Memories of Heartbeats

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by Dan O’Sullivan

Clear Lake - Mount Konocti View From Skylark Shores (Custom)

Clear Lake – Mount Konocti View From Skylark Shores – photo by Christina O’Sullivan

As I write this, I’m sitting in a room at a motel I’ve stayed at many times over the years on the shores of Clear Lake.  The Skylark Shores has been the site of memories for me, both exhilarating and frustrating.  I’ve personally weighed in during tournaments on the lawn here many times and I’ve covered events where I’ve seen the amazing happen here.

Clear Lake is one of the first places I ever brought my wife Christina for an extended weekend of fishing.  After our wedding and the passing of her beloved grandfather Papa, we came up here for a getaway; just the two of us, some fishing and a chance to get away from everything.

We came up here this weekend to help our friend Vince Harris with his Future pro Tour Classic.  He asked me to come and take pictures for him, interview the anglers doing well on video and help post them to the Tournaments page on Westernbass.com, a site I used to work for that is owned by a friend.  I came here for work, but it reminded me so much of simple things I love about what I do, and memories of fishing days past.

Being in the media, I run the real risk of having time pass my by without ever really taking in the sights around me.  Trying to be on the front end of hot stories, covering tournaments that require me to focus on who is really catching them, and keeping tabs on what’s new and fresh in the fishing industry make me do something I love, but also forces me to lose perspective at times, and that is focus on the now.

I’m all about living in the moment.  You can ask Christina that my desire, more than everything is to learn to live with joy in the moment.  I believe that every day is something to be taken in, and that you should try your best to not let the business of surviving get in the way of living in the moment.

However, as I said, the job of being a fishing industry media member sometimes makes me look up and realize that yesterday was two years ago.  I’ve seen things that have made indelible marks on

Skeet Reese and Roy Halladay on Clear Lake (Custom)

Skeet Reese and Roy Halladay on Clear Lake – photo by Dan O’Sullivan

my soul doing my job, but while they are readily at the forefront of my memory, they are also farther back in time than I remember.

I stood on this lawn in 1995 after weighing in and finishing second place on the amateur side in a one day Pro-Am event by less than a pound.  I also remember not caring that I had come so close to winning and fallen short because of what I had learned about fishing from the pro in the boat that day.

Two years later I stood here with my soon to be wife, as my partner and I finished 18th in a tournament.  We were first out of the money, and we won a pair of fishing rods.  That rod would prove to be the first she would catch a bass on with me a little while later, and my father-in-law would use to catch bass with as my tournament partner a few years later.

Paul Stretch Cunningham

Paul “Stretch” Cunningham

I remember not having enough money for a hotel room and sleeping in my van on the road next to the Skylark Shores on several occasions; just so that I could fish a team tournament the next day.  I found a way to sneak my extension cord through the fence and splice into a buddy’s power cord to charge my batteries and borrow their shower after practicing for a day.

I was here in October almost 12 years ago to watch Skeet Reese win a regional Pro-Am while his wife Kim was pregnant with their oldest daughter Lea.  I remember talking to both of them about how amazing it was to see my children born and that I hoped he could make it back from his next tour event in January at the Harris Chain to be here for that.  Not only did he make it back, but he brought his first tour level trophy home with him as well.  Since then, Skeet, Kim and their daughters have become more like family to us than friends.  While we owe so much of our career to their involvement in our lives, there is nothing we appreciate more than their love and friendship.

I was there for that October tournament covering the event for the publication for the organization that ran it – a company no longer in existence.  Not only did I get to write the event story, but I also sold my first photo to a company after that event for advertising.  Alan McGuckin, who then worked for Terminator Lures asked if I could send him a picture of Skeet with his eight and nine pound largemouth caught on Snap Back Plastics for advertising afterward.  I am so blessed to still consider Guck a dear friend.

I came here in April of 2002 with my wife to fish in a tournament in honor of my fishing hero, Bryan Kerchal.  I participated in helping a group named FishingKids.com organize The Bryan Kerchal Memorial Tournament that year, and thanks to a four pounder Christina caught on a Senko in the last hour of the tournament, we finished as the Highest Finishing Man / Woman Team and got a trophy and everything.  Sure, winning the trophy was fun, but the fact we were celebrating Kerchal and his accomplishments was the best part.  To

Byron Velvick with His 2010 Trophy (Custom)

Byron Velvick with His 2010 Trophy – photo by Dan O’Sullivan

make things even better, Suzanne Dignon, his fiance, who had moved to San Fransisco came to the tournament and supported it on behalf of the Bryan Kerchal Memorial Fund.

I was here when records were broken in 2007.  Steve Kennedy caught more than 122 pounds of Clear Lake largemouth in an Elite Series Golden State Shootout.  Still, the best part of that entire week was meeting Mark Jeffreys of BASS ZONE.com.  Mark is someone who would become a dear friend and gave me the opportunity to write for him that would open so many doors for me to have the career I had only dreamed of having.  So much came out of that for me, when being able to work for him and that website would have been more than enough already.

I was here when another longtime friend; Byron Velvick, won an Elite Series event in 2010 on a namesake lure, on a corner that he had set the B.A.S.S. three-day weight record nearly 10 years before.  That win was like the exclamation point on a career built around the ups and downs of being the angler to show the world a whole new lure category and technique, and it was emotional.

I’ve fished events with family and friends here, I’ve won club tournaments here, been blown out here, finished in 10th place during Tournament of Champions here and fished for the last time with a friend who would pass away a couple of months after our last tournament together.

I took a picture here once of a Major League Baseball player who came to fish with a world class angler and dear friend.  That day and that image became the realization of a career goal; to be published in Bassmaster Magazine.  That image was also chosen for the cover of that issue; something I would have never dreamed in my life would happen.

This past weekend, while covering the Future Pro Tour Classic for a friend who was the best man in mine and Christina’s wedding; those memories all came flooding back. I came here to work, I got to spend the weekend with my best friend; my wife who came for a getaway weekend from the norm, and I even got to do something I don’t get to do nearly as often as I’d like to – I fished.

Dan O'Sullivan and Family 2008 (Custom)

Me and all my Girls at Clear Lake – 2008

I left my cameras in their cases for two hours while on what was supposed to be a photo shoot for an article I am doing with another close friend, Keith Bryan from Powell Rods.  We took the time to just fish, for two hours, laughing the whole time. It even got serious for about 15 to 20 minutes when we found that spot, and that lined up the boat for that perfect cast, where we caught fish cast after cast, and even a few doubles.

The best part of the whole thing was that it was my wife who reminded me to go out there and not forget to have fun.  She even told Keith to make sure I took a moment to do what I love and don’t get to do enough anymore; and that was just to go fishing.  Because I spend so much time watching other people make memories and making sure that I cover it in a way to record the history and tell the stories that fans can relate to in the future; I rarely get to enjoy it firsthand myself.

My best friend made sure another good friend helped me do that this past weekend.  If only for a brief time, more memories were made for me on Clear Lake.  Memories with people I cherish, at a place that I only realized this weekend holds so many heartbeats of mine.