Cabela's National Walleye Tour in Devils Lake, ND
It was a chilly morning around 6am at Graham's Island State Park on Devils Lake, North Dakota. The anticipation for what the day will bring was thick in the air as each angler prepared their mind and boat for what was to come at the 3rd stop for the Cabela's National Walleye Tour. Of all the tournaments I'd been to, this would be my first "take-off" experience. I'm hooked. And look forward to the next one I get to be a part of.
The line begins to form as all 124 teams wait for their turn to launch at the boat dock. The pro-anglers are each getting connected with their co-anglers for the day. As a pro, you have a new co-angler each day of the tournament based on a draw at the rules meeting prior to the tournament. The launching of all 124 boats is an interestingly choreographed dance as all 4 lanes are moving at once. It is certainly no place for the amateur truck and trailer driver trying to learn how to launch a boat for the first time. The line moves fairly quickly getting all 124 boats into the water for takeoff at 7am.
Once your boat is launched, you join the sea of boats waiting for their co-angler to appear on the pedestrian dock for pickup. During this time, you'll see many anglers creating videos for various social media pages, making those last minute strategy upgrades, drinking coffee, and conversing with fellow anglers. The walleye community is an amazing group of people. The ones I have met are so humble and down to earth. Makes me proud to be a part of it.
Promptly at 7am you'll hear the tournament director give last minute directions and then all bow their heads in prayer. The national anthem is played and, one by one, as their boat number is called, the tournament anglers are off for Day 1! It's a beautiful scene. One that gives me chills. As the wife of a tournament angler, I feel so much anticipation for the day for each one of these men and women. But I also have a heavy feeling in my stomach as I pray for their safety on the water. Watching them speed away is exhilarating, but the reality of how dangerous some of these bodies of water are never leaves my mind. And with the last boat that heads out for the day, I walk back to my cabin and keep myself as busy as possible as I wait for weigh-in at 3pm.
As I see boats beginning to make their way in as weigh-in begins, I make my way over to the boat dock anxiously awaiting for Brian's return. During the day, they are not allowed to communicate with anyone, which means I have no idea how he is doing (both fishing and safety wise) all day until his arrival back to the dock. As I spot his boat, a sense of relief always comes over me, but not completely. As he gets closer I watch for the look on his face to give me some sort of inkling as to how the day went and the possible weight he will be bringing to stage.
Day 1 at Devils Lake was a disappointing one for Brian. It didn't go as planned. The success he had pre-fishing did not manifest itself on tournament day 1. My heart sank, but I smile and proudly watch him as he carries his fish to the stage. 4 fish weighing a total of 6.45 lbs. Nothing like he planned when he set out his intentions for the day. But fishing can be somewhat unpredictable. Learning to adapt is key.
Fishing is as much a mental sport as it is physical. These are long grueling days in often unpredictable weather conditions. When day 1 doesn't go as planned it is easy to give up. But Brian pulls himself together, readjusts his plan and gears up for Day 2. Another beautiful morning of launching 124 boats into Devils Lake. I say a prayer to myself, that I often repeat many times through tournament days. I pray for Brian to have mental clarity to know what to do next and patience to adjust when things don't go as intended. OH...and of course for big fish. :)
Since Brian came in at 3pm on Day 1, he would then be in a later flight on day 2, meaning he comes in at 4pm. The extra hour of waiting is painful. I sit at the weigh-in presentation and watch angler after angler weigh in their big fish. The excitement is building. Some of these guys really brought in some big bags. It was giving me hope that perhaps today really would be a better day for everyone, including Brian. When Brian got off the water, I met him over at his boat to see how his day went. Only 2 fish, but they were huge!
2 fish for 11.7 pounds! His adjustment had worked, if only he had a little more time to pull in 5 of those big ones! Either way, I'm proud of him for never giving up, and getting back out their to be better than he was the day before. His smile was definitely bigger than the day prior. And that's all I could ask for. The money is nice. The notoriety is wonderful. But pushing yourself when all you feel like doing is giving up, means so much more to me. Brian may say differently ;) ... and thats ok. I am a proud fisherman's wife.
Brian is one of the smartest walleye anglers I've ever met. Listening to him speak about fishing technique and breaking down water goes over my head most of the time, but honestly, the passion in his voice is what holds my attention the most. His time will come. Maybe not as fast as he wants it to. But he won't give up, and I have faith that when God says he's ready, it will be his time to shine. In the meantime, I will continue to support the man that brings this family so much joy!
In a few days Brian takes off for the final stop of the NWT at Lake of the Woods. I am unable to make this tournament which totally bums me out. But you can bet I'll be watching the weigh-in online and cheering him on from home! Be sure to like Brian's facebook page to catch his video updates during pre-fishing.