It has been a while since my last blog. Read on and you'll see the excuse fishing, fishing and more fishing.
My family has always raised me with "safety" as the number one priority, so when the third WBT event was moved from the flooded Arkansas River to Maumelle Lake, I fully embraced the decision. Sure, the Arkansas River would have been great perhaps some more flipping, crankbaits and spinnerbaits. But with the chance to visit the smaller Maumelle Lake (rarely visited by larger tournaments), I was excited for the opportunity that perhaps might not have come along without an intervention from Mother Nature.
I enjoyed my pre-fishing. I found that the lake, although small, offered plenty of variety in fishing options shallow bank-side grass and a plethora of offshore structures, from old bridges and dams to rockpiles and ledges. My first days on the lake were spent fishing bank-side grass with a Reaction Innovations Skinny Dipper in Money Shot color and the Trixie Shark in white.
My best pre-fish day was a limit of bass around 13 or 15 pounds. As the bite slowed in the grass, I moved offshore and targeted suspending bass around deeper water structures. For me the bite was becoming slower each day, but with a drop shot (Flirt worm), Screwed-Up jighead and Skinny Dipper, I was catching just enough keepers to feel well-prepared for the tournament.
The first day, I was able to catch a limit of bass for 7 pounds. After a tough Ouachita River event, it was certainly nice to have a limit in the boat. The second day my starting spot, where white bass and spotted bass were schooling, produced a small keeper on a Reaction Innovations Lil' Dipper rigged on a 3/0 weighted shank extra wide gap hook.
Every fish after that was a healthy white bass. Although it was great fun, I decided that the ratio of white bass to spots wasn't in my favor and moved on to my drop shotting areas where I unfortunately hooked and had a good-sized fish come unbuttoned. Picking up the Screwed-up Jighead with a 4.95-inch Flirt on the back I was able to catch what would be my last keeper for the day. Two fish weighing 1 pound, 15 ounces and just shy of the Top 20 cut.
With Andre and the crew down in Port Fourchon, La., for the third Southern Kingfish Association Pro event (the first tournament day was Friday), I decided to wave my goodbyes to the ladies and pass on my gratitude to the guys at NIFE Marine, H20 Sports and Jolly Rogers Marina, for their support and assistance during my stay and drive down from Little Rock to Grand Isle, La., to meet up with my husband and team to catch the final king mackerel fishing day on Saturday.
For those of you who have followed along with my blogs, you'll be aware that I have been enjoying some saltwater king mackerel tournaments in between the WBT bass events. As with the bass tournaments, the kingfish tournaments are also based on a ranking system based on your placing in the event. With a ladies division in the kingfish events, it made sense for me to at least try and make it to the event in an effort to combine my two greatest loves, bass and saltwater fishing. One minute I was in Arkansas on Maumelle in my Legend bass boat and 11 hours later I was in our triple 300-horsepower Evinrude Invincible Centre Console making a 75-mile run offshore to an oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico in search of king mackerel!
With a 44-pound kingfish to the scales on Saturday (the second and final day of king mackerel competition), it was a backup plan that really came together, and our kingfish team moved into third place in the Angler of the Year standings on the SKA and I have maintained a 2nd overall for the season in the ladies division.
I certainly wish the drive back home to Alabama was as successful we blew two front tires on our 42-foot boat trailer. The first one went on the Interstate where we were able to pull over and change it. The next blew out not a mile down the road as we were pulling off to exit and double-check everything. Despite the bad luck, we were grateful that nobody was hurt and only a minor amount of damage was done to the trailer fender due to tread debris. I also got to fine tune my tire changing skills using a 20-ton jack! These are useful things to know! I almost felt proud of myself as I trudged into the gas station covered in grease!
Andre and I hit home for the time it took to effect tire repairs and then decided to travel to St. Augustine, Fla., for another kingfish event. The feeling of nostalgia was strong as this was the site of our very first kingfish event approximately twelve months ago. Fishing was extremely challenging with only a few bites from kingfish a day but we were able to weigh a 28-pound king on the first day and a 35-pound specimen on the second which put us in 11th place overall in this non-pro tour event and in 2nd place for the ladies division.
Tomorrow I'll get home and unpack the bass gear from Arkansas and the mackerel gear from two straight tournaments. Then I'll be repacking gear for the northeast this time. For the day after getting home I'm airport bound to fly into Nantucket to film a few segments for my TV fishing show.
It's been a fun journey thus far, and I look forward to seeing what is around the next bend in the road.
May 4, 2009
River to the Sea
Phew! Tough tournament for me guys ... and an outcome that I'm finding hard to explain. Disappointment sums up the emotion, but I can't for the life of me work out what happened on the Ouachita River during the Academy Sports + Outdoors WBT event No. 2. Unfortunately I wasn't able to bring any fish to the scales, despite a formidable practice which could be best described as 15 pounds a day.
During practice I truly loved the style of fishing that the Ouachita offered. I have grown very fond of pitching and flipping Sweet Beavers and jigs over the last year, and river fishing is perfectly suited for that with stained water and loads of bank cover. Combine that with my enthusiasm for adventure the river provides plenty of opportunity for exploring backwaters and I was loving it.
It very much reminds me of fishing for barramundi in Australia where we take our aluminum punts (johnboats) up small creeks and backwaters, following them to the very end as they wind like a snake through the land, always hoping to find the next secret honey hole. You're never sure what you are going to find around the next corner. On several occasions, I was flat on my belly, Power Poles half deployed, driving my trolling motor with my fingertips as I crept under tree limbs into a hidden pocket of water. Fortunately, I didn't encounter any dropping snakes! I did see plenty of snakes swimming around on the water, especially when the temperatures rose into the high 80s.
If you look at my earlier blogs you'll see I'm not being too successful with the New Year's resolution.
I am now on my way to Florida …. yeah! From rivers to the beautiful sea, Andre and I (along with good friends John and Glyn as other members of "Team Crikey") are preparing to fish the second SKA National Kingfish tournament, hosted out of Jensen Beach, Fla. I haven't been on our big boat, a 36-foot Invincible with triple Evinrude E-Tecs since our victory at the first event in Key West earlier this year. I am so excited! Not only are there some kingfish around but also some mahi mahi and sailfish which are always fun to catch and are so beautiful. Mahi are excellent for the table, too. Hopefully Andre can griddle up something tasty in the kitchen.
