Jennifer Spurgeon

a day in the life of a tournament anglers wife.

By Jennifer Spurgeon

Anyone who’s witnessed a fishing tournament can see how hard the competing anglers work. By the time they hit the stage for weigh-in they have been up and at 'em for at least 10 or 12 hours. Often they’re wrinkly and sunburned (or soaking wet, depending on the weather), they’re hungry, thirsty and tired. Some spectators may not realize the number of hours spent in tournament preparation. There are the numerous hours spent driving to tournament locations, boat repairs and maintenance, reel spooling, lure inventory and “rigging up”, and the numerous other jobs related to tournament angling. I am coming out from the shadows, here to share with you the untold story of the true heroes of the sport, the anglers wives and family members – a traveling “pit crew”, if you will.

When I married my angler, I knew he loved to fish, this is a fact I accepted many years ago – the little groom on the top of my wedding cake was even holding a fishing rod in his hand. We couldn’t get married until bass season was over, I made his corsage for the wedding out of a spinner bait, and we went fishing on our honeymoon. I am happy he has a hobby he loves so much. He is a tried and true, hard-core tournament bass angler – he’s been a member of Team Ontario and defended our great province in 1999, he knows Bob Izumi and Rocky Crawford and other famous Canadian fishermen. He loves to fish – from the boat, from the shore, from the bathtub, anywhere there’s water, he’s a happy guy. Add to the mix competition and prizes – what more could a red blooded Canadian boy ask for? Fishing all day, weighing in what you catch, the angler with the most pounds wins – sounds easy enough, right? It may look easy to the spectators in the crowd, but there is a lot of planning, a lot of background work (pre-fishing the water, temperature, weather, lure selection etc.) and a lot of money spent on fuel for both the tow vehicle and boat, lodging, gear, entry fees, clothing and food. I am going to share with you how a typical tournament day is spent by the person behind the scenes, the backbone of any successful tournament angler – the tournament anglers wife. With this title comes a lot of responsibility – I am the travel co-ordinator, personal shopper, banker, gopher, bartender, secretary, boat and motor waxer and drinkin’ buddy. I possess intimate knowledge about moon phases, bass behaviour, outboard mechanics, line tying and boat trailering. And I wouldn’t give it up for anything!

In Ontario, bass season lasts for about 5 months. I’ve worked it out – that’s 24 weekends, of which my husband spends at least 20 on the water. He eats, sleeps and breathes bass fishing. There is pre-fishing and map reading to be done, and GPS coordinates to be entered. Then there are endless trips to the tackle store for that one “killer tube”, of which you need, say, 43 or so packages. Then, after a long and cold winter, at the end of June, it arrives – BASS OPENER!!!

At a typical tournament, the fun starts the night before the big day. We peel old line off reels, re-spool them (using a pen and my thumbs – it burns!), tie lures on 10 or 12 rods, check maps, pack up all of the tackle, load the boat, get cooler bags packed, plug the boat in through the window in the hotel room, finally try to wind down and hit the bed around 1:00 am. The alarm goes off 4 hours later and the chaos begins. The coffee needs to be made, the boat un-tarped, the batteries checked and unplugged, the gear checked, layers of clothes put on and it’s off to the launch.

It’s at the launch with the sometimes bitter cold wind and gas fumes, the sun barely peeking over the horizon and everyone yelling at the same time, that I start to get excited. I stand on the dock with the video camera, trying to get it to stop fogging up and I watch him, bobbing around waiting for his turn in line for a boat check. All of the checks are done: lights, live wells, boat number, life jackets and kill switch. Then it’s blast off time and I videotape as the boat shoots straight up out of the water and takes off, fading into the distance. I usually go back to the hotel and try to get a few more hours of sleep, then meet up with my family to go shopping or sight seeing. Right around lunch time is when the nervousness starts to set in. I just can’t wait for the weigh in to start and I ask my mom what time it is about 10 times. I load up the lawn chairs, cameras, cooler and the dog, and head for he weigh in site. I almost go out of my mind while all of the other competitors weigh in, waiting and watching for my angler to arrive. When it is finally his turn on stage, it seems to take forever for his fish to stop flopping around in the basket and the scale to lock in with the total weight. If he’s lucky enough to have taken over first place, I spend the rest of the weigh in doing math in my head to figure out how much he’s leading by. It’s not easy adding and subtracting pounds and ounces in your head! I never thought I was a very competitive person until I started going to his tournaments but I get pretty aggressive, cheering to myself when other anglers have lower weight than him.

Once he is off the stage, we trailer the boat and load up the gear, then hang around to talk with the other anglers and see who the final leader for day one is. We head back to the hotel, tired, usually sunburned, and get ready to start all over again.

Tournament fishing is exhausting and expensive, but don’t get me wrong - it’s also fun and exciting. I’ve seen a lot of beautiful areas in Canada and the US, tagging along on the tournament trail. I’m proud to be part of it and I stand behind my angler every step of the way. With bass season upon us soon, the excitement has already started to set in. My angler and his partner have the boat rigged and ready for the season and can't wait to get it wet.

Next time you’re at a bass tournament, look for me – I’m the really tall, really tired girl surrounded by a group of cheering family members – come on over and say hi! Once he is off the stage, we trailer the boat and load up the gear, then hang around to talk with the other anglers and see who the final leader for day one is. We head back to the hotel, tired, usually sunburned, and get ready to start all over again.

     Tournament fishing is exhausting and expensive, but don’t get me wrong - it’s also fun and exciting. I’ve seen a lot of beautiful areas in Canada and the US, tagging along on the tournament trail. I’m proud to be part of it and I stand behind my angler every step of the way. With bass season upon us soon, the excitement has already started to set in. My angler and his partner have the boat rigged and ready for the season and can't wait to get it wet.

Next time you’re at a bass tournament, look for me – I’m the really tall, really tired girl surrounded by a group of cheering family members – come on over and say hi!

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