Competitive fishing abounds with frustrations and limitations, but c’mon man, how much does a guy have to endure? Marshall Deakins answered that question with rock-steady performance in his wire-to-wire victory at the T-H Marine Bass Fishing League All-American hosted by Florence/Lauderdale Tourism on Pickwick Lake.
Sacking up a three-day total of 60 pounds, 6 ounces, collecting a $125,000 prize package and claiming a spot in the Forrest Wood Cup (Aug. 11-13 on Lake Murray) might have looked like a walk in the park for a man who entered the final round with a lead of 10 pounds, 10 ounces and won by a margin of 7-10. Appearances can be deceiving, however, because day three had all the makings of absolute heartbreak — at least in the early going.
Deakins, from Dunlap, Tenn., grabbed the day-one lead with 24-6 — the event’s heaviest bag — and held on to the top spot with a second-day weight of 20-11 and a margin of almost 11 pounds over Brent Anderson. Notably, Deakins was the only angler to break 20 pounds twice.
Saturday’s championship round began with most of the 10 finalists figuring they probably would be fishing for second place. “Deakins just gets a limit and it’s over,” was the general consensus.
Not so, because the final round brought enough anxiety and bewilderment to spin the wheels of doubt in even the coolest of heads. For starters, Deakins’ found his top spot — a ledge just below the Natchez Trace Bridge with a particularly attractive little jut-out — occupied by another boat manned by a local fisherman. He tried fishing around the other angler, who was working the best section of the structure, but to no avail.
Moving upriver, Deakins worked an area with shell beds patching a ledge near Kroger Island — the site that produced two late-day kickers that anchored his day-two sack. The lack of action was agonizing until, suddenly, a 5-pound, 4-ounce largemouth was being led into the landing net.
The only problem was that it was tethered to the fishing line of eventual co-angler winner, Alex Hester – Deakins’ partner for the day.
No worries, right? By then, the bridge spot was open, so Deakins moved back to target hole No. 1 and fished it diligently for nearly an hour. Unfortunately, the bite was not happening, so, at 9 a.m., the fishless leader returned to that shell bar near Kroger and within 15 minutes he broke the ice with a solid 4-pounder that ate his 3/4-ounce Profound Outdoors Swampers Lures Football Jig with a Zoom twin-tail grub trailer.
Five minutes later, lightning strikes, as a plump 9-2 decides to eat…um, Hester’s bait.
Two game-changing fish, both Hester’s to catch, but clearly ones that could’ve been a soothing balm for Deakins’ nerves and blood pressure.
“I got really lucky today, I almost spun out when my co-angler started catching all these big ones,” Deakins says. “When that 9-pounder jumped out of the water, I about had a heart attack.”
Deakins says his day was done by late morning. He secured a limit that weighed 15-5 by around 11:30 and spent the rest of the day unsuccessfully seeking upgrades.
“I had to go to a drop-shot with a Roboworm in morning dawn out of desperation and I ended up catching three on that and one more on the jig,” Deakins recalls.
That’s tournament fishing and the wisdom of gettin’ while the gettin’s good, building a massive lead and then adding what one can. And that’s the wisdom of keeping one’s cool, managing the mental game and not letting such frustrations and limitations doom the day and perhaps the tournament.
“It feels great; this is the biggest event I’ve ever won by far,” Deakins notes. “I never did think I had a shot to win. I figured something always happens, but it worked out and it feels like a load has been lifted off my shoulders.”
Top 10 pros
1. Marshall Deakins – Dunlap, Tenn. – 60-6 (15) – $125,000
2. Brent Anderson – Kingston Springs, Tenn. – 52-12 (15) – $20,200
3. Justin Atkins – Florence, Ala. – 48-0 (15) – $22,200
4. Brandon Gray – Bullock, N.C. – 46-3 (15) – $14,000
5. Lloyd Pickett Jr. – Bartlett, Tenn. – 44-9 (15) – $19,000
6. Mike Brueggen – La Crosse, Wis. – 43-14 (15) – $17,000
7. William Merrick – Mount Juliet, Tenn. – 43-3 (15) – $11,000
8. Ronald Nutter – Saint Louisville, Ohio – 43-2 (15) – $10,000
9. Brad Fowler – Townville, S.C. – 40-2 (14) – $9,000
10. Jeff Knight – Cleveland, Tenn. – 34-6 (10) – $11,000