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“Don’t take it for granted.” It’s what I kept telling myself after waking up from an unexpected surgical event two months ago. I sat around the house for nearly 6 weeks, resting and thinking about fishing. The one time I went to fish, I lasted fewer than four hours and had to leave. Lifting the kayak was a task that required assistance. I wasn’t ready for the grind.

And then I was. Rest, some light exercise, the support of family, and that feeling that you got a new start: those were the ingredients that have gone into these past 6 weeks of my renewed tournament season.

In 5 events, I’ve had 3 top 10 finishes that include two consecutive 1st place finishes, all on different lakes. I also fished two team events in that time span. I landed limits and placed scoreable fish on the leaderboard in both – in one of the two, I was the team’s top angler.

If that’s not a hot streak, it’s a very good run. It could continue; it could end with the next tournament. I could blank at my next event and win the last four after it. You can’t know, so I don’t care.

I do wonder if there is a common denominator. The “it” I should appreciate. What’s the common denominator? Let’s first review the variables and differences in the three top 10 finishes:

  • In the first top 10 finish, I pedaled 7 miles, total.
  • In the first of the two victories, I fished one area, left and went to another launch. I caught the winning fish with minutes to spare before lines out.
  • In the second victory, I left my fish finder and my pedal drive kayak at home.

That’s right, in an age of yacht-sized fishing kayaks and multi-screen rigs, I paddled my way to victory.

CCKF Tournament 7, 2022 (Falls Lake). My Tactacam captured the moment my anchor fish, an 18.75″, sprayed me with water as it pulled my rig into an overhang. Note the paddle, lower right. Once the fish was in the net, I had to paddle backward with one hand.

It looks like the start of a run. Let’s compare it to another run – the best of my fishing career.

In 2019, I had my best year as a tournament angler. I finished in the money 10 times in 12 events. Two of those 10 finishes sent me home from national events with big paychecks. The I.R.S. was happy come tax season. But I faded in the fall. I didn’t place in a single championship or end of season event. I was worn out, physically and mentally.

This time is different.

  • I caught fire in early summer in 2019. This year, I am heating up in late summer/early autumn.
  • In 2019, I won money fishing mainly topwater lures. My winning fish have all been caught on crankbaits of late.
  • I fished main lakes in 2019. I’ve focused more on tributaries this year.

Different seasons, different locations, different techniques, different kayaks, different times. One thing hasn’t changed, however.

I’ve been here before and I know not to take it for granted. But what is “it?” What “it” means is that I am relaxed and happy, “in the zone,” as they say. When I show up to fish, my mind is clear. I don’t know what is going to happen. I launch, I press record on my camera and I start casting. Eight hours go by. Whatever happens, happens.

I appreciate the money and the recognition. I am flattered and grateful by the kind messages of congratulations. Those things come and go. But fishing with a clear mind, smiling and joking with a friend, chatting at the ramp, watching a fish elevate clear out of the water when it jumps – those, above all, are what I will never take for granted. And they happen regardless of your place in the standings. That, I think, is “it.”

© Henry Veggian