Written By: Chris Goodwin, QCKBF 2019 Angler of the Year
As a kid in middle school I can remember dreaming about fishing. Whether it was wading in creeks, or getting dropped off at a pond while my dad was at work during the summer, I couldn’t get enough. I’m not sure exactly when, but at some point life happened and fishing got left behind for things like parties, motorcycles, school and other sports. Fast forward over 15 years later and living close to multiple lakes in the Charlotte area started to bring back the itch to fish again.
A few weeks after buying a kayak I found the Queen City Kayak Bass Fishing Facebook page. I had no idea it was tournament based and honestly didn’t even know you could fish a tournament from a kayak. Soon after requesting to join the group I’m on the phone with Vinny Ferreri asking about how a tournament works. Talk about going out of his way to help new members. The guy talked to a stranger on the phone at 6am giving all the details and then offered to sell me a lined and custom colored Hawg Trough because I couldn’t find one locally. Wow… I had no intention of fishing tournaments at that point, but I was so impressed I had to try it. The next thing I know I’m on Lake Norman with a couple small spinning rods and a bait caster I could barely use in the middle of February with some of the best anglers in the Carolinas.
After getting my butt whooped for 8 hours I stayed for weigh in and watched John Ladd take home 1st place out of 96 anglers. I only caught 2 fish that day and finished 48th but I was so impressed with the entire experience that I knew I would be back. I just had to learn what these successful anglers were doing to catch fish year round. Turns out it was a lot… everything from using different rod/reel combos for different techniques, to picking certain colors at different times of the year, and even paying attention to weather patterns. Red crankbaits?!? Really?!? I thought those looked ridiculous every time I saw them in stores and would have never used one. I made it my goal the rest of that first year to focus on learning how to fish and not worry about winning/losing. Being a competitive person my whole life it was a tough pill to swallow getting my butt whooped on a regular basis but I knew I had to put the time in on the water to be successful. After finishing 19th overall in points for the year and failing to capitalize on a trip to the shootout event for the last wild card spot in the Tournament of Champions (TOC) I was more motivated than ever. I told Vinny not to get used to seeing me in the shootout because I would qualify for the TOC on points alone next year. He said he hoped I was right but that he hears it from lots of anglers every year and only 15 get in. I had no idea just how true my statement would be.
I came into the 2019 season motivated with specific goals for the year. I took every chance I had to read articles, map study, watch videos, and learn as much as I could. I asked Vinny and the other anglers so many questions I kept waiting for them to just stop responding but all I ever got were honest answers and help. I treated every trip on the water as if I was pre-fishing not just fun fishing. While I understand it’s not how most anglers feel, to me prepping for a tournament is more enjoyable than just “fun fishing”. It gave purpose to what I was doing even when the fish weren’t biting or it was cold, rainy, hot or otherwise just miserable to be on the water. Lightning being the only real exception, tournaments don’t stop for weather or fish not biting so why should pre-fishing stop for it?
Eventually one of the anglers I consistently badgered with questions, Joey Randall, saw potential and decided to take a risk as my partner for the 2019 team division. I knew this was my chance to really learn as much as I could from a seasoned vet and took full advantage. We talked fishing on a regular basis and became great friends through a mutual “nerding out” over ways to trick these green fish into biting pieces of plastic and metal.
Fast forward to halfway through the season and I’m definitely doing better than last year but just didn’t really have confidence. There was a distinct moment on the water in our 5th event at Badin when something changed. The pattern I found the weekend before was gone. I had a small limit and was debating changing ramps. Joey and I were both struggling, just kind of talking while fishing and all of the sudden I hook into a 19.75” largemouth. In that instant I felt like there was hope and went on to cull 2 more times to finish 11th. After that day I stayed confident and grinded for every second of each tournament just knowing I would come across a willing fish and was often times rewarded with a significant cull in the last 10-15 minutes on the water. I would go on to finish no worse than 2nd in any of the 8 events I fished the rest of the year including two trail wins and a charity win. With lots of time spent on the water and an incredible amount of luck, I managed to overtake two of the best kayak anglers in the country Matt and PC Hawj for Queen City Kayak Bass Fishing Angler of the Year. Joey and I finished 2nd overall for the team division behind the Hawj brothers.
From year one not qualifying for the TOC to winning 2019 AOY and finishing 2nd in the TOC my first two seasons of tournament fishing were polar opposites. I can honestly say putting in time on the water, attention to details, and more experienced anglers being willing to offer advice are the biggest factors in how different my first 2 tournament seasons were. The local fishing companies that sponsor our club like True South Custom Lures, Bizz Baits, Rusty Hooks Bait & Tackle, Denver Tackle have been amazing. I can honestly say that a majority of my success this year came using their products and it’s all because veteran anglers were willing to share what they caught fish on. The entire theme to 2019 for me has been lessons learned. I encourage anyone else interested in fishing tournaments to not wait until you feel “comfortable”. Just go for it. You’ll learn so much and make great friendships. If I can go from having no clue what I’m doing in year one to winning AOY year two against a club full of the best anglers in the country anyone can. Regardless of my success this year I still have a lot to learn and am just getting started. I’ll see you guys in 2020!