We are fortunate to have family in Stuart, so I imagine a fish or two will get thrown on the grill as we catch up with Andre's grandma, aunt, uncle and cousins. We even have an opportunity to bring Moby and Digger along. Digger loves cannon-balling in the relative's pools and chasing the lizards around with his friend Rocco, a rescued Yorkshire Terrier.
Following that, it's off again this time for some redfish chasing in Louisiana to film a TV show. Redfish are such great fun on bass tackle, and the fishing in Louisiana is off the chain. Andre and I fished a Redfish Championship in Venice a few years back and it was incredible. Imagine 30-inch redfish exploding on your spinnerbaits.
Lots of excitement happening. Can't wait to fill you in next time.
April 13, 2009
Life's been bubbling along after Neely Henry. It was great for me. I enjoyed just getting out and going fishing again without the pressure. In fact, the day after the tournament I still wanted to get up and go fish. Too bad I had already driven home.
Making the cut and finishing 13th in the tournament was a consistent result. I'd hovered (placing wise) in the teens each day. Unfortunately, I just didn't land any kicker fish. I certainly missed a few, like a 3-pounder on a jerkbait and one around 4 pounds flipping the Reaction Innovations Sweet Beaver in my confidence color of "California 420," but didn't land them (Bummer!).
Since the first WBT event, I've also fished the "Day on the Lake" with Don Wirth for Bassmaster Magazine. I caught some fish, which is always a good thing. A variety of lures worked for me despite the cold front. It seems there's a cold front just waiting around the corner every time somebody picks up a camera.
Last week I filmed an introduction for a professional hunter's deer hunting video in Australia. If you want to see the real east coast Australian bush where I grew up, this DVD has great footage of it. I'll put you onto the Web site when the DVD comes out. By the way, we have a hut in the hills where we hunt. The hut is meeting place central and we sleep on the ground under the stars in bedrolls called "swags." Early in the morning, you can hear the red deer calling (roaring) in the mist. Awesome!
April is a special month in Australia. The 25th is ANZAC day when we celebrate the spirit of Australians. Soldiers march in the streets and everybody gets up before dawn to honour the fallen under the rising sun. My father designed the rising sun monument on the military base near our home and many of my family and friends have served. The ANZAC/Gallipoli legend is a true story based around the legendary stories of the Aussie diggers fighting beside their mates in World War I and every battle since. The Battle of Gallipoli is a genuine epic. If you haven't checked it out you should. It is a famous story of never giving up even when the odds are so much against you that the best you can hope for is to survive the withdrawal a withdrawal that is the best in military history. Did you know that Australians and Americans have always fought together, often side by side?
During Easter Down Under, we have the Easter bilby that brings our chocolate and candy eggs. Bilbies are pretty darn cute and totally protected (as are all our native wildlife hunting in Australia is only practiced on non-native species that were introduced by the early settlers).
Happy Easter! My poodle Digger and Moby the 80-pound kuvasz puppy are expecting a visit from a bilby. Oh, and Digger celebrated his third birthday with a peanut butter doggie cake with carob trim. The dogs loved it.
March 26, 2009
Neely Henry and the Next Girl to the Classic
Well, I took a break from the media and publicity after the Red River Classic. A little bit of a cold laid me low for a few days, and once I started resting it seemed like such a good idea that I put my feet up and reached for the remote.
But I have been back into the fishing mainly saltwater filming a TV show in the Everglades. Being from another country, I get a kick out of catching fish that are new to me, and I also get a kick out of fish that I've caught back home. So that's how it was when I caught some ladyfish, which we call giant herring back in Australia.
Also, we fished The Big O (Lake Okeechobee) for a few days, catching bass up to 4 pounds. The gun lure there with a few recent high-profile tournament wins under its belt is the Skinny Dipper, so, logically, we filmed a segment on using that lure for the TV show.
This week I'm at Neely Henry for the first WBT event of the season. Let me tell you the girls are amped coming off the back of the 2009 Classic, and there is a lot of chatter about the 2010 Classic. Lots and lots of the WBT ladies came to the Red River Classic to watch, and many are keen to be the one to compete next year.
The 2009 Classic was a great opportunity for many of us to catch up prior to the WBT season when things will soon get a little more serious. I humbly appreciate that so many of the WBT anglers were there at the Classic and cheered me on. That really showed how much we are committed to our WBT fishing scene. We compete against and alongside each other all year and yet support each other any chance we get.
Check out the WBT Neely Henry live weigh-ins at the end of this week. It'll be the start of the next WBT girl's journey to the Classic. Oh, and feel for us the forecast is for rain for the tournament. I'm determined to be comfortable no matter what the weather throws at us. Recently I got a full set of wet weather gear from Gill, the company that makes some of the best offshore "wets" for ocean racing yachties. I've tested their gear when saltwater fishing and have fallen in love with it.
So I'll be warm and dry, but there are still all those other fun things that the rain and wind bring with it to contend with. Everything on the boat gets slippery and soggy. Wet hands is probably the biggest nuisance. Plus the rain stings your face when you drive fast, so break out the helmet.
For this year I look forward to the WBT series reminding me of some great memories of my 2008 WBT season, and, of course, I'm hopeful of working on and erasing some of my first day blues. A "new season resolution," if you like.
I thought my Classic experience was over.
Not the Classic just my Classic.
Today was the last day of the 2009 Classic; the Top 25 shootout. I was keenly interested in the outcome of the Classic particularly because I backed Skeet Reese on camera in my discussions with Mark Zona. This was partly because I really thought Skeet could win, but mostly because Skeet yelled encouragement to me as I caught fish to fill my limit on Day 2.
Think about that here this guy is going for the biggest event win of his life; yet he takes time out from his focus, during competition, to encourage another competitor who was finding the going tough.
Skeet won which is justice for my mental list of good guys as far as I'm concerned.
As I wrote above, I thought my Classic experience was over.
