Catch a Cure II Finds its First Fish

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The first largemouth of Catch a Cure came on a cold afternoon on Grand Lake O’ The Cherokees, Oklahoma.

It was a chilly afternoon on Grand Lake O’ The Cherokees in Oklahoma, and things were looking bleak. I had been fishing with guide Clint Baranowski for three hours, and the sun was starting to make its journey back into the Western part of the sky. We’d switched baits a few times, and tried a handful of the spots where he’d found fish the day before. I’d talked to him on the phone, and heard clients celebrating with rods bent in the background just 24 hours ago… but now, the clock was ticking. And if you think fishing in general can be a little stressful when times get tough… try fishing for a cure.

My time to pre-fish Grand Lake O’ The Cherokees, where the Bassmaster Classic will begin next week, was almost up, and I had nothing to show for it.

Baranowski is both a tremendous fisherman and a hilarious character to share the water with, but now we just needed a fish.

Half an hour earlier, we’d pulled up alongside a friend of Clint’s, a local boat salesman in Oklahoma, who had three fish in the livewell. I thought briefly of the scene in a River Runs Through It, where Brad Pitt’s character swallows his pride and yells across the river: “what are they biting on?” when his brother keeps catching fish on the opposite bank when can’t.

In the movie, his humility pays off, and we tried a similar tactic, asking simply what was working.

Not only did we find out (a crawfish-colored crankbait) but we were even lent a few for the remainder of the day.

The color change for the crankbait proved almost instantly magical. Baranowksi put me on a steep drop where fish were holding as the water slowly warmed up, and this largemouth nailed the crankbait as I worked it over rocks and sunken tree limbs.

The fish would prove to be the only one we’d put in the boat that day… but that made it all the more amazing. As the clock wound down on Catch a Cure’s first stop, we put bass 1 in the boat, I took a deep breath, and we’re forging ahead.

I’ll remember this fish forever.

 

 

 

 

Twas the Night Before…

12744551_10102868853137166_6895480161803180996_nI have to say, I’ve been a fisherman my whole life, and I’ve always gotten excited and a little bit nervous the night before a trip. But being at the epicenter of the bass fishing universe is something else entirely.

I was checking out Grand Lake O’ The Cherokees near Tulsa, Oklahoma today, where I’ll be getting on the water tomorrow, and absolutely everything was centering around this one event. No matter what store, tackle shop or gas station you walked into, you could feel a tangible enthusiasm about what will be happening there next weekend.

It was like the Christmas Eve of bass fishing, and it felt as though I were at the North Pole. Everyone that walked into a shop, gas station or by a dock was talking about next weekend’s classic. 

And it wouldn’t be Christmas-Eve-Special if it weren’t for a few miracles. I’d reached out to guides, hoping one would want to get on the water for a good cause, and I’d been waiting to hear back when…

Clint Baranowski, a guide here in Oklahoma, gave me a call. Man did my face light up when I talked to this guy.

And he went on to say, and it almost pains me to repeat this… they were on some fat fish that were feeding heavily. Now as a superstitious guy, I am not… repeat: NOT assuming that that will be the case tomorrow.

Having that said, it was good to hear. So I’ve got five alarms set for bright and early tomorrow, and when you hear from me next, I’ll have taken my crack at fishing the lake that all the best professionals will be competing on this weekend.

The rod is rigged, the stage is set… now if only I can get some sleep before this first trip. A heartfelt thank you to everyone who has read or followed my journey this past summer, and this second go-around this winter.

Every “like,” “Share,” or comment I see on a post, blog or Instagram photo reminds me that I am not alone out here fighting melanoma, that I’m a small part of an army of us that each do it in our own way.

From the bottom of my heart… thank you so much, and I’ll check back in  tomorrow. – Rick

 

Oklahoma! Catch a Cure II Begins!

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This bass was four-plus dollars for the Melanoma Research Foundation.

After hours on the road, countless 5-hour Energies, and a couple “cheap” motels, Catch a Cure II (me) has reached its first destination: Grand Lake of the Cherokees, Oklahoma.

We’re here to fish for a cure, thanks to our sponsors Sunology, Get Vicious, Native Eyewear and Rick Roth at Mirror Image.

I’m excited to be at the site of an upcoming B.A.S.S. tournament, and ready to get on the water.

For the second time in less than a year, we’ll be on the water for a great cause: to fight cancer, and a cancer that’s especially dangerous to outdoorsmen and anglers.

I’ve been blessed to catch a few fish in my life, but none have meant more than the ones I’ve caught on this project, because I know each is getting us closer to the day when Melanoma is a disease you’re diagnosed with, treated for, and then cured of.

And most importantly, we get to have fun fighting, and fishing, for that cure. I’m looking forward to getting on the water, having some fun, and spreading the word, and getting this second incarnation of the project off to a positive start.

If anyone’s in Oklahoma and interested in helping out, don’t hesitate to e-mail me at rickbach@ymail.com, or call or text at 315-794-8253.

The next time I post on this blog… I fully intend to be holding a fish that will bring us closer to a day when skin cancer is eradicated.

Thanks to everyone who has read, followed and supported my project and I’ll look forward to meeting more of you on this trip.

I like to think of it this way: Catching a largemouth bass is a great experience no matter who you are, where you’re from or what lake you’re fishing on. But when that bass means that more dollars are going to a place where they’ll finish skin cancer once and for all…. how can you beat that?

 

The Untitled Blog (World Cancer Day)

cropped-p8270428.jpgIt’s 1 a.m., so I suppose World Cancer Day is over. It was heartbreakingly beautiful to see the outpouring of support on all forms of social media in support of our battle against humanity’s deadliest foe.

I’m an optimistic guy, on most days I truly love my life and I’ve been blessed in so many ways. But I got to thinking about cancer, and what it means to me, what it has done to my family. And the temptation in today’s world of “share-everything social media,” is to remain constantly upbeat and optimistic in your presentation of self.

I’m reminded of a scene from one of my favorite films, Cinderella Man, when Paul Giamatti’s character, boxer Jim Braddock’s manager, opens the door to his New Jersey apartment to reveal that he and his wife have sold everything they own during the Depression. They’ve kept the apartment, “For appearance’s sake,” but it’s bare inside. I can’t help but wonder how many Facebook profiles that friends use to showcase recent meals, smiling faces and 24-hour happiness are hiding, to some degree, that emptiness underneath. And that might be fine, or even “strong,” had I not chosen a profession that demands, above all else, honesty.

I’ll shut the door on my apartment tomorrow, but on today of all days, it seemed a sin to keep it closed.

I’ve tried having a conversation with my Mom in which my father doesn’t come up, but it’s impossible. On the good days we laugh about how much we loved him. On the bad ones we don’t. Our house in Upstate New York always seemed big to the kid inside me that moved there from my grandmother’s basement at four, but it never felt as enormously empty as it has since he left.

Because in truth it’s not what cancer takes that makes the disease so awful. Sure, those last months spent with Hospice care, with the drugs making communication harder, with the nightly phone calls that you think might be the last… sure… they’re painful. And if I ever wish he were here, I think of those days and nights, and I’m glad he’s not… not like that.

But it’s the emptiness that it leaves behind that is the absolute worst. I know that I am not alone in all those moments when I’ve almost gone to dial his number, just wondering if he’d answer, somewhere. I know that there are millions like me, staring at their phones, wondering where that number goes, now.

It leaves so much behind: His shoes, suits, favorite books or old files. It leaves the hollow inside of everything that’s not him.

My father was the type of guy who never got so much as a common cold. I imagine he got in the habit of waking at dawn in the Army, where he served his country in Arizona and Alaska, and it never left him. Even at 77, he woke at 5 a.m. and was to work by 6. ‘Retire,’ was a word you used when going to bed for the night, not when discussing life and/or work options.

“He would have lived to be 100,” my mother always says. “Yeah.”

“Yeah.”

Saying that cancer “just takes a loved one,” is like saying that a wrecking ball only takes out the window it first collided with after the building that held that window crumbles.

I didn’t take great care of myself when my father was sick, which is no one’s fault but my own. I’ve rebuilt my life, because it is what he’d want, but it took a while.

If there’s a 27-year-old man that could have flown home to say goodbye, waded through a living room of Hospice nurses to hold a hand connected to an unresponsive father, and then continued with graduate school for a week, flown back to give the eulogy the next and then kept moving forward without missing a beat, I wasn’t that guy then.

I hope I am becoming a man capable of not only enduring that kind of pain, but using it for good. And the people at Outdoor Sportsman Group, B.A.S.S., and so many sponsors have helped and are helping me turn hurt into hope. I hope I am becoming that man in his memory.

I guess I wrote this because I wanted someone to know that if cancer comes into your life, steals a parent, a loved one, a friend… that you can get back up and be better for having known them, for having shared the part of your life with them that you did. I wanted that person to know that they’re still with you.

And as I sat awake wondering whether or not to write something so personal, I couldn’t help but think about what the purpose, the point of “writing,” as an art must be, at its core. And certainly we all have our own definition of that purpose, but I know that the writing that has most moved me, changed my life for the better, and inspired me, has in some way articulated an expression of one single sentiment: “You’re not alone.”

So if you’re feeling this way, or have felt this way, about a loved one cancer has taken from you, know that you’re not alone.

Operating With Purpose: Believing in Something Greater

12651295_10102830410965586_9129738956631078401_nI was spending some time in my native upstate New York this past week, and my mother came across a collection of photos that my father’s mother, Agnes McCabe, rest her soul, gave to my Mom when my father and her were married.

In this one you can see my Dad, who served his country in U.S. Army Intelligence Agency from 1954-1957, standing next to the hide of a killed polar bear in Alaska, where he and the remainder of his unit were, or so I was told, on the lookout for any type of incoming attack from the then Soviet Union.

He rarely talked about the Army, but I do remember small details. He said that at times, migrating birds appeared to be something like aircraft on the radar, and we were terrifyingly close to starting a war that I can’t even imagine. When asked about the Army, and why he enlisted, he only ever said: “It had something to do with a girl.”

But had he not enlisted in the Army, having come from a poverty-stricken family, he almost certainly would not have been able to afford law school. Had he not become a successful lawyer, I don’t know that I’d be here, writing this blog.

When I look at events in this fashion, it helps me understand them and it helps me see a greater purpose behind even the smallest details.

My father, at 77, was almost the exact age of life expectancy when he passed. But he didn’t die from a heart attack or a car accident (although Lord knows, the way he drove, that certainly could have happened several times).

He passed from skin cancer, a cancer that has killed more people in recent decades than all other cancers combined, and a cancer particularly dangerous for outdoorsmen, and fishermen especially, because sun reflects off the water and makes us even more vulnerable to harmful UV rays.

Now some would dismiss his being diagnosed with this disease, and having a son who spent the majority of his life fishing as often as he possibly could, as a coincidence.

I see more, and perhaps it’s because I choose to see more. I have faith that there is more than might be apparent to us on the surface of things.

And that faith, even when this project has seemed daunting, difficult, unlikely or ill-advised, keeps me moving forward every day.

Because of that faith, we have Native Eyewear, Sunology Sunscreen, Get Vicious Fishing, Hanes, Rick Roth at Mirror Image and Buff, who have all donated either money, products, or their time to this effort. For that faith, the help that it has brought to this cause, and for my father’s service, sacrifice and love, I’m grateful every day.