Kentucky anglers make history at National Guard fishing tournament

Story by Capt. Curtis Persinger, 198th Military Police Company

Trophy cropped

Capt. Curtis Persinger and Master Sgt. Scott Carrier make up the first team to ever make back to back wins at the the 19th Annual Air National Guard Bass Tournament at Lake Patoka, Indiana. (Photo courtesy Capt. Curtis Persinger, 198th Military Police Battalion)

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. — This was the 19th Annual Air National Guard Bass Tournament. It is sanctioned by National Guard Bureau, and the Army side just joined three years ago in 2012. Master Sgt. Scott Carrier and I fished the first year and finished 18th out of 65 teams. Last year we won at Lake Guntersville with an astonishing weight of 52lbs over two days (five fish limit per day). We averaged well over 5lbs per fish a day. Day One was 24-7lbs and Day Two we weighed in 27-7lbs. It was an unexpected win. We were on good fish, but we had no clue how big of fish we were on. We ended up winning by 5lbs.

Last year’s story is important because tournament officials told us there had never been a back to back or repeat champion. That was about to change. We just didn’t know it at the time.

This year the Indiana Guard stepped up and hosted the tournament at Patoka Lake, which happens to be my home lake. I have about 15 years of experience on it, so when I heard the announcement I was really excited.

Scott and I practiced three days on a very tough Patoka Lake. The fish were on a post-spawn pattern and I knew the fishing would be extremely tough. We were only getting about 10-12 bites a day. That wasn’t good at all.

DAy 1 fish

Capt. Curtis Persinger and Master Sgt. Scott Carrier with their first day’s catch during the 19th Annual Air National Guard Bass Tournament at Lake Patoka, Indiana. (Photo courtesy Capt. Curtis Persinger, 198th Military Police Battalion)

Day One: We ran about 30-35 spots ranging from 2 to 20 feet deep. We ran about 30 gallons of gas which is over an 8,000 acre lake. Again, the fish were spread out between shallow and deep. I was hoping for more cloudier conditions but every day we received several hours of sun which hurt our bite. We ended up having about 12 bites on day 1.

That day we only had 5 fish that met the 15 inch requirement. Our last two fish were caught in the last hour of fishing and if it wasn’t for Scott going full force we might have not had a limit. He caught one of my fish in mid-air as it came un-hooked, falling on his back. It could have been an ESPN “Top 10 Highlight!”

The day ended with us leading by 1 1/2 lbs, totaling out around 15 lbs. We used several different lures, Slongs jigs, spinner baits, swim baits and Carolina jigs.

Day 2 fish

Master Sgt. Scott Carrier and Capt. Curtis Persinger with their second day’s catch during the 19th Annual Air National Guard Bass Tournament at Lake Patoka, Indiana. (Photo courtesy Capt. Curtis Persinger, 198th Military Police Battalion)

Day Two: I knew this would be even tougher than our first day and it was anything but perfect. We lost power/connectivity in both of our GPS fish finders, so we were basically running around the lake blind. Fortunately again, I knew most of the depths around the lake. Fishing started well. I caught my first fish within the first five minutes and caught another one within the first two hours.

We then went through a long dry spell and around noon I hooked a monster estimated between 5 1/2-6 1/2 pounds. I can tell you that I literally went to my knees on the boat.

At that point in the day with only two fish in the live well I thought we had just lost the tournament on that big fish. Then Scott saved us in a big way! He caught a nice three pounder. That might have been the most important fish of the tournament. Not only did it give us our third fish, but it got us refocused.

Day 2 big fish

Master Sgt. Scott Carrier and the 5.97 bass that ensured the Kentucky Army National Guard’s victory at the 19th Annual Air National Guard Bass Tournament. (Photo by Capt. Curtis Persinger, 198th Military Police Battalion)

We started fishing and I remember looking at Scott and saying put on a spinnerbait. He kind of gave me the “Really?” look. I told him, “Scott trust me. I’ve caught several big ones here on a spinnerbait.

With 10 minutes to go I hear Scott say “Curtis, fish!” I turned around and saw this “llama” thrashing the water as Scott starts to walk it around the boat. It happened extremely fast. I dropped my pole, scattered for the dipping net and went sliding under Scott and his line to dip the fish on the passenger back side corner of the boat. The next 90 seconds were absolutely chaos as we were screaming, hugging, high-fiving, punching, throwing poles down, trying to find life jackets. For most tournament anglers they have experienced these several times throughout their life.

As we headed towards the ramp I knew we were coming in light with only a 4 fish limit, but that big fish gave us a “punchers chance” to win the tournament. As the dust settled we ended up weighing in 13.75 for a tournament lead of 28.80lbs. The Indiana Guard team came in stronger with a bigger stringer on day 2 but only had a combined weight of 28.27.

We had pulled it off. First ever back to back winners, just as the tournament officials told us.

We left with a few bumps, bruises, and mentally smoked but we brought back the hardware to the Kentucky Army National Guard for the second straight year and more importantly memories for life. The win and that 5.97 bass for Scott was a hell of a way to celebrate his “birthday”

It goes among some of the best team tournaments I have ever fished 15 years. I remember looking down at my bracelet after Scott caught that huge fish and thinking, “Damn.”

I wear a bracelet on my right wrist that I designed three years ago as a company commander when I took the 940th Military Police Company to Iraq in 2011. My motto was “Make a Way.” It comes from the Latin term “Aut Viam Inveniam Aut Facium,” which means “I Will Find a Way or Make a Way.” We did just that at Patoka Lake!

Next year’s tournament will be on Lake Martin, Alabama. Scott and I already have plans to make a recon trip to Alabama in the near future to do some fishing. With momentum in our favor, three times champions is on our mind!

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