They say that lightning never strikes in the same place twice, but at last weekend's Stripe-R-Rama tournament, it did when Shane Moline and I won the top prize in the largest overnight striper tournament of the year at South Cove.
Last year, I got lucky when Henderson, Nev., resident Bruce Hudson and I won the tournament with a 40-fish limit that weighed 68.55 pounds.
Hudson couldn't fish this year, so I enlisted the aid of local bass pro Shane Moline.
Turned out to be a good move on my part.
However, the tournament didn't start off so good for us.
Moline forgot to take the transom support off his boat, and when we headed off, it dropped away. Then at the first place we stopped to try for some topwater action, as I stepped into the bottom of Shane's boat, the tip on my Fenwick fishing pole got caught on my pants and I broke it off.
The next decision was where we were going to fish. I had made about 20 pre-tournament trips to the lake, testing different areas.
I chose a spot near Greg's Hideout where Moline and I had pre-fished one time prior to the tournament and had caught some decent fish.
Despite a 7 p.m. start for the tournament, it was 8:30 before Moline caught our fist striper, a 14-inch fish. Though this is a typical striper for Lake Mead, these kinds of fish won't get you a check in this tournament.
It was 8:50 p.m. when Moline hooked what we call a "money fish," a striper that was 19 inches long and weighed almost 2 pounds.
A thunderstorm blew in around 10 p.m., and according to Tournament Director Johnnie Hoeft, two boats in the tournament were sunk and several others were damaged.
However, we were fishing off the main lake, and Moline's two-anchor system held us firm and out of harm's way.
The tournament's defining moment for us occurred at 12:25 a.m. when I got bites on both of my poles.
I grabbed them and set the hook and yelled "Daily Double," which is a term I use to let my partner know I have two fish hooked up
I handed Moline my ultra light pole, the same one I had broke the tip off of.
Good thing I had just spooled it with 6-pound McCoy monofilament line. As I fought a fish on one pole, I heard Moline say, "Don, this is a big fish." Knowing that for us, landing the fish would probably make or break us in the tournament, Moline fought the fish carefully.
I reeled in the other poles to make sure the fish didn't get tangled up in them. We were fishing in about 100 feet of water, and other than one anchor rope, the odds of the fish hanging up on anything was slim.
I watched and waited as Moline played the fish. Minute after minute, the battle dragged on, and I called out the times to Moline. Fifteen minutes into the battle, the fish just kept swimming around the boat in circles, taking out line whenever it wanted. Moline kept minimal drag on the fish.
At one hour into the fight, Moline said, "He's in the anchor rope." And he ran toward the front of the boat. Moline gave a short tug, and incredibly, the fish came off the rope and the fight was still on.
The big striper was starting to tire but wasn't giving up easily.
Moline finally started to take up line, and the end of the battle was near.
One hour and 15 minutes after I had set the hook, Moline led the fish into the net and he was ours. On our hand-held Rapala scale, the fish weighed 11 pounds, 12 ounces. Moline was exhausted after the battle, as he should have been, after all, he had just landed the largest fish ever caught in the 17-year history of Stripe-R-Rama.
Of course the rest of the night was anti-climatic, as our priority after putting the big fish on ice was to make sure we had a 40-fish limit to weigh in.
On Sunday morning at check-in, we found that indeed the large striper had pushed us over the top and we had won Stripe-R-Rama 17 by just over 5 pounds. Our total weight was 74 pounds, and Moline's fish officially weighed 11.45 pounds.
Now, you might think that a fish like that would have a stomach full of food. However, when I cleaned him, the only thing found in its stomach was the small one-inch piece of anchovy that had been on the hook at the time he bit.
No team in the tournament's history has ever won the tournament three years in a row.
While it may not happen, you can bet that next year I'll be on the lake again and will give it a good try.