It all began with a plan to go down and mostly flip reeds. The lake is so big that there are areas you can’t cover. Hallman knew he wanted to cover, north shore, eagle bay, down in the haunted pond area, Indian canal.
“The second day I decided there are too many people going in and out of that haunted pond area. I didn’t see what I was hoping to see, The reeds were layin’ down more. The majority of my fish came out of those other places on day two and three. The weather was nice and the read heads were holding onto the fish. There were some holes where it looked like the fish were probably spawning. The water was four or five foot deep. The water would get colder as the tournament went on and those reeds acted like a blanket for them.”
The weather, “the biggest problem on Okeechobee the weather changes daily and the vegetation growth changes yearly. All the imaging I found was nothing like where I was. The lake water is higher right now. The water conditions are different than they were 2-3 years ago. I like to never found my way out of South Bay at the end of the night. Right at dark and conditions had changed so much. The wind was blowing 25 mph. The potential was there to get a lot of bites and everyone around me was doing it. I think it was the temperature dropping that helped me.”
“When I made up my mind that I wanted to do fishing for a living it was back in 2006. I was married and we had no children. I quit my job. I had some success and I had some failures. There is only one Kevin Van Dam. I had a lot going on in my life, I had three kids and I lost my father. Mentally, physically and emotionally it was a lot of pressure. I would make the cut and get to the tournament and be like why am I here. I am so far away from my family. I was so unhappy. I had no business being there. As soon as I could get out and go home I did it. I just wanted to be home with my kids and wife. I got mad at the sport and left and started doing construction. I did all of this stuff to build and sweat and working and finished a lot of projects. Then I got the call to come back to fishing and I did. I started fishing some team events and liking it and seeing friends I hadn’t seen all that time. I stayed inside the Oklahoma borders so I wasn’t that far from home. That way if my wife needed me I could get home. Then a couple years later I got the hunger again slowly but surely. It was strong. You get to be 40 and you know your time can be short to do the things you want to do.”
You spend more time in the water not catching fish than you do catching them. You have to be in the best mental condition of your life.
“There no doubt that being familiar with the lake and being in my comfort zone helped me overcome the fact that I was 1500 miles from home. I go for the thickest center compared to others who flip the edges and get just a few bites. I go for the heart of the thickest part of the mat. There is more shade and more cover and I want that reaction bite. I wanted to go down there and fish it my way. The majority of the top 10 came from South Bay.”
“ I was burnt out before and throwing fish back just because I didn’t want to take the time to walk across the stage. I know that’s not a good thing to say but that is how it was. I know I’m not that consistent of an angler. I know it. I don’t know how to fix it but I’m done worrying about it. You look for the current, you look for the shad. When they shut the lock the water comes back and it floods the area. I was convinced I knew why those fish were there and how it worked. I decided if I had time to come back at that time just before dark I’d have it made. The 100 of us in that lock sealed our fates. The only thing I can do is run it like crazy and hope and pray that no one is sitting on that spot. I ran 18 miles and someone was sitting on it. On day two I wasn’t going to fight for the spot. I was just looking for another group of fish.”
Hallman’s goal for the rest of the year, “To make two top 20 and qualify for the Forrest Wood Cup. My goals have changed a little bit now I’d like to make three to qualify. I work every day to improve and I’m always learning new things. A pro angler tends to be in their prime from 35 to age 48, from what Ive found. The physical strain on the body and it is a strain and mental strain to be able to make good gut decisions on the water happen during that time. I’d like to get better and be able to finish strong and finish high. I feel like I can do that. The tournaments at FLW are an 170 boat field and it’s tough to make a check. You need to be on your deck and raring’ to go. We do it because we love it. We don’t do it for the money. “
Being able to walk away from what you love. Being able to know when to walk away from something that means so entirely much to you is nothing but strength in there. People on the outside may see it as a sign of weakness. Weakness is to keep on in something that isn’t working for you any more. It isn’t making you happy any more. Going with the flow and what is good for you is brave. It doesn’t mean you weren’t ever committed to it in the first place. It’s an instinctive way of knowing that your fulfillment consists of something else at the time Few people walk away from something before they are forced to do so because they crash and burn.
Bradley Hallman on Facebook.