Hold the bus!
I went to the Bassmaster Classic Outdoors Expo presented by Dick's Sporting Goods today (Sunday, 10 a.m.). I was asked for an autograph and started signing as the queues of hats, shirts, body parts, and Bassmaster Magazine covers multiplied into a conga line. Four and a half hours later, after constant, non-stop "Kim Bain-Moore," security had to be called. With the queue now moving with me and still growing I was escorted by security into a waiting BASS car. Body guards for a bass angler? That I never contemplated!
At the weigh-in, the autographs and photographs continued, including one with Ray Scott. Reflecting back, I recalled it was me who sought him out for an autograph at the Classic in 2000. That night I went to dinner and I counted them; 24 autographs and photographs between courses.
Amongst all the signings, some fans, some sponsorship offers, stuff for my upcoming TV series; I found new inspiration in the smiling faces of parents and kids.
The fog in my head has lifted.
Today, less sleep deprived, and running on the adrenaline of the positive impact this publicity is having on fishing, I acknowledge Green Day
I had the time of my life.
Today was the end of a journey. Day 2 is racked and stacked. I'm done, I'm over it, need to get away. I loved the journey but need to recharge.
Next time I stick my head up, probably after my parents fly back to Australia and after Andre fishes Toledo Bend, I'll be back in the role of reigning Toyota Tundra WBT Angler of the Year. The Bassmaster Classic has been the first four months of that role. The WBT's first event of 2009 is at the end of next month, the 22nd of March. I'll be there for the season and at the end of the season hope I can offer some contribution of my experience to the next lady to go to the Classic.
I knew the Classic was going to be tough, but beforehand there was no way to get a measure on it. Nobody had been through this before and there was no other Classic competitor to share my unique load with particularly the media load.
Then there was the undercurrent of displeasure towards my situation from some of my fellow Classic competitors ... which for a few of them turned into a personal vendetta.
Be careful what you wish for, hey. I wished to fish the Classic and that's exactly what I got boots and all. Thanks guys for making it real and not pretend. I've been to the Classic, and there was no special favourite sister or hold the door for the girl treatment.
Yet out of the blue, friendliness, yes; some true greats of our sport who were competing at this Classic countered the negative vibes with their support and endorsements without the "although, but, what if."
Last night I decided an upbeat dinner was in order. I was keenly looking forward to the second day of fishing. I seriously was. I love going fishing.
On the way to dine, the toll took effect. It all became too much, not emotionally but physically. The tank was dry. I asked for my friends and family to accept my absence. It came over me like a wave. Back to the Hilton for room service, when it promptly arrived I was already asleep. I awoke for dinner but fell asleep too tired to continue eating. Those who know me will realize the enormity of that statement as I love eating.
In my experience girls generally don't eat much on the water. That sacrifice is one way of handling the no toilet issue. The answer is to rehydrate and refuel as soon as possible after weigh-in. In the excitement, all I'd had was an iced tea after that awesome Day 1 moment on stage.
Then, pit stop done, it was back in front of the news camera.
This was my fear. That the female body would run out of endurance. The fish may not know if it is Y or X at the end of the rod, but the facts don't lie about stamina in athletic endeavours.
I'm not complaining. I really want the readers to know what this awesome experience was like. Maybe I could be so bold as to call it my Everest.
I need to log it down now so that I remember the important details for next time. I've learned a lot that I don't want to forget.
Was the bigger picture of the first lady to the Classic about me catching fish? Possibly not.
(Although for the angler in me, my Classic was about catching fish. I hope you can accept that I really did selfishly dream about what it would be like to win.)
I've been doing this blog to address the question, "What it is about?"
As an ambassador, surely the 39th Classic is the defining moment when the world that will drive the next era of sportfishing became aware that there is serious interest in women's angling enough to make it business. The fans and the media proved that. Even after weighing in just two fish on Day 1, the fans, girls and a few guys, were there queuing for autographs. I made sure everyone got theirs. Minders tried to usher me away, but I turned around and walked back to the waiting pens and paper.
Importantly, the fan's interest and passion had not waned even though I wasn't winning. Those little girls will still want to go fishing with their parents tomorrow. This was the defining moment for me. So I'll say it again. It didn't matter to the autograph hunters that I wasn't going to win.
Kathy Magers mentioned that she fished her first tournament two years before I was born.
I reckon the youngest girl I signed an autograph for might have just made three years of age.
The WBT is now what BASS was in the early '70s. The growth will be the same. As Kathy put it to me, "The 39th Classic is the final chapter in this volume."
It is now the start of a new era. Not just for the young girls of tomorrow's WBT, but for the smarter guys out there as well. As Andre says, he's one of the luckiest men alive. His wife doesn't complain when he spends money on fishing tackle or when he wants a new boat.
In 20 or30 years there'll be a four-time lady angler of the year and a four-time WBT Championship winner similar to the VanDams and Clunns of today. And incidentally, I hope I'm still around the scene telling stories about the weekend I fished amongst those two gentlemen I just mentioned.
Should women compete against the men? That's a debate for when we all have much more experience on the topic.
Classic Curtain Call
Thanks for travelling with me and thanks for the awesome life changing memories.
I didn't catch my two keepers the way I thought I would have. All my equipment and tackle worked well; nothing to blame there! My Plan A which had been producing 15 pounds a day easy, it just didn't happen. Not even a little bit; zip, zilch, zero. I went back to an old confidence pattern, throwing the Senko around, and it produced three bites for me only, one of which stayed connected all the way to the livewell. My other fish I caught on a spinnerbait.
I kept trying to get a fish, hopefully a big fish, by flipping. As the day warmed up I thought that might have been a sensible strategy. But in retrospect it was not to be. I'd heard a lot of guys say that you go for it in the Classic, you don't want to die wondering. So that's what I sorta did. I didn't want to go to sleep tonight wondering if I should have stuck it out and that flipping might have put 7-pounders in my boat, just like it did for me in practice.
Tonight I'll look at those big fish photos from practice that I have on my phone, and I'll sleep on it.
