Sometimes, if you are lucky, you meet someone and things just click. There is an instant comfort, like you’ve known each other your whole life. For me, clicking with someone doesn’t happen too often. It’s been said that I’m a “different” kind of woman. It’s a wonderful thing to click with someone, but clicking with someone that shares your passion for bass fishing? Well, that’s like hitting the “friend Lottery”. I have to say, I won the lottery the day I met Bill Lortz of NY North Country Bassin’ Guide Service.
Since then I have had the opportunity to fish with him in Texas when he came down to pre-fish Lake Conroe for the B.A.S.S. Nation Championship. When he had completed his practice, Bill stopped for a day of fishing with me on Cedar Creek Lake before his 1,400 mile trip back home to New York. Knowing he would return for the tournament in three weeks, we made plans to fish again before the Nationals in November.
Each time I go to New York, it’s a “bucket list” fishing trip for me- fishing legendary smallmouth waters like lakes Oneida and Ontario with fishermen like Bill and Jamie Hartman.
I figured I would return the favor and give Bill some bucket list fishing, Texas-style. So when Bill returned, we met up with good friend & guide Randy Oldfield at Lake Fork- the Bass Capital of Texas. It’s always a treat to spend the day on Randy’s boat and adding Bill to the mix was a recipe for pure fun! We planned to follow this with a day on Lake Athens- a lake very close to my home that I had surprisingly never fished.
Despite the pressures that come with fishing a National Championship, Bill was keen on sharing his knowledge with me, and for that I am very grateful. It was a great honor for a beginner like me to fish with such a talented angler as Bill, who was only days away from competing against anglers from all over the world!
PRACTICE, PRACTICE, PRACTICE.
After several days of good Lone Star food, fishing and fun, it was time for Bill to head south to Lake Conroe, about a 3 hour drive from where I call home. On the first day of practice, Bill started off by fishing deep brush piles, road beds and submerged bridges that he had found during the October pre-fish.
That resulted in a slow bite yielding only small fish. At the end of the day, Bill started fishing some deeper docks and caught a few keepers. Day 2 of practice, had Bill concentrating on rip rap and back water areas around bridges and in the backs of creeks. On Day 3, he fished shallow all day, nothing deeper than 7 ft., concentrating mostly on docks. Wednesday was the official practice day and by then Bill was all-in on the shallow bite.
The BASS Nation National- is a big deal. The last big B.A.S.S. tournament of the year brings together the best boat and co-angler fisherman from each BASS Nation state division plus anglers who qualify from certain foreign nations. Bill had qualified to represent the New York BASS Nation. On Day 1 of the tournament, Bill started his day fishing the back water area with a ditch and pond. When that didn’t work as planned, he began fishing brush piles outside of some docks. There he was able to catch his first keeper using an 8.5″ V&M Wild Thang from V&M Baits. To give you an idea of how big-time tournament fishing can go, Bill caught about 25 fish that day, but that one was his only keeper over the Lake Conroe 16” minimum. This will also be a challenge for the elite qualifiers when they gather here for the Classic 2017.
On Day 2 of the tournament, Bill caught another 25 fish, of which only 2 were Conroe keepers. One of the keepers was a 5.5 pounder that he caught skipping a chatter bait underneath a recessed dock. However, it was about that time that a cold front moved in bringing 30 mph winds and heavy rain. This made it virtually impossible to hold the boat in a position to keep fishing docks. He spent the last hours of the day fishing shallow in protected cuts.
I scheduled to be off work on Day 2, so I loaded up my oldest son, Joey, and one of his best friends, Steven, and headed down to Conroe. I had been to a weigh-in before, at a Bassmaster Open in Ohio, but the opportunity to watch my new friend weigh in at the National Championship was one I was not going to miss. The first person I met after arriving in Conroe was Tim Cook of Forage Lures. Forage, based in New Braunfels, Texas, offers custom, handcrafted,
American made fishing tackle direct to you at www.catchmoretackle.com. The custom paint on their crankbaits makes them particularly effective. It was good to see Tim, a great guy who has been B.A.S.S. State Conservation Director for 14 years and had been assigned to work fish care at the B.A.S.S. Nation Championship. Tournaments are a great way to make contact with people in the industry. I also had the opportunity to chat with the winner of last year’s B.A.S.S. Nation Championship, Albert Collins, another class guy.
