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Six months ago 25 Northeast Bassmaster teams embarked on a journey of a life time.
At the end of this journey one team would win the right to compete in the B.A.S.S. Team Championship in Guntersville,
Alabama. The rules were simple… each of the teams had to compete in a
minimum of eight out of twelve tournaments from either of the Northeast Bassmasters Team Tournament
Trails… Division 1 Saturday, or Division 2 Thursday. The twelve teams with the highest point
finishes for their best eight tournaments would advance to the Northeast Bassmasters B.A.S.S. Team
Shootout. By the end of September only eight teams and were eligible to compete in the Saratoga
Shootout on October 10th . By 3:30 p.m. Saturday afternoon on the 10th
the team of Nick Runo and Dave Tierney were the winners of the first Northeast
Bassmasters B.A.S.S. Team Shootout.
was over, but the dream has just begun. The B.A.S.S. team Championship was just
shy of two months away, and our dynamic duo had a lot to do. There were maps
to study of both the lake and the route to Guntersville, polish the boat, grease the bearings, change the
oil in the truck, organize the tackle, buy new tackle, put new line on the reels, and a hundred
or more things to do before blasting off to Alabama. Time passed and it was finally
Friday, December 4th , and time to leave! The boat was hitched to
the truck, the truck was gassed and Northeast’s number 1 team was on their way hopefully to
make history and win a spot in the 2016 Bassmasters Classic. Not only will Nick and Dave represent Northeast
Bassmasters in The B.A.S.S. team Championship, but they will be the only team representing New Jersey
in the competition.
Every journey begins with the first step
or in this case the first mile of more than 900 miles to Lake Guntersville. The
trip took them from New Jersey into Pennsylvania, Maryland, West Virginia, Virginia and a rest stop
for food and gas.
After a short break and some time to stretch
their legs, they were back on the road again. After crossing into Tennessee and
three more hours of driving, it was time to call it a day. Time for a shower
in the motel, and then a few cold ones at dinner and back to the motel to sleep.
Saturday, December 5th
A cold morning comes bright and early.
go again, back on the road for the last leg of the trip.
According to the map, Alabama and Lake
Guntersville were just down the road apiece… only 200 plus miles to go and four more hours
of road time. They knew they were are getting close.
At long last, and after 900 miles and 14
hours of driving, the had arrived at the last stop on the Northeast Bassmasters challenge for the
B.A.S.S. Team Championship.
Here they were. It was
early Saturday afternoon, the temperature is in the low 60’s, and a beautiful lake right in
front of them… time to go fishing. Unfortunately, the fishing was going
to have to wait because the lake was off limits until the first official practice day. It
was going to be a long wait until Monday, December 7th before they can get on the water.
As the intrepid pair looked around it was hard to believe that they were the first team to
arrive for the event. Time for them to check into their new home at for the
next week. Check it out… they were are right on the lake and what a view!
Now that they have settled in, it was time
Sunday, December 6th was spent
getting ready for the first day of practice… checking and rechecking
their gear, meeting some of the locals and other competitors as they arrived, listening to dock
talk and trying not to get rattled. It was a long day when you are itching to go fishing and you can’t.
As the sun set on Guntersville, Nick and Dave have done all they can, and the only thing
left to do is sleep. Ya right, who can sleep the night before the first day
of practice of the biggest tournament you have ever fished. Lots of tossing
and turning and finally it was time to get up and get going.
Monday, December 7th
last the boat was in the water and they were on their way. The morning temperature
was in the low to mid 30s and by mid-afternoon the temp was in the low 60s. The
weather for the last week had been stable, and the forecast for the tournament should be the same. The
locals have said that the bite has been off for this time of year because it has been unusually
warm. Undaunted by this news, the dynamic duo pressed on to their first spot.
Dave put the first fish of the day in the boat, a chunky 15 inch large mouth that fell for
a chatterbait in a foot and a half of water. Later, Nick scored a 6.6 pounder
on square bill crank bait in 6 to 7 feet of water.
This is one they should have had in the
tournament. What a hog!!! To their dismay these were the only
two fish boated during the day. Both Nick and Dave were throwing rattle traps
and had several hookups, but the fish became unbuttoned before they got to the boat.
Tomorrow is another day of practice and hopefully a better one.
Tuesday, December 8th
Mother Nature throws Nick and Dave a curve ball on the second
day of practice. The temperature at the launch ramp was a brisk 37 degrees and a 10 mph wind straight
out of the north. To top things off a dense fog engulfed the lake for most of
and cold did not stop them from heading out into the lake. Their plan was to
fish Honeycomb Creek and fish it hard. They spent most of the day there and found
and caught fish. The ones they boated were not monsters but they saw some real quality fish in the area. It
was another tough day but they now have a plan for the tournament. Nick said
that everyone seems to be struggling but you know someone is going to get them. With
any luck it will be The Northeast Bassmasters Team. Two hundred teams qualified
for this event and 197 of them have registered and will blast-off tomorrow. Nick
and Dave are boat #61 in the second flight to take off.