The weather, I mean the cold, might have been the reason that the pattern changed. I knew from the forecast that it was coming but I haven't had too much experience lurecasting in the cold. That's just not something that we do in tropical Australia.
The day did cement a valuable lesson that my dad taught me when I was young back in my saltwater upbringing. I was always taught to respect your fellow anglers and boaters because out there on the water you have to rely on each other you have to make sure that everyone gets back to the launch. Today it was my turn to help a fellow angler he boarded my boat with his fish and we gave it a shot at making back in for his 3:30 weigh-in but unfortunately the clock was just too fast for our efforts. I really felt for him.
Tomorrow is another day. I hope I get 'em I hope he gets 'em too!
Today I achieved my dream and stayed true to my upbringing… I know my family couldn't be more proud.
Well the week long pre-Classic phase will be over today.
Last night the Elite dinner and Toyota Tundra Bassmaster Angler of the Year presentation was a great chance for most of us to let our hair down a little. It was fun to walk the red carpet up the steps to dinner, and it was cool to hang out with the other anglers. Having a low-pressure day today is a good part of the BASS planning for the Classic.
Today we have a meet and greet with the media. Then there are the rehearsals for the drive through weigh-in.
Tonight I'm sure to be a bundle of nerves. Sleep won't come easy. Andre and I will probably go to dinner somewhere special I'm planning on a big juicy steak.
Actually the food this past week has been part of the wonderful Classic experience. As an Aussie I always get a kick out of going to the Outback Steakhouse especially the Taz Crawfish as an appetizer which is a specialty in these parts. My main course there was the lamb which I've mentioned before in my blogs as very Aussie traditional. We've also hit a few places on the Boardwalk and also at the Hilton. Unfortunately, somewhere in the week I missed eating for an entire day. I did sit down to dinner that night but a reporter's phone call waylaid that plan. Later that night I was tucking myself into bed, but there was yet another reporter's phone call.
As I reflect on the week that has been absolutely craziest in my life, I'm looking at what I'd do different next time, and I've only really come up with one thing. I've shared the week with my husband and mum & dad that was the most important to me. And I've indulged my own curiosity by meeting anglers who I have idolized since I was a kid. Many of these I hunted their autographs back in 2000 when I first visited the Classic. Pinch me I'm now standing amongst them, for a few days at least.
But what I would have liked even more is to share the journey with a few more lady anglers ... I have a couple of ideas about this.
It could be achieved by having more lady anglers in the Classic crew, but the best way to do this would be to have more lady anglers in the Classic during pre-Classic week so we could organize an open day or something similar in town to promote ladies fishing and family fishing, either at a tackle store or boat dealership.
Looking forward we'll get a chance to do some of this when the 2009 Academy Sports +Outdoors WBT Championship brings BASS back to Shreveport-Bossier City in October this year, and the 2009 Championships will determine the next lady to fish the Classic in 2010.
I expect the fishing will be based around different patterns at the WBT Championship because it'll be in October which means the fish will be behaving differently.
Well, enough thinking about next time need to focus on this time.
Tomorrow it's blast off for the cast off.
Oakleys, Columbias, Jersey, Caps check
Game Face .....
Feb. 18, 2009
Getting Ready for the Red River
As far as being in the public eye at this week's Bassmaster Classic, it is the biggest event of my life so far. Yet the preparations aren't what you'd normally suggest as ideal. Because the Classic is the first event of the season, it can be, and is for me, the first time I'll be competing in this season's new boat. I suggest that ideally you'd organize a warm-up event for yourself in most sports. I'll give that some serious thought next time. Hopefully I'm ready for the Red River.
I've finished pre-practice and my main fish catching strategies are set in my mind (Of course, there is still official practice on Wednesday and everything could change). My new Legend Alpha 211 has a slightly different layout than my old boat; now it's time to finalize and fine-tune the sorting out of what tackle to pack into the boat and what also-ran tackle to take out (or at least reduce in bulk). Part of this is working out how much the boat can take and where each item should go into which compartment in the boat. Weight distribution is always important and will certainly be a key factor in this tournament. Most bass pros carry enough tackle in their truck and boat to stock a small tackle store. Repacking the compartments of a new boat a couple of times is probably the norm.
I'm keen to ensure that I have my lures sorted and stored where I can remember where they are in order to access them quickly. I guess I have three lure plans.
Plan A The tackle, rods, reels and lure, that I caught on in pre-fish. These are the G. Loomis rods that are lying strapped on the deck at blast-off most of my rods on the Red River will be flipping sticks. I like to have a spare rod for each of my Plan A strategies in the locker. Of course, I have a 10-rod limit for the Classic; so a tough decision or two in the cull department. I'll take as many spare Plan A back-up lures as I can squeeze into the boat. Often amongst these lures I'll have first string and second string colors.
Plan B My go-to confidence lures; the back up plan if the weather or conditions change.
(Sometimes plans A & B are the same other times you could call Plan B simply my go to baits that aren't already in Plan A)
Plan C One or two of a cross-section of traditional techniques like a topwater Reaction Innovations Vixen, a Swamp Donkey Frog, some DD22s (if there is some deep water; probably not on the Red River), Rat-L-Traps; you know the sort of lures that cover a wide variety of bases as a 'just in case'. Having lures like this is part of my sleeping plan. That is, when I wake up in the middle of the night before an event in a panic because I've just had a nightmare that the fishing pattern has changed to the flipside, I can go back to sleep with the thought, "Yep, I have one of those lures packed just in case."
As I had mentioned earlier in my series of blogs, I've been using Plano products for 20 years. Plano is always improving their products with refinements and as they are a new sponsor of mine I've been fortunate enough this week to receive a Plano care package in the mail to our hotel. The package contained my choice of select options from their range. I'll tell you what I chose and why.
Being able to sort my lures, hooks and other terminal bits that can get into a mess into brand new trays and boxes is, I reckon, the best way to efficiently attack this task of sorting my lures.