One unforgettable moment was when Joey, Steven, and I got to meet 2005, 2013 and 📷2015 Toyota Bassmaster Angler of the Year- and four time runner up in the Bassmaster Classic- Aaron Martens. Aaron is so approachable, a really friendly guy who I found to be very down to earth. Aaron commented on how healthy the boys looked and was interested in hearing if they played sports. Having just finished their football season, he managed to fully engage these 2 high school seniors in the conversation. The boys shared some football stories, shared a few laughs with Aaron and, after taking some photos, it was almost time for us to take our places for Bill to weigh in. I really appreciated the way Aaron took the time to speak with the boys and encourage them to pursue their passions. Of course, the highlight of the day would be watching our friend weigh-in, but the combination of the events of the day and meeting Aaron Martens really inspired these boys to want to fish more- exactly what I had hoped would happen!
A PICTURE IS WORTH A THOUSAND WORDS
I did my best to capture every moment of the day in pictures- from the time Bill’s boat was loaded on the trailer and all the way to the stage. Bill finished in 23rd place, pretty impressive for someone who has never fished Texas prior to this tournament. He shared with me how this was such a great experience, to make it to the B.A.S.S. Nation Championship. He added that B.A.S.S. runs top-notch tournaments and the many B.A.S.S. people he met were incredible. Bill expressed confidently that this would not be a once in a lifetime experience for him. He will definitely be back on the B.A.S.S. stage
TEACH, INSPIRE, GROW!
The tournament was over, and it was time for Bill to head to New York in order to make it home for Thanksgiving. But he did not leave without one more day of Texas fishing. We decided to fish Lake Athens again. On the water I shared with Bill some of the personal challenges I face as a novice angler- my flipping, pitching, casting with a baitcaster, and using these techniques to work docks. Bill was confident that he could help and offered to spend time teaching me.
In order to be a good teacher, one must have more than just fishing credentials, experience and fish sense- they must be kind and have patience – lots and lots of patience. Fortunately for me, Bill has ALL of these and then some. At the end of the day, I was skipping under docks. It was not perfect, but I had the idea and I was doing it! Bill also sent me home with an extra rod and baitcasting reel all rigged to help me practice flipping, pitching and casting. I am sure the next time we fish I will show improvement.
There are many tournament anglers that guide. The difference is, Bill Lortz is a guide that also fishes tournaments. He possesses qualities that make him an outstanding teacher. He not only puts you on fish, he actually teaches you HOW best to catch them. To say that Bill is a great ambassador for the sport of bass fishing is a bit of an understatement. I am looking forward to getting up to New York to fish with him on “his turf”. I know it will happen sooner than later because through fishing I now have a friend for life. Who knows what forces are at work when two people come together to form a friendship but I do know it can be life changing. It proves something I deeply believe- to truly live your passion you must also share your passion. So it is that I say thank you Bill Lortz for sharing your passion with me.
iBass360 Pro Staff Misty Schmidt is from Mabank, TX where she is a proud mother of 4 awesome kids. Misty embarked on a new adventure when she started fishing. It inspired a lot of passion in her life and she hopes to inspire other women to pick up a rod and reel and enjoy the outdoors. Misty is grateful for the opportunity to serve as Promotional Staff for Forage Lures, Bayou Kustoms, TRC Covers, Brush Pile Fish Attractants, MC ProJersey and she an active member of Pink Fishing. She fished FLW ‘s BFL Cowboy Division as a co-angler in 2016 and has provided a number of articles to iBass360 for which we are grateful