I grew up fishing as a kid, mostly in little ponds that family owned or at Elk Grove park while my dad would play in softball tournaments. There were many times through my younger years that I left the sport but kept coming back every few years. In my mid-twenties I got into playing pool/billiards and that was my passion for many years but would still go out and fish from time to time. That all changed when I bought my first bass boat. A 1980’s Ranger 18ft with a 150hp outboard, which gave me more reason to get out on the water. From there I started to learn on my own but found that I wanted to learn more so decided to join a local bass club, The Sacramento Bass Trackers. I met some great guys and had some fun so figured I’d go to the next level and find a tournament partner.
The next several years I found myself fishing some team events and BASS Federation and found some success in both with a couple wins, high finishes and a few points away from capturing an AOY title in the BASS Federation Shasta Region. I ended up finding a new partner in 2008-2009 and learned of a different type of open tournament that was being put on.
It was September 12th & 13th 2009, RBBASSFISHING.NET put on an open amateur tournament on the California Delta… The RBBASS Tidal Challenge. I read that the winning team would have an option to join the group and be able to obtain some limited sponsors that were partnered with RBBASS. I thought, this is awesome and called my partner to tell him we need to fish the event. We decided we were going to do it and started to practice right away.
The morning of the event I met him at his house, and we headed out to the Delta with anticipation of what the next two days would bring. We would soon learn that we were going to have to deal with much more than competing for the title. On the way to the event we began to witness the craziest lighting storm I’d even seen. We talked it over for a moment and decided to proceed to the Delta, which my partner really was hesitant in doing. We ended up launching at Korth’s Marina which is about a 15-minute run via water to Russo’s where the event was being held. We launched with the skies lighting up, which seemed to be every couple of minutes. We got on pad and started carefully navigating our way to Russo’s Marina with the help of lit up skies. We got about halfway to our destination when suddenly, the brightest flash of light you can imagine appeared with a giant cracking sound that you could feel throughout your body. The next thing I knew, I felt and heard the motor stop. I was trying to focus my eyes after the flash of light and asked my partner, which was driving the boat, what had just happened? Did we just get hit by lighting? Which is what I thought since the motor shut down, however he quickly said he shut it down because he was startled by what just happened and could not see after the flash of light. I’m not sure if lighting hit just in front of us, his trolling motor, a light or anything else on his boat, but I know it was right on top of us.
We sat there and floated for a moment taking inventory of what just happened with the sky lighting up several times more. My partner wanted to turn around and go home but I told him lets continue to Russo’s, tie up the boat and get to a safe place and see what happens. The lighting finally started to calm down about an hour or so afterwards and was pretty much gone by the time we blasted off.
The pattern we found in practice we felt was not going to hold up with this weather. Our plan was to make a run up North on day one of the event as we were catching some decent frog fish. Then day two, we were going to hit the Central/Southeast area where we were catching nice keepers on top water (spooks) and flipping jigs and plastics. With the crazy weather, we decided while idling out to change the plan and scratch the frog bite. We decided to go to our day two spot and to say we made a good decision is an understatement. We knew we were going to get a decent limit on a 300-yard stretch of bank, but we knew our bite didn’t start until about 10am with the tide switch. Our pattern did not only hold up, but the better fish decided to come up and eat. We proceeded to catch 4 and 5 pounders on the spook and a jig. In the next hour or so we had just under 25lbs and our biggest was 5.20 ish, so a solid bag of fish. I quickly decided, as good as the fishing was, we needed five-pound fish to cull just a little, so I wanted to save fish for day two, so we left the area. We weighed in and found ourselves a few ounces in the lead above 2nd place, so knew we had our work cut out for us.
Day two came and we headed right back to the same spot and had it to ourselves for most of the day. It was a tougher bite, but we were able to grind out around 15lbs for day 2 fishing jigs all day.
By the end of the competition my partner and I found ourselves holding the 1st place plaques and making a little money too!
What came after that was far more than I could had ever imagined. My partner and I sat down with Ron Howe at a picnic table under the Russo’s camp area canopy and were offered to join RBBASS as part of winning the tournament. Now, being that the chance to join the group and get to partake in some sponsors and supporting them and the sport, well that’s the whole reason I wanted to fish the event and talked my buddy into fishing it. So, of course my answer to Ron right away was YES, I would gladly accept the offer to join! My partner was not sure about it at first, so I told him to do what he wanted, I was saying yes… no doubt about it! He of course followed my lead and we both accepted and joined the small group of 5 anglers.
From there I was able to enjoy doing some fishing reports, working for some of RBBASS sponsors at in-store events, meeting people and gaining a ton of new and really good friends. I’ve also been able to partner with companies from what I’ve learned from Ron and RBBASS over the years.
I was also able to understand what Ron and his partner Bob were attempting to do with starting RBBASS and thought it was something cool at first. Then really started to learn more about Ron’s vision and where he wanted to try and take it. Shortly afterwards I was fortunate to be offered a more dedicated role within RBBASS and once again, gladly accepted it! Before I knew it, things were moving and growing, and Ron and I still today sit back and talk about how much we have grown since it all started.
Seeing the group and idea of RBBASS grow over the past 10 years has been something that I would not have imagined I would have been able to be a part of. Meeting so many new people and gaining so many new friends, helping others promote themselves through RBBASS, promoting my love for the sport, supporting our youth in the sport and being able to support the following we have and having this brotherhood in place has just simply been amazing to witness and be a part of.
My path in joining RBBASS was by winning the tournament… a win that has kept on giving so much more than that one stormy weekend back in 2009… I continue to ride that lighting bolt each and everyday!
Randy Walker ~ RBBASS