by Karen Rae Elkins
When I started learning all about the mechanics of piloting a bass boat on my own, the sunrises seem more alive. Maybe, it was because I felt more alive after I left an abusive relationship. Alone, on a lake somewhere, I could breath in all that had been smothered by the hate and guilt he inflicted on my soul. I sustained major damage when I said no more and left him. Spending time on the water reminded me that I’m not all that he complained needed “changing in me” in order to meet his approval. I replaced the words "if you would just listen to me" with the sweet music of songbirds or rhythmic tap of a woodpecker. Nature nurtures the heart that loves her with food for the soul. It has taken years and many fish on the line to absorb I’m just fine.
March is a quirky weather month for fishing. There are cold days and warm days in-between stirring up the atmosphere. Packing means you carry “IT” all like you’re never coming home, winter clothes and shoes, summer clothes and shoes, warm and cold water tackle, not to mention, electronics and chargers, food, alarm clocks and coffee pot. I carry sentimental items like a photo of the kids, my sons first Bible, a CD that my daughter makes me for the drive and a lure that was given to my dad and I at a tournament we fished years ago. By the time i close the door to the rig and crank the big diesel truck, if it’s not packed in the truck or boat, I don’t need it. This trip would be different from all other tournaments. I was traveling the highway to Texas with my future husband, Professional Canadian Angler, Kasey Fedoriw. Yep, I'm engaged to a good man, a man who will never hurt me and he fishes!
If you are in an abusive relationship, go ahead and pack like you are never coming home. The weather there will, at some point, turn rough to deadly in an instant. You cant forecast abuse. There are so many reasons to stay but there are many more reasons you must leave. I know what you are thinking, "Things may get better if I will just tough it out and stay". Has he threatened to take you out of this world? Pack like you’re never coming home. If you don’t have “IT” when you leave, count it as gone. There is nothing more valuable than your life. Going back just gives him one more chance to take you out of this world. It is his intent every time he swings at you to take your life. Don’t give him another chance. Why don't you leave?
I watched it rain in Texas and then I watched it rain some more. I watched the lake rise and then I watched it rise some more. I felt the 25 + mph winds as thew blew across the water stirring up the bottom of the lake. Fishermen spend their fair share of time talking and watching the weather details. If I call Tony in Omaha, I'll ask him "How is the weather in Nebraska"? It's an unspoken way of saying how is the fishing? He in return will ask, "How's the weather in the South'? I laugh and say, “Don't get me to lying to ya Tony”. Weathermen lie (not on purpose) to fishermen all the time. The weather makes a liar out of all of us at one time or another.
It is said that your life unfolds as it should and I hold on to this knowledge when I’m fishing. I love Texas lakes. I love catching Texas bass. I arrived in Texas 6 days prior to official practice just to go fishing on one of the most famous lakes in the US, Lake Fork. Bass or no bass if you’ve never seen a sunset on Lake Fork, it can soothe the soul. The sun in every color floats down below the horizon of water in a matter of breath-taking minutes. This would be my second trip to Lake Fork for just fun fishing and soaking up nature at it’s best. I caught my best “record” bass on my first trip to Fork. It was HUGE, no lie.
I used my time on Lake Fork to test two new rods that I had ordered from the man who hand makes beautiful works of art captured in a rod. I broke my Fish Steady rod a week before I left for Texas. Fishermen identify with their rods to the point that the rod is an extension of their hand. Fish Steady is a custom rod made in Alabama by Greg Hughes of Greg’s Custom Rods. The Fish Steady rod is a specialty rod designed for my buzzbaits and jerkbaits. The rod is very short by fishermen standards. I had an angler look at the rod and say, “Karen, That looks like a Snoopy rod to me”. The rod is purple and the reel is purple