My favourite tackle storage tactic in my bass boat is to secure my hooks in waterproof containers I used to use small camera boxes but the Plano 1430 waterproof case has a clear see-through lid which makes accessing the hooks and grabbing the right box much easier. I have one box for hooks, such as worm hooks, and another box for trebles. I've tested the waterproofing; it works and it's great to have the confidence that the moisture is kept away from these fine refined bits of needle-sharp metal and that from tournament to tournament my hooks are preserved in pristine condition. Unless you store them this way, you run the risk that when you go to get them out at a critical time, all you get is a packet of rusty muck.
Far better than having a mess of line and/or leader spools rattling around loose and the unraveling line tangling to the must-get-scissors stage (been there, totally done with that) in the care package was a six-spool line spool box in which I now have six spools of various line classes of Hi Seas fluorocarbon leader. The box works great; I wish I had of thought of this solution earlier in my career.
Another item I'm particularly fond of are the skinniest of the Stowaway trays, such as the 2-3701; in these I store my small crankbaits and vibration baits. I also use these skinny models for long worms such as the Flirt Worm. The advantage of the slender boxes is that you can fit more of them into your compartments or bags. I use fatter versions of the same boxes, like the 2-inch deep models, for deep diving crankbaits, and also for my collections of Sweet Beavers and Double Wide Beavers. Another waterproof Stowaway tray does well for my selection of Revenge jigs.
I guess the rest of my tackle prep is pretty straight forward; new line, retie my knots and leaders, and hopefully I'm ready for the Red River.
I just saw on TV that the Bassmaster Classic is predicted to inject $24 million into the Shreveport-Bossier City economy. Mum has been helping out in this department down at the Boardwalk and I've done my bit at the eateries around town. Just had a big ol' bucket of crawfish my lips still have a tingle from the spices.
A special thanks to the staff at the Boardwalk Bass Pro who helped me out in my preparations this week with a hard to find admin item. They went the extra yard and it is much appreciated. I had help down at the service trailers, too. Where would we be without those guys? The unsung "MacGyver" heroes (sans mullets) at many tournaments who band together and do all that they can to get you where you need to be out on the water.
For now we are land-based until Wednesday when all competitors will have our final prefish day on the water.
Let me tell you about the other girl having the experience of a lifetime at the 2009 Bassmaster Classic.
Driving along the I-20 heading west into Shreveport on Thursday night is probably a great place to start Mum's story. Sitting in the back seat Mum almost jumped out of the car when she was the first of any of us to see the Bassmaster Classic billboard with the image of her daughter Kim on it full size. She is trying to work out how to get it into her luggage for the trip back to Australia.
Minutes later we were checking into the Shreveport Hilton and Mum found a magazine on the front counter with a story about the first ever lady to fish the Classic. "That's my daughter," she excitedly told the staff. Then the stories flowed. Eventually we dragged Mum off to a great dinner in the Hilton's restaurant.
Mum is gathering quite a collection of different magazines and newspapers that have covered the "First Lady to the Classic" story.
Friday I went prefishing. More about that in my next blog.
Meanwhile Mum went factory outlet shopping. Mum isn't really a keen shopper, but she had a ball in Shreveport. Shop assistants asked her about her accent, and she'd tell them she was from Australia. These shops all had Bassmaster Classic stickers on their front doors everybody in town knows about the Classic. The ladies in the shops would mention that there was a girl in the Classic and Mum answered, "That's my daughter!" And you can bet that the stories followed.
Mum bought well, too. Shreveport's factory outlets have some great bargains. I'm just not sure if Mum left any behind.
Then Mum went into the Shreveport Bass Pro Shops. I'm told there were ladies in Bass Pro high-fiving her so much that her hand hurt. Mum is a Bass Pro junkie. As a food writer she loves to peruse the outdoor cooking appliances, rubs, marinades and sauces. And, as usual, she bought herself some camouflage.
A few years ago, I remember when Mum first saw my photo on the side of a Kellogg's cereal box. She wanted to buy every one in the store. I had to mention to her that even a shopping trolley full was more than we needed.
Back at home in Australia, Mum and her friends followed the 2008 WBT weigh-ins on the live feeds over the internet. Neighbours tell that you could hear Mum's cheers when I did well.
For Mum a champion angler herself and a runner-up and big fish winner (against the men) in one of the first ever bass tournaments in Australia my journey to the Classic has been a rollercoaster of tension and joy. Mum has been an inspiration to me. Mum first took me fishing before I could walk. She carried me on the beach in a backpack as she fished the surf. She had no idea then that she'd started a journey that would lead us both halfway round the world. I'm so happy that we have a great friendship and that we are sharing this moment together.
Wait till she gets to see a Classic weigh-in!
Last night Dad, my husband Andre (a two-time former Classic qualifier) and Steve Kennedy (a serious 2009 Classic contender) took their girls Mum, me, Julia and baby Sophia Mae Kennedy respectively out to dinner for an early Valentine's treat. Two sets of Mum's and daughters enjoying Valentine's Day dinner at the same table that's mateship as we'd call it in Australia.
I'm so lucky that fishing has brought me lots of good memories, and I'm chuffed that the Bassmaster Classic will soon be added to the collection and give me more stories to tell to my friends back in Australia when they ask me, "The Super Bowl of fishing -- what's it like?" So far I'll be the only Australian who can answer that question!
For me, that's when it sinks in -- when I get back to my roots and walk the banks of the same creek that I fished near home as a kid. I always revisit there when I go back. I remember the fishing, the pet dogs I walked the bank with, the picnics with friends and family, the picnic food I smuggled to my dogs. It has been a long journey to the other side of the world.
You know, I had one of those bass fishing computer games as a kid. I'm sure you can see the irony when people say "Get kids off computers and into fishing and the outdoors." For me they complemented each other. I think the first game I ever had was called "BassTour," circa 1991.
Similarly, like my dad often says, I watched too much TV as a kid. He'd say, "You'll get square eyes," to which I'd reply, "What if I end up working in TV!?"
So as you can see, working as a TV fishing presenter and also as a BASS commentator is a great punch line to that story.
Computer games and TV did me good after all.
More About an Aussie Journey
It was back in 1981 (I was one year of age at the time) when my father first became aware of an event called the Bassmaster Classic. The information came via an American magazine article about the winner, Stanley Mitchell. Remember, there was no Internet at the time. How do you find out about an event in another country?
