Wednesday, June 12, 2024

Close but no Cigar by Jason Houchins


Bobcat's 3rd

Close but no Cigar
This past weekend my father and I fished the first Bobcat’s Team Tournament of the year at Occoneechee State Park. Within the first 45 minutes of the tournament we had three fish in the boat pushing twelve pounds. If that don’t warm your heart and spirits in a hurry, please stop reading this and quit fishing. At the time an immediate thought of winning this tournament became a real possibility, even this early in the game we both knew we had a kicker in the box and two solids to go along with it. Two long hours of hunt and peck and we had finally caught the two fish to make up our limit. Now it’s around 10 am and we got the rest of the day to make this happen, can we do it? After a couple more hours of culling for ounces we make the move of the day, up the lake to a few areas we knew had fish from Thursday evening’s three hour trip. Upon arrival to the first stop, the very first cast produced a nice 5 lber and a cull of more than 2.5 lbs. We looked at each other and felt like it was over, done, we had it!
As we received our third place check for 18.87 lbs of fish reality sunk in, we got beat. Not by one team but by two teams! As bad as I felt I couldn’t help feel for Lemar and Owens, they weighed in 20.02 lbs and finished second. Since everyone cares only about first place, Morgan and Colwell had 21.83 lbs, amazing catch for this lake! As Brandon handed us our check he said, “It’s not over, til it’s over, right Jason?”. Man he was 100% right and it didn’t help a thing that we had just boated a bigger bag than any team had in the last year on this trail, today is all that mattered and we got beat. Hey that’s fishing and it just goes to prove that you always need to think that you never have enough.
After we caught that last good one, I kind of relaxed and thought we had won. If you don’t win this can be a hard lesson to learn in tournament fishing. This was a lesson that I know better than most, yet I still made the same mistake. I don’t want to say we quit, but the sense of urgency was gone. We relaxed and lost focus of the task at hand, and didn’t push to the end. Now I don’t think we could have eclipsed 21.83 lbs, but I feel like I didn’t give it my all the last hour for sure. Consider this, in my many years of tournament fishing on Buggs I have only eclipsed the 20 lb. mark with 5 fish on 3 occasions. Each one of these bags were caught almost 10 years ago, so of course we would think that victory is in our grasps. I had never fished here during the hay day of the 90s when 20 lb. bags were common, so in my defense, I was pretty confident. But one positive from my view is, this tournament weigh in sure says a lot about this lake and a possible rebound from recent struggles.  
No matter what the outcome I can always think of this as a memorable day with my dad tournament fishing. I love the competition on the Bobcat’s Team trail, so many great fisherman, definitely the best on this lake. People like Mark Inman, Larry Inman, Rodney Sorrell, Wally Szuba, Denny Gilbert, and Chris Bullock, people that are the best on the lake. It is known that when you win one of these, you have beat the best on this lake, not just the best fisherman, but the best people as well. It is also known that these guys are veterans that close the deal and bring out the best in you, and really that’s what it’s all about.  This is not the first time I’ve said it on this trail and it most likely will not be the last time…. Dad I know you don’t want to hear this but, close but no cigar.

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