If you have been following this blog, you already know what a fantastic job the McKendree anglers have done writing their personal point of view of each tournament. My name is Jon Rinderer, and I am the proud head coach of the McKendree University Bass Fishing Team.
In bass fishing, things don’t always go as planned, and the FLW Central Qualifier on Lake Barkley was no exception. As I stood near the take off location shortly after the boats were released, I began to imagine all of the anglers arriving at their starting spots and filling their live wells with huge Barkley Bass. My perfect daydream was shattered about four minutes after takeoff. My phone rang.
When the display showed the number of one of my anglers, my mind quickly went into panic mode. What could possibly be wrong already? Was he ok? When I answered the call, the problems began.
Taylor and Curtis had drawn boat number one and were so excited about their start. As they came off plane to idle out of Kuttawa Harbor, their engine died and would not restart. I told them to stay positive and fish their way back to the dock where I could look at their motor. I also told them about all of the times my boat problems on tournament day had led to a strong finish. About thirty minutes after the first call, they called again.
This time their batteries were almost gone. Apparently, their charger had failed during the night. As they rounded the point, I could see they were barely moving. If the wind had been from the other direction, they never would have made it back. During the last stretch of bank before the dock, they began fishing again, and as I watched, Curtis set the hook on a three pounder. I was thrilled, and all kinds of positive bells and whistles began going off in my mind. They can still do it…get them back on the water.
As I shouted to them about the fish, they hollered back, but I couldn’t tell what they said. When they were finally within my hearing distance (not very far) I realized that they were telling me that the three pounder that they just caught was their third keeper. Unbelievable! I quickly backed my truck down to the ramp and began working. It was apparent that they had blown their compressor. Their big motor was done for the day. The only option they had was to troll the rest of the day.
You know it is a bad day when the cover must come off. Unfortunately, this tournament had too many of these problems.
A special “Thank You to Jet-A-Marina” for all their help over the past three years.
We quickly replaced the trolling batteries with fresh ones, and they were on their way. I told them to fish hard. They were within site of the ramp most of the day and what unfolded was definitely a pleasure to watch. Fishing is typically not a great spectator sport, but on this day, I was able to watch as they culled several times. As a coach, this is what I love to see, two kids fishing they hearts out.
The second phone call arrived shortly after Taylor and Curtis went back out. It was Shane and Phillip. They had planned on heading far south and ran into monster waves. In their attempt to return, due to waters that were unsafe, their lower unit was destroyed. They were rocking and rolling out of control and down the river as we spoke. About that time, the Murray State University team of Ryan Kirkpatrick and Austin Butler showed up and offered them a tow to the dock.
The guys gladly accepted their offer and suggested they just tow them into the mouth of the creek so that the Murray team could back on the water more quickly and continue fishing. The Murray State Team was sitting in the top 5 in the country and stopped to help another school that they are neck and neck with in the race. This behavior is typical of the type of sportsmanship and camaraderie you see on the water with these young anglers. I would like to give a huge shout out to this Murray team for what they did. It truly shows the character of these individuals. “Thank you so much!”
About two hours after being helped by Murray, Shane and Philip finally trolled their way to the boat ramp in Eddy Creek. Due to the waves, they said there was no way anyone could tow them all the way back to Kuttawa, so as the rules state, they released their fish and trailered their boat back to the take off ramp. After a quick live well inspection by the tournament director, they put the boat back on the water and finished out the last hour around the dock. While they were unloading their boat, they mentioned that they had seen Jordan and Trent. It sounded like their day wasn’t going any better than the rest of the teams.
Jordan had gotten a text at take off that a loved one had passed away. He had also accidentally dropped his first solid keeper back into the lake while turning on the live well. Despite all of these negative occurrences, as a coach, you still keep thinking positive and remembering all the times that misfortune turned around during the day. I knew that Taylor’s boat had a limit, and I still hadn’t heard from Jacob and JT.
If you have been following our team throughout the year, you know that we were in second place in the ACA School of the Year Race going into this tournament. We needed to score well and close the two-point lead held by the University of Alabama. We also were on the home waters of the national powerhouse Murray State team, and they were only 21 points behind us. I could feel the tension mounting, as it always does as weigh in gets closer. I knew that the strong winds would have made it very difficult for any of the anglers that were planning to ledge fish. Even though I knew it had been a very rough day, and that our anglers had many issues going on, I kept thinking positive thoughts. I kept hoping that somehow we would gain ground and have a good tournament.
As boats began rolling and trolling in for weigh in, my wife and I began busying ourselves to help relieve the stress of waiting and not knowing. We always stress to the team to fish hard and not to waste even a minute to send pictures or make a call while fishing a tourney. Every second, every cast counts when you’re on the water. Because they don’t call, however, we never know what kind of day they had until they weigh in. As I grilled for the team and parents, and my wife, Carla, began writing down all of the 61 teams and their weights for the event, we were a nervous wreck. Then the bags started rolling in.
After releasing their fish to trailer back, Shane and Phillip were unable to put any more keepers in the live well. Taylor and Curtis continued to catch fish right up to the weigh in. They even culled up with a beautiful three and half pounder as boats began rolling up. When they placed their sack on the scale, it read 14 lbs 8 oz that put them in the early lead, but there were still many teams to weigh in.
Curtis and Taylor with their amazing catch!
The next McKendree boat to weigh in was Jordan and Trent. As they approached the scales, my eyes did a double take. It looked like their early misfortunes had definitely turned around. WOW…the scale jumped to 17lbs 10oz. At this point, McK had two boats in the top ten, one in first, and the other in second. The hardest part of the day was waiting while the other 55 teams weighed in. Could we hang on?
Trent and Jordan with their winning sack.
Now it was Jacob and JT’s turn to weigh in. They also had a great day and unlike the others, they had very few problems. (I think Jacob’s biggest problem was the Mexican food the night before. At least this trip he was able to find a restroom and didn’t need to run into the woods. JT also made the entire trip without ever being left behind at a gas station.) As they placed their five fish limit on the scale, it read 13 lbs 12 oz, which earned them 12th place, just ounces out of a top ten finish.
Jacob and JT with a another great limit!
The team’s hard work and positive attitude definitely helped them to overcome all their problems and finish the event with a 1st, 6th, and 12th placing. Taylor and Curtis, along with Jordan and Trent, earned a birth to the FLW National Championship that will be held in the spring of 2017. By placing first in the tourney, the team also scored 61 points and jumped into first place in the nation in the School of the Year Race.
Curtis, Taylor, Trent, and Jordan with the hardware that qualifies them for the FLW National Championship.
As the coach, I often stress that, “You get what you inspect, not what you expect.” And, our problems during this tournament were not due to lack of preparation or failure to maintain equipment properly. Things sometimes just happen on the water. When my phone started ringing in the morning, Murphy’s Law (“If anything can go wrong, it will go wrong.”) immediately entered my mind. But my guys stayed focused and never gave up! As I look back, Lake Barkley definitely handed the team a bunch of lemons, but my… can these McK anglers make lemonade!
Next, the team will be fishing the Cabela’s/Boat US Championship Tourney on Pickwick Lake in Florence Alabama. This two-day event will have a huge impact on the School of the Year Race.
This is the breakfast, lunch, and snacks of champions!
I don’t know how I let this get started, but if they don’t stop doing so well, I’m going to have to buy a horse. (Yee Ha)
Curtis was so exhausted that he fell asleep while waiting to get our table at Texas Roadhouse. (It was a very short wait)