Over the next decade my engineer father -- himself a professional angler in the saltwater scene in our home state of Queensland -- mused about launching an Aussie into the American scene. He continued researching, and by 1991 he got me a copy of that shareware computer game he'd found out about.
In 1991 I was a keen saltwater angler and also enjoyed walking the beaches and banks of the creeks near our home, most often with a fishing rod. After playing the computer game, I became fascinated with lakes and used to stare out across them from lookouts, wondering, dreaming and putting the real-life lakes into the computer game-generated images in my mind.
Around this time, the lakes in Australia started being stocked with Australian bass, barramundi, cod, and perch. The Australian bass is a bronze-coloured fish of very similar shape to a North American white bass. The barramundi is like a 60-pound freshwater snook. They're a treat on bass tackle! The Aussie freshwater cod eats topwater frogs and spinnerbaits in similar fashion to an American bass, and the perch are a fair spinnerbait and crankbait target. My education was taking a new turn. Goodbye books, hello hooks!
Soon -- not yet a teenager -- I had a car topper johnboat with an Evinrude transom-mount electric motor (no one ever had a bow mount in those days), and some closed-faced Zebco reels on my rods with deep diving crankbaits tied to my line. Soon after, my Plano tackle box was full of a variety of colorful crankbaits. I had it bad.
In 1992 my dad ran the first of his artificial lure-only catch-and-release tournaments on these lakes. At one tournament per year, the learning process was particularly slow.
In 1998 my dad and I went on a holiday to an island in the South Pacific, and there was a dam there that had been built by North Americans in the 1960s. It had been stocked with something the locals called "black bass," but there is also a snapper called a black bass in those parts, so we didn't know what fish it was, and neither it seemed did the locals.
Dad and I were enlisted in an expedition to go lure casting in the lake formed by the dam, with a main objective to catch one of the fish and to see what species they were. Well, that's the day my life changed.
We caught largemouth bass (northern strain) from the first cast (before dawn) to the last cast (after dusk) on topwaters and every other type of lure -- but mainly topwaters -- all day long. These bass, it seemed, had never had a lure cast at them before.
My dad and I had been bumbling along with similar thoughts, curious about this bass fishing deal. But there was a large distraction. We both had our heritage in saltwater fishing tournaments which we did most weekends, and only a small amount of time was available to think about the freshwater. And we didn't have any reliable information to go on at the time. This was a time, for example, when some fishing writers in Australia said our lake fish couldn't be caught on cast and retrieved lures.
We corrected that misinformation with the local success on crankbaits and spinnerbaits. At the time, the fish scientists also said in print that these stocked Aussie lake fish couldn't be caught in deep water; that was, until my mum and dad cracked the code and set the scientific world right by catching them suspended at 60-foot depths or more on jigs and metal spoons. The experts also said Aussie fish didn't eat soft plastics, until my dad released the American-made soft plastic Charlie Brewer Sliders into the Down Under market in 2000 or 2001.
In 1999 or 2000, my mum, dad and I made various trips to the USA in order to learn more about the BASS scene. My first trip was by myself in April 2000. My travel was on Amtrak and Greyhound buses. I returned again to cover the 2000 Bassmaster Classic for an Australian magazine supportive of my concept to broaden the Aussie knowledge base.
We'd learn techniques and lure types in the USA and take them back to Australia to work on Australian fish. Some of these experiments were absolute disasters. The ones that worked I wrote about in Australian magazines, and my family and I set up a lure distribution business to spread the successful American lures and to fund my dream.
Sectors of the Australian trade resisted the introduction of this new American influence on its fishing. I assume there was a turf war between my belief that American lures and techniques had a lot to offer versus those writers and editors who'd missed the bus.
By 2003 I'd decided that I had to prove a point.
Also I'm not sure when it happened, but somewhere along the line my father and I had become aware that our goals had morphed together. So I was off to America to compete in my first BASS event.
The rest, as they say, is history, and is in print out there on the newsstands right now (see Bassmaster Magazine and BASS Times). I started with the BASS Opens as a co-angler. Then it was off to the BASS Open Championships and WBT. In a week's time I'll be able to answer the question "The Bassmaster Classic -- what's it like?"
Feb. 10, 2009
Marriage and Tournaments
Andre and I have a new plan this year, one that evolved last season. Being a relatively newly married couple (we have just weighed in for our first-year anniversary a month or so ago), we've found it fun to only have one of us fishing each event and the other in the support role. This, it seems, is a lot better for now than having both of us fishing the same event. Certainly sharing and alternating the events is a fun approach for us because it is new and different. Being at an event and being able to devote my time to supporting Andre is a lot of fun for me; a lot better than both of us rushing out the door at the same time to head to our secret spots.
I contemplated fishing the Bassmaster Opens circuit this year (alongside Andre), but that didn't fit with my desire to be there for Andre when he weighs in. So for 2009 Andre will fish the Bassmaster Opens and I will fish the Academy Sports + Outdoors Women's Bassmaster Tour. It is awesome to see him at the dock when I idle in from a day's fishing.
As an added bonus, we'll also try to fish some events together, out of the same boat. This season it will be the saltwater kingfish tour tournaments. We enjoyed a season and a bit on the redfish flat-fishing tour back in 2005, when together we qualified for the redfish nationals. Actually, one of our first dates was a team bass event.
Too bad I'm not fishing any sailfish competitions coming up. I've been enjoying quite a few trips fishing for them of late. Actually I've been fishing for them more than any other species recently.
Adding to the fun from Christmas, which I reported on in an earlier blog, we just spent a few days filming some sailfish segments for TV in Florida. Sailfishing takes me back to another time and place on another continent.
Actually, I grew up fishing saltwater competitions in Australia, and many if not most of them were focused around light tackle sailfish and other species of billfish. Dad was pro crew in the tournament scene, so that meant that I grew up in the best of circles, and we had opportunities for good fortune to shine on us with a few wins and placings.
Back in those days we only went freshwater fishing when it was too rough to head offshore. We often bill-fished from 15-foot skiffs. In Australia most of our rivers are small and don't run very far inland. Hence the freshwater river and lake networks are very limited.
From the 9th through the 12th, I'm devoting all of my time to Classic preparations. It's time for me to sit down with a clean palette of Plano boxes, probably 10 or so (enough to put into a soft-sided Plano bag) and start theming each box for the types of fishing I think I'll encounter at the Red River. My main focus when going into a tournament is to be organized, which in turn always means more time casting and less time looking for something. And with $500,000 on the line, I definitely want to be casting!
Mum and Dad fly in next week. Andre and I will drive to the Bassmaster Classic in Shreveport, La., in one rig, and Dad and Mum will follow behind in my old truck, towing Andre's boat as a backup rig. Andre's Evinrude/Minn Kota/Humminbird/Power-Pole Legend is set up identical to mine. There's another advantage to the marriage gig right there.
I've just seen the boat draw and I drew 27, which puts me in the middle of the pack both days. Probably not the best draw, but number 27 is a favorite of mine. I won my first BASS tournament at age 27 with a weight of 27 pounds and change. Also, Andre and I got married when I was 27.
Well, the luck I was hopeful of having in my corner for the Classic might be in doubt. I think I'm plum outta credit. Yep, I might even be in overdraft after this weekend.
Andre, Greg Watts, Glyn Austin and I just fished the king mackerel tournament out of Key West weighing in a 36-pounder on Day 1, a 55-pounder on Day 2 (Sunday the 25th), and taking the overall win with 92 pounds and change for the first SKA National Tour event of the 2009 season.
Somehow or another this means I have to squeeze more filming into the next few days. This afternoon I fly to Connecticut for some ESPN filming.
I just rang Mum and told her that my schedule is now so busy and full that I won't be able to pick her and Dad up from the airport when they fly in before the Classic.
My planned R&R trips and the trips to work on my lip gripping have gone out the window. I've also had to cancel all my hunting trips this winter.
When speaking to Mum I also wanted to talk to Dad to wish him happy birthday for the 26th, but he was out fishing with his mates. Australia Day in Australia (the 26th of January) is much like the Fourth of July here in the USA. So Dad gets a public holiday every year for his birthday. By the way, the Aussie national dish for the day has become lamb on the BBQ (Mum has some great recipes). I reckon Dad will suggest that the boat we won in the kingfish competition will make a great birthday present when I surprise him later.
It is also Chinese Lunar New Year, the biggest day of celebrations on the Chinese calendar, so happy Year of the Ox, everybody. Mum tells me she is cooking a mix of Aussie traditionals and Chinese Yum Cha for the neighbourhood get-together. I do miss the celebrations!
Jan. 20, 2009
Man, the media pace has been hectic leading up to the Classic. I've had a few phone calls like, "Kim, we are sending a car. The tickets are waiting at the airport. Thanks for fitting us into your schedule for a day."
It makes it easier when all the logistics are sorted out. Phone interviews on the road, TV crews mingling in with the family. The car has become a sponsorship office and people are in queue on Andre's cell phone because I'm busy on mine. I will look back on these days as a phenomenal time in my life; all part of the Classic experience that I dreamed of as a kid. Soaking it up!
I am currently on the road in Florida on my way to Key West where Andre and I will be competing in our first kingfish (saltwater mackerel) tournament for 2009. I love Key West and am excited to get back down there. It's a great destination for our first tournament in the SKA National Pro Kingfish Tour. We were fortunate to qualify for this year's pro circuit after our successes in last year's Division 5 Southern Kingfish Association events.
Actually, I will be in Florida until the end of the first week of February, so I get to hide from Alabama's chilly weather! After the kingfish event, it's off to support Andre and wave the Reaction Innovations flag at the first Bassmaster Open event on the Harris Chain of Lakes. I have two or three segments to film for the Classic and ESPN.
Following the BASS event, Andre and I have some R&R saltwater flats fishing planned: a little snook and bonefish action. Then it's back home to prepare for the Classic. Woo hoo!
The days are ticking down off the calendar. Too quickly, I reckon. Time to get my head thinking about those little green fish.
Speaking of homes, my Mum (or "Mom") and Dad have just returned to my old haunts in Australia after their recent round-the-world adventures. After sail-fishing in the Keys, they enjoyed the sights and eats of London, Paris, Singapore and Auckland before landing back in Oz. I'll bet they have lots of great stories to tell me when they get back to the USA in a few weeks' time to attend the Classic.
Maybe they brought me a napkin from Gordon Ramsay's London restaurant (they have a friend who is a chef there). I've mentioned before that Mum is a food writer from Australia specializing in outdoor recipes for anglers, campers and hunters, and she's just completed a tasting tour of some of the restaurants of some of the world's top chefs, and she'll be converting the ideas she has gained from France and Asia into recipes for the campfire, tailgate and home kitchen. After the Classic I get to work with her on the recipes for me American-style.
The new bass boat is almost ready, engine sorted wait out!
My New Year's resolution is to take more time to smell the roses. It seems like yesterday I was at Lake Hamilton getting nervous and getting ready for the WBT Championship. Since then everything has been a dream.
Well, today I take my parents to the airport as they head back to Australia. We've just enjoyed a week of offshore fishing out of the Florida Keys, more specifically Islamorada. Our catches included red snapper (Andre cooks them up pretty good with a Parmesan coating), sailfish and more mackerel and tuna than you can poke a stick at.
In the WBT we use a net to land our bass, but in the Classic it'll be the good ol' thumb grip, so I'll need to practice that. The Classic will be the first ever no-net tournament that I have fished in my life that I can recall. I planned on practicing thumb-gripping a few fish this January, but all those teeth in these saltwater fish didn't give me much chance of that. I did get a good grip on a sailfish bill but I had time to put on a glove.
Quite a bit different than a bass, though.
Andre and I took Mum and Dad to Robbie's Marina to hand-feed the tarpon; no thumb-gripping there, either, but Dad did end up wrestling with a pelican that wanted his hand for dinner! He wished he was wearing a glove for that one. Somebody joked that his next trick would be to wrassle a gator Aussie-style.
Mum just loves America, it's the cooking channel all the way for her. Dad loves the outdoor and sport channels.
While in Islamorada, we were guided by our good friend Jim Dalrymple, Jim also guided us to the Brazilian steakhouse: a carnivore's delight. The waiters serve you 16 different meats straight off the skewers. I chuckled at the similarities between Dad and the pelican, then Dad eager with the tongs, kind of like a beak taking meat off the skewer as the waiter carved. It's priced per head, and we got our money's worth, needless to say.
It'll only be a few weeks before I'm back at the airport picking up my parents when they fly in to watch the Classic; this will be the first Classic for both of them. I know they'll be blown away by the magnitude of the show. Although I'm wondering if their hotel room for their next American road-trip adventure should have two TVs, one for the cooking, the other for the outdoor shows?
Dec. 29, 2008
Marshals, holiday cheer and the Classic
I read Kevin VanDam's piece on the Marshal Program, and I'd like to add my two bits' worth of support to the concept. I've had the good fortune to be the back-seat observer for a handful of the Elite Series guys, including KVD, at events like the Bassmaster Classic when I was a commentator for ESPN. I've also ridden along during the pre-fishing period with some of the Elite guys a couple of times for media purposes.
This new Marshal Program makes those opportunities available to everybody. I learned a lot from them, and I'm sure everybody that takes advantage of this great opportunity will learn a lot, too. Imagine drawing an Elite pro on your local lake, and seeing how he approaches your water; the same waters that you fish on weekends with your bass club. That's a gold mine right there.
Well, I'm back from the Red River, and it is like nothing I've ever run a boat in before. Even though I tried to shake them off, a few fish ended up staying connected while I was practicing. Unfortunately, they weren't on the line for the CBS filming, but the news story was great publicity for BASS, bass fishing and the Bassmaster Classic.
My parents have come in from Australia amidst heavy snow on their way across the USA. They stopped in to see Andre (Moore, my husband) and my god-daughter (Kyra Yamamoto) and brought some presents for Kyra.
Remember that plane crash in Denver? Well, that was a panic for me because Mum and Dad's plane hadn't arrived yet. They then got held in Denver overnight due to plane problems on their own flight, but finally they arrived in Alabama. In two days I'll be hosting Andre's parents and my parents for an all-in family Christmas. I've fixed the oven disaster and am prepared for a day of festive baking. (Mum is a food writer from Australia, so she has my back).
I remember when I used to ask for fishing tackle for Christmas presents from Santa. When I was 8, I got my first tackle box, a Plano 757 that I still have, so I guess it is 20 years old this year. Next year we'll have to have a party for that tackle box!
As an early Christmas present, I've just found out that my parents will be coming to the Bassmaster Classic! This is awesome news. A few of the other anglers knew before I did, and there was a plan to keep it a secret, but I worked it out.
I wish everybody and their families a merry Christmas and a happy new year.
Dec. 9, 2008
Rolling on the Red River at last!
Andre and I got down to Shreveport a few days ago to check out the Red River, and overall I like what I have seen so far, except the weather. It was 27 degrees out the other day when I was doing an interview for CBS, and fishing was tough. We did an interview on land, then we got in the boat to head out for some fishing shots, but it was just too cold. I hope it warms up a bit before the Classic. While I didn't get too many fish, I think I've found a few spots I can count on when the water gets a bit higher, but I'll be back in February to make sure and get some back up plan laid out.
The Red River is so different than anything I've ever fished; it's taken a whole day just to get used to navigating the waters. It can be so treacherous. You've got to pay attention to your surroundings at all times, otherwise you risk disaster. One mistake could take you off the water for a whole day, and that would certainly be doom for your hope of doing well in February. From what I've heard, the water level should be up for the tournament, so that will definitely help.
My schedule hasn't cleared up any since my last entry. It's gotten longer in fact. Tomorrow I've got another day on the water, but I may rest instead. I think there's going to be some rain, and I can't afford to get sick. This Wednesday I'll be involved with a media day for the Shreveport-Bossier City press to hype the Classic up a bit more, so that should be fun.
Andre and I still aren't finished with the move, but we managed to get enough done to have a successful Thanksgiving -- except for one thing. My mother always told me to check inside an oven when you first get it to clean it out before you turn it on, but of course I forgot, and the literature on the thing went up in flames and took the biscuits with it! Thankfully we deep fried the turkey, so not all was lost. It was actually kind of funny.
When we leave Louisiana, we're screeching tires back to Alabama to get ready for Christmas, then we're going to Columbia, S.C., for my in-law's wedding. I'm excited for that. Things have been pretty stressful, but no worries, I'll get back with you all when things die down.
Nov. 25, 2008
It's quite an honor to join the ranks of those already on Bassmaster.com's blogs, and even more so the Bassmaster Classic. I really couldn't be more excited. That has been how most of the last few weeks of my life have been -- very exciting and very busy.
I'm usually pretty good at handling the media, but this is something else. I've never had to pick a song to be played while I'm being towed in on a boat in front of a crowd. Do I go with the Aussie theme or the women theme? Or do I just pick something that's me, something rocking? There are so many things to consider.
I've also never had to schedule several radio interviews in one week. It's been pretty crazy juggling so many obligations at once. Every day is a new experience. This has all been very overwhelming. There are a whole slew of opportunities out there for me I can't wait to explore.
I've been in Mississippi for the SKA National Kingfish Championship, which means running about 60 miles offshore in the cold, but it has been loads of fun. Andre and I are also moving and trying to get the house decorated and ready for family by Thanksgiving.
As far as the Classic goes, I think I've managed to set aside a few days in either the first or second week in December to get over to Shreveport and practice. I'll let you all know how it goes, but I can't get too far ahead of myself. I'm still basking in my win and qualification for the Classic.
Being this busy can be daunting, but I think it's a good problem to have. When February does come around, I'm going to treat the Classic like any other tournament. I'm going to put my head down, work my hardest and hope I make the best decisions. It'll also be great to catch up with the guys. Some I haven't seen for a while, and some of them I just haven't met, so it should be very exciting.
I look forward to keeping you all in the loop about my activities leading up to the Classic, and hope I make all the girls of the WBT, BASS, and all my sponsors proud with my performance in Shreveport.