Boggity! Boggity!! Boggity!!!
Let’s Go Fishing Boys
It’s 6:30 a.m.
There are 197 Boats, 197 teams all anxiously waiting to blast-off on Lake Guntersville for
the first day of the Second Annual Toyota Bassmasters Team Tournament Championship.
Dave were boat #61 in the second flight that means 60 boats took off before them and 136 were hot
on their trail. Undaunted, they stayed with their plan from day 2 of practice
and concentrated on Honeycomb Creek. When they arrived at the creek they found that the water level had
dropped a foot from the day before. This presented a problem since the fish that
they were on were in the back of the creek in a foot and a half of water. The
drop in water made it almost impossible to reach some of the spots they found in practice, but they
felt that the creek still held fish so they adapted their presentations to a new set of conditions.
Spinner baits, crank baits, and buzz baits put a 13-7 pound 5 fish limit in the boat for
day one of the tournament. Both Nick and Dave lost some good fish that would have brought their
weight up to at least 17 pounds. This puts our guys in 94th place for day
1. They are not happy with this, but they are determined to fight on and give
it their all on day 2.
Even though some guys found some monsters
and a 7-15 took big fish for the day and the day one leaders had 27 pounds, the tournament isn’t
over until it’s over. Our guys are still in the running. All they need
is a little luck and a few big fish to turn the tide. As Nick said, “On any
one cast on this lake you can hook a 7 or 8 pound bass. The trick is getting her into the boat.” Tomorrow
is another day and the thrill of victory for today’s leader can just as quickly change to
the agony of defeat. So guys, keep on plugging… you never know.
(To see the tournament
weigh-in in real time on your smart phone install the free Bassmasters App.)
Thursday, December 10th
The time is 6:17 a.m. Nick and Dave were on the water waiting
to blast-off. Today they were boat #137 and were in the 5th flight.
Time 6:24 a.m. It was light enough now to see that the lake was completely
fogged in. Time 6:30 a.m. The tournament director made the dreaded announcement
… “Fog Delay.”
OK, now what? There
were 197 teams in 197 boats all bobbing around by the ramp trying not to bump into one another, and all
they could do now was wait, and wait they did. 7:30 still waiting for the fog
to lift, 8:30 comes and goes, 9:30 becomes history, and the only thing that was not history was
the fog. By 10:30 a.m. the fog was still as thick as pea soup and the tournament
had to be postponed until tomorrow. Time 10:31 a.m. Time
to pull the boat and go back to the lodge.
Friday, December 11th
The second attempt at day two of the Bassmasters Team Championship
started again with a fog delay. If the day two event had to be cancelled again,
the top three winners from day one would advance to the final round of competition.
All 197 teams anxiously waited, especially the top three from day one. Fortunately
for all, the fog began to lift, and day two of the championship would soon get under way.
The tournament director made the announcement for all to please rise as “The National
Anthem” began to play before the field was to blast off.
Once the music came to an end, 197 engines
fired up and boat #1 was off to their first spot. Nick and Dave knew that they
had to come in with a monster bag if they were to stand a chance of making the top 3.
Nick put the pedal to the metal, and his yellow Nitro headed to their primary spot Honeycomb
Creek. To say the least they were disappointed when they arrived because the water was muddy
and down even more then it was on day one. They knew they had to swing for the fence.
The better fish were coming from the weeds on the main lake and bridge pilings, but they
wanted to give Honeycomb one last try. They gave it their best shot and could
only manage one bite. It was a good one, but it wasn’t meant to be because
it became unbuttoned before they could get it to the net. They moved to the weeds that
produced some fish during practice and some big fish for some of the other teams, but for our guys this was a bust
too. They tried the bridges, again no luck. Top water,
jigs, crankbaits, spinnerbaits, you name it they threw it. They refused to give
up but even with all their efforts they could only manage to boat one bass for the day.
At the weigh-in that day three teams would be hoisting trophies over their heads in victory,
and 194 teams would be heading home. Sadly, Nick and Dave were one of the 194 teams.
It’s sad that lady luck shines each
day on a select few, and seems to rain on everyone else in the parade. She can
be very fickle. I spoke to Nick and Dave after the tournament, and they told
me that even though they were on their way home, they had a great time and would gladly do it again.
They thanked me and Northeast Bassmasters for giving them the opportunity to make a dream come true
and be a part of the Bassmasters Team Championship. I was hoping to be able to continue
writing their story, but unfortunately lady luck had other ideas.