Chris Jones, the FLW weighmaster, while I drove my tired tail back to Tennessee.  

I just missed “the juice,” and so did several others in the same area. That’s just the way it goes in this sport at times.

Congrats to all of those guys that figured it out, especially Bradley Hallman, Josh Weaver and Chris Johnston. Those fellow Tour newcomers got it done!

Could my rookie event have been better? Most definitely. It could have also gone a lot worse. I’m very pleased to have survived my first event and escaped Florida without a total bomb. It’s a long season, and I have a ton of work cut out for me to make the Cup. Thankfully, the schedule is heading in the right direction. I can’t wait for Hartwell.

Tags: luke-dunkin  blog 

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