WHAT WENT WRONG? TERRY BUTCHER AT ONEIDA LAKE
Story by Matt Pangrac - Photos by Dave Rush and Matt Pangrac
Moore, OK - Following each Bassmaster Elite Series tournament during the 2012 season, The BASS ZONE will interview two anglers who finished in the bottom half of the field to find out “what went wrong?”
It’s easy to get the winning details from an angler who just lifted a trophy – It’s tougher to go one-on-one with an angler who just missed the cut by 20-pounds, failed to catch a limit the entire tournament, and dropped 10 places in the Angler Of the Year standings.
The bass fishing media tends to avoid analyzing poor tournament performances. For some reason, when a pro angler finishes in 90th place, nobody stops to ask him, “What went wrong?” In other professional sports, sub-par performances by individual players become a major part of the storyline.
This week, the focus turns to the final stop of the 2012 regular season on New York’s Oneida Lake. Oklahoma’s Terry Butcher entered the week with a very clear goal – finish high enough to move into automatic qualifying position for the 2013 Bassmaster Classic in his home state next February.
Sitting in 40th place in the Toyota Tundra Angler Of the Year standings, Bucher surmised that with a top 25 finish, he’d earn enough points to fish in the Grand Lake Classic.
On day one, things went smoothly and Butcher toted a respectable limit weighing 13-11 to the scales to settle in 27th place heading into cut day. He had an even better day on the water on Friday, culling up over the course of the day to a limit weighing 13-15.
Before weighing in his Day Two limit, Butcher committed what he would later describe as “the worst mistake of my career.” Thinking that his check-in time was 4:00, Butcher arrived back at the launch ramp at 3:56 with plenty of time to spare. After checking-in, he was informed that his check-in time was 3:45 and that he was actually 11 minutes late.
The mistake equated to a late penalty of 11 pounds – one pound for each minute he was late. After the penalty, Butcher’s weight for day two was recorded as 2-15, and he finished the tournament in 79th place with a total weight of 16-10.
He fell to 51st in the TTAOY standings – 20 places shy of qualifying for the 2013 Classic in his home state.
Here’s how Terry Butcher described “what went wrong” on Oneida Lake:
Terry Butcher: 79th Place (16-10)
“Going into practice, I knew that I’d always done well on Oneida in the past so all I had to do was have a top 25 finish and I’d make the Classic. Of course I’d like to win, but making the Classic was my number one goal.
“I always catch the fish several different ways each time we go to Oneida, so I knew that I had four or five different patterns that I needed to look at during practice. I didn’t have a very good practice, but there was one little key spot, a rock pile, that has always paid off for me in the past on Oneida.
“I fished that rock pile on the second day of practice, and I eased in there because I didn’t want anybody to see me. I caught about a 2 ½ pounder on a spinnerbait, and I two good bites flipping a Wooly Bug that I just shook off and didn’t set the hook.
“I also saw some fish schooling every once in a while in the area, so I pretty much knew what I would be doing during the tournament. On the third day of practice, I looked for something else and I really couldn’t find anything else going on.
“I really didn’t have that great of a practice, but I thought that I’d found enough to be able to do what I needed to do during the tournament.”
Tournament Strategy and Game Plan:
“Headed into the first day, my game plan was to start out fishing my little rock pile and catch a quick limit of it. After that, I just planned on fishing for schoolers for the rest of the day. I knew that there weren’t a lot of schooling smallmouth because I would see one come up about every two hours during practice.
“Usually, if I could get to that fish that was busting, I could get it to bite. In all honesty, that was the extent of my game plan."
“One the first morning, I pulled up to the rock pile and caught a limit in the first 35 minutes. I just got off of it and went and fished for those individual schoolers for the rest of the day. I was able to catch three of them, and each of those schooling fish culled one of the rock pile fish that I’d caught early in the morning.
“I stayed within sight of the rock pile for the majority of the day but roamed around a little. Denny Brauer was the only guy who got even close to it, and I saw him cull two or three times so I was pretty sure that he was on the sweet spot but I couldn’t tell from the distance that I was at.
“I decided that there was no point in me just watching him fish that rock pile, so I just left the area.
“On the second day, I was the third boat out. When I got to the rock pile, there was a buoy about 30 yards from me. I thought to myself, “What the heck is a buoy doing here?” because it wasn’t there the day before.
About 10 minutes later, David Walker showed up and started fishing around. I caught three pretty quickly, including a 4 pounder. It turns out that after I left on Thursday, he had found the rock pile and had marked it with the buoy not knowing that I’d been fishing it. He asked if it was alright if he fished around the area, and I told him to go right ahead because he made a point not to come in on the rock pile or bother me at all.”
“I put together a pretty good limit by around 11:30, and I decided to just kind of hang around and protect the area for Saturday because I knew that I’d make the cut. I thought that everything was going great and the only thing that I had to do was make sure that I was back to the ramp and checked-in by 4:00.”
What Went Wrong?
“I don’t know how I could ever make this mistake, but it turns out that I was due in at 3:45 and not 4:00. I idled past the check-in point at 3:56 thinking that I was four minutes early, but then the official kept motioning me over to the side to talk to me.
“You know, I knew that my check-in time was 3:45, because B.A.S.S. always asks what time you’re due in when you idle out each morning just to make sure that you have the right time. That morning, I almost said ‘4:00,’ but I corrected myself and said ‘Wait, I’m due in at 3:45.’ I just forgot all about it while I was fishing.
“All the way through check-in and everything I thought that I was four minutes early. When the B.A.S.S. official waved me over to the side, I just couldn’t figure out what the heck he wanted me over there for. About that time, it hit me like a ton of bricks, and I realized that I’d missed my check-in time. I was just numb.
“When I found out that I was 11 minutes late, I decided to weigh-in my fish anyway because I knew that I had a good sack of fish and even though it wouldn’t weigh much after the 11-pound penalty, it might be enough to keep me in the top 50 in the Angler Of the Year points and get some AOY money.
“As it turns out, I finished 80th in the tournament, fell out of the Classic, and finished in 51st in the Angler Of the Year standings and missed getting any AOY money by one single spot.”
“For the first two days after the tournament, there wasn’t a moment that went by where I didn’t think about it. On Monday, I probably went 10 minutes all day when I didn’t think about it. Today (Tuesday), I think that I may have made it 30 minutes without thinking about what happened.
“Moving forward, I know that I’m going to be a lot more cautious about my check-in time. I’ve always been careful about knowing what time it is during a tournament day and knowing what time I need to be in. The crazy thing is that this is the first time that I’ve ever done something like this in a tournament.
“For the rest of my career, I’m going to start writing down my check-in time each day. I’ll write it on my hand with a marker right there by my watch.”
“You know, this is a mistake that will haunt me, but it’s something that I’ve got to get over. It would help me tremendously to be able to get voted into All-Star week in September, because it would help soothe some of the pain to go up to Illinois and fish strong.
“As far as my fishing ability, I know in my mind that I went up to Oneida Lake and got the job done. I went up there and I did what I needed to do on the water – I just made a mistake at the end of the second day.”