My Life as a Co

1960366_10152307797683982_1307179075_nBy Russ Chargualaf

I often get asked, “What is the most challenging part of fishing the Co-Angler side on the Bassmaster Opens trail?” Well, at the end of the day, it’s catching my limit of bass.

As simple of an answer as that is, the complexity of achieving that goal is far from easy. For the first time in three years of fishing the Bassmaster Opens, my first tournament of the season brings me BACK to Smith Lake, Alabama. Why did I put the word ‘back’ in all caps? This will be the first time that I will be fishing a lake that I have some familiarity with. One of the hardest obstacles to overcome is fishing a lake with no knowledge of it. To be successful as a Co-Angler, to me, five things need to happen:

Do your Homework. What does homework consist of for me? Reading local blogs of that lake, researching tournament results over the past three years, reviewing Google Earth and the shore transitions from the past year, looking at the Farmer’s Almanac, Googling any kind of Corps of Engineer news, finding out the flood gate schedule, knowing when the drawdowns are scheduled (especially on lakes that use the water for energy), reviewing creel study results, and knowing the moon phase. But even with all of this information in my head, it’s only a small percentage of what is needed to be successful on the water.

Plan out your trip from start to end. Like 99.9% of all Co-Anglers, I don’t get to fish as a career. I have a full time job at Thr3e Wise Men Brewing Company, volunteer religiously for Wish for Our Heroes Organization and Habitat for Humanity, do photography for Fatheadz Eyewear, and am a full time husband and father to 3 children. Time, for me, is limited and at a premium, so each trip needs to be planned out meticulously. Fuel, lodging, and meals are the highest of expenses when I’m on the road. Months prior to a tournament, I am searching hotel/motel rates, expected fuel rates and calculating the distance and time of my excursion. Like most anglers, I will try and save money in any way possible. There are tournaments where I will not stay in a hotel/motel, instead sleep in the truck with all of my equipment for sometimes up to 5 days straight. During these tournaments, I will apply to gyms in the area just so I can get a nice hot shower each day. Being a chef, I will almost always cook my own food in a small grill out the back of my truck or on a portable stove. Not only is it cheaper, it’s very relaxing to cook my dinner along the bank of a river or lake.

Bring the tank, but fish like a sniper. I will travel with almost every lure, rod, reel, hook and sinker that I own. My Chevy Silverado seats 6, but when I’m traveling on a tournament, it only seats one because of all the equipment I bring. When it comes to the night before the tournament, I will trim my equipment down to 3 casting and 2 spinning combos and one backpack of lures. My selection of equipment is based off of 3 things.

  • My boater for the day. When being paired up with a boater, I make every effort to find out how deep we are fishing, how far we are running, how many spots he is trying to get to, and what I need to bring for the day. Based on the depth, location, and structure we plan on fishing, I can trim down my lures significantly. If we plan on drop shotting in 40 feet all day, I will eliminate a lot of my 2-4ft crankbaits and topwater lures. If we are fishing beds, my XD-10’s aren’t needed. Besides finding out what equipment I’m bringing, I always offer to bring snacks, ice, and Rockstar Energy drinks. Also, I always give anywhere from $60 – $100 for fuel and oil costs depending on how long of a run we make and how often we ‘run and gun’.  Trust me, it makes for a fun and comfortable time on the water.
  • Fish my strengths. Even with all the information from my boater for the day, I will always have one tray that holds lures I am very effective and comfortable with. I pack a series of Trigger-X worms and Kustom Kicker Jig’s weedless weighted wacky hooks on standby, along with a few Reaction Strike XRM-90’s and XRM-110’s. These lures are very versatile and I can fish them in almost all conditions if all else is failing.
  • Weather conditions. If I know we are fishing in high winds, I will increase my spinning rods to 4 and casting rods to 1. Fishing the back of the boat becomes challenging in high winds because most boats now have 2 Power-Poles or Talons along with a huge outboard to contend with. This limits the casting range for me. I absolutely dislike ever hitting any part of a boat when casting.  So I will move to a spinning rod that gives me more control and accuracy.

Be here, now. This is a saying that I first learned years back when working the restaurant industry. It means to be focused. Be in the moment. Once the mandatory tournament meeting starts, all energy, passion, desire, and focus should be on fishing. I turn off my work email, my Facebook and Twitter notifications, my calendar reminders, and anything else that doesn’t have to do with the next three to four days. Stay focused and in the moment. I feel it’s very important to mingle amongst the anglers. I can still remember my first Bassmaster Open on Kentucky Lake when I had to sit between Rick Clunn and Byron Velvick. I froze like a rock and never turned my head left or right strictly due to intimidation. Looking back, I wish I turned to both of them and shook their hands and just introduced myself. As anglers, we are amongst a group of amazing people who share one passion. I’ve learned over the years that this is a sport where the competition isn’t against the guy or lady next to you. It’s a competition of me against Mother Nature and a fish that is smarter than anything else in the lake.

No Excuses. Take responsibility. At the end of the day, my goal is to cross that weigh-in stage saying “Hi” to my family and thanking my sponsors while putting a limit of bass on the scales. At the end of the day, did I give my all? Was it a 110% performance from start to end? At the end of the day, did I present myself as a professional to my boater and to every angler who I came across? At the end of the day, will one more person know who I am? I have been more than fortunate to come across 5X3 Fishing this past year. It was more like fate that I recognized other anglers like Darien Craig and Gerald Swindle wearing the 5X3 logo and wanted to know more about it. Fast forward 8 months and I am now on their Pro-Staff. I am a part of a family of anglers who live for fishing, who live to succeed, and who thrive on our passion. On and off the water, the 5X3 Nation of anglers are representatives of our sport. We don’t make excuses, we don’t blame others, and we don’t sulk in our defeats. We wake up each morning wanting to breathe the exhaust of oil and gas, throwing that first cast, and setting that hook which leads to a heart rate just short of a heart attack. You gotta have this passion to fish successfully as a Co-Angler on the Bassmaster Opens trail. Without passion, fishing is just a hobby.

In closing, please remember our Men and Women serving our Country all across this world who protect our freedom and allow us to fish our passion on a daily basis. Whenever I see a flag flying, I say a “Thank you”. I am a Veteran and a military brat. I know the hardships deployments, death, and PTSD takes on families, children, and communities. Tell a Veteran or Serviceman “Thank You” whenever you can!

Bio:

Circuits fished: Bassmaster Northern, Southern, and Central Opens, BFL Hoosier Division, Indiana Bass Federation, American Bass Anglers, Tuesday Nights on Geist

Years co: 6

Favorite technique: Wacky rigging Trigger X flutter worms

Hobbies aside from fishing: Hunting, Photography, Volunteering with Wish For Our Heroes Organization, working with my local DNR

Sponsors: 5×3 fishingFatheadz EyewearWish for Our HeroesRockStar Energy DrinkReaction Strike SwimbaitsCastaicThr3e Wise Men BrewingScotty’s BrewhouseKustom Kicker Jigs