Friendship at the Kayak Bass Fishing National Championship
Updated: Dec 29, 2021
With Hoosier angler and Indianapolis Knights player, Chip Romanovich.
For me, there are so many great things about fishing – the feeling you get the moment a fish finally hits your lure, the excitement of setting the hook, the fight on the other end of your line, and seeing a big bass leave the water, holding your breath as it shakes its head in the air trying to break free.
There’s also the incredible natural beauty that fisherman get to experience virtually every time they hit the water. The clear lakes; slowly moving creeks; towering trees and lush vegetation; fish, animals, and birds in and around the water; and breathtaking sunrises and sunsets – everything combines to make even a bad day of fishing one of the best days you may ever have.
But, like most experiences in life, there are many spokes in the wheel that drives us to happiness. It may sound clichéd, but it’s the people that really make fishing great – the people and the friendships we forge on and off the water that create some of our fondest memories.
Kayak anglers share a bond that is rarely found in other sports. While we are competitive, and each of us wants to win every tournament we enter, we’re also friends on and off the water. We hang out at our captains’ meetings, boat ramps, and even on the water during a tournament.
Kayak fisherman are the rarest of competitors, in that we help each other during competition, knowing that help may lead to our own defeat. I can’t think of another sport where competitors would offer each other baits, give advice, and even share fishing spots. And, the more we see one another, the closer we become.
Such was the case last month at the Kayak Bass Fishing (KBF) National Championship, headquartered in Shreveport, Louisiana, but also including Caddo Lake, which splits Texas and Louisiana. I had the opportunity to share a tiny (really, really tiny) one-room fishing cottage with two great guys – Bob Goldsmith and 2019 KBF National Champion Mike Elsea. The three of us spent the week together in Jefferson, Texas, prior to – and during – the national championship.
I’ve known Bob and Mike for several years. But they say you don’t truly know someone until you live with them. After our time in Texas and Louisiana, I’m privileged to know both of these gentlemen better than I did at the beginning of this trip – and my respect and admiration for each of them grew like the mighty cypress trees we fished among for seven unforgettable days.
I met Mike at the 2019 KBF National Championship, and now I fish with him on the Kayak Fishing League’s Indianapolis Knights, Indiana’s first professional kayak fishing team. I work with Bob at the Tippecanoe County Sheriff’s Department, and we travel and fish together frequently.
This trip would offer us a chance to spend a lot more time together, driving an hour one-way into Shreveport each day to tournament headquarters, stopping most nights at the local Bass Pro Shop, and hanging out at dinners or related events in and around Shreveport. We joked about Bob’s driving, enjoyed the scenery there and back, and shared in our excitement of this great event.
Evenings at the cottage, we talked about fishing, work, past and upcoming tournaments, and experiences that we all share because of this great sport. And we grew closer.
Then, as only fishermen do, we helped each other prepare for this tournament. We talked about line choice, lures, and locations. We talked about preparing – the physical and mental aspects – and plans and adjustments. We shared all of these things in a fight for the national championship, with more than $35,000 on the line, and the prestige and future opportunities that go along with winning the biggest event in our sport.
Five, 10, 15 years from now, I’ll remember joking about whose turn it was to take out the trash – and risk death by scorpion. I’ll remember Mike being so kind, leaving the house each morning trying to be quiet and not wake up me or Bob. I’ll remember pre-fishing with Bob for three days and catching some amazing fish. I’ll remember Bob grilling steaks while Mike and I sat around the fire, and I played with our cool camp dog.
As time fades memories, I may remember where I finished in the 2021 KBF National Championship, the fish I caught – and the monsters I lost - and the beauty of Caddo Lake. But I know I will never forget the week Bob, Mike and I spent in a tiny one-room cottage in one of the most beautiful spots on earth. I’ll remember the talks, the dinners, and excitement of moment. I’ll remember the spiders, the hornets, and the scorpion … all great memories of a great week with two great guys.
So, while catching a fish is an incredibly thrilling experience, I know it doesn’t really compare to the experiences that friendship brings us. Like those friendships that grow from spending a week together in a tiny house on an amazing lake in a tiny town in Texas.