As an amateur, he paid $1,000 to register for the unique event, sponsored by Old Kinderhook Resort and Golf Course and www.BassingBob.com.
Don Beckley figures he got a good return for his investment in the Missouri Invitational Fish and Golf Pro-Am Tournament at Lake of the Ozarks.
As an amateur, he paid $1,000 to register for the unique event, sponsored by Old Kinderhook Resort and Golf Course and www.BassingBob.com. Then, he shelled out another $2,500 at the pre-tournament banquet when he bid for the pro fisherman he wanted to team with, Mark Tucker of Kirkwood, Mo.
But it proved to be a wise gamble. Tucker and Beckley, who lives in Linn Creek, ended up splitting $30,000 after taking the championship in the nationally recognized event, November 14-16. Fishing in sub-freezing temperatures and a biting wind, they caught 15 bass weighing 49.41 pounds.
Pro Jeremy Lawyer of Sarcoxie, Mo., and his amateur partner, John Hewkin of Sullivan, Mo. — last year's champions — finished second with 45.29 pounds of bass.
The fourth annual Missouri Invitational was supposed to feature two days of fishing sandwiched around one day of golf at Old Kinderhook. But Mother Nature had other ideas.
When the course was deemed unplayable because of the snow and ice, tournament officials decided to add another round of fishing in place of the golf. And Tucker and Beckley teed off on the bass.
"Mark and I have been friends for five or six years, and I knew what a good fisherman he is," Beckley said. "I followed him when he went to the (Bassmaster) Classic, and I knew how good he was at Lake of the Ozarks.
"If I was going to put my money on anybody, it was going to be Mark. I was just hoping the bidding wouldn't get too high."
Tucker and Beckley, had a game plan going into the tournament. Beckley would lead the way on the golf course, Tucker would take control on the water.
In the scramble-type golf competition, the teams are paired with local golf pros, and each par, birdie and eagle the groups get translate to the equivalent of pounds of bass in the final score.
Beckley practiced for weeks and was ready to help his team's cause on the golf course. But the weather changed all of that.
So like the other 35 teams, Tucker and Beckley toughed it out on the water. With some snow on the ground and temperatures below freezing, it didn't look like fishing weather.
But Tucker knew the bass would still bite.
"This cold weather came at the front end of the season, so the water still wasn't real cold," Tucker said. "The water temp was still in the mid-50s, and they'll hit when it's like that."
The bass were active enough that Tucker caught all of his bass on the second day on a topwater lure, a Whopper Plopper.
There were two key moments in the team's victory. First, Tucker noticed a bass swimming lethargically through the water and flipped a jig in front of it. The bass flared, but when Tucker let the lure settle to the bottom, it hit and ended up in the live well. Tucker pitched to the same spot seconds later and caught another keeper.
"Both were three-pound fish, and that really helped," he said.
The second key moment came when Beckley, an experienced tournament fisherman in his own right, caught a bass that weighed 4.61 pounds on the second day of competition.
"It was a grind," Beckley said. "We would go an hour without a bite, then we would catch one."
The team concentrated on the Glaize arm of the lake, fishing shallow water in pockets and the back of coves.
Lawyer and Hewkin used Wiggle Warts and spinnerbaits to catch their fish. They found success in the Osage arm, but also caught bass in the mid-lake area.
"The fish were scattered," Lawyer said. "We just had to make a lot of casts and hope we would get our lures in front of one."
The Missouri Invitational has become a fall tradition at Lake of the Ozarks. Presented by Ulrich Marine and Duncan Fine Jewelry, the tournament features the top fishermen in Missouri paired with amateurs who pay to be in the boat and on the golf course with some of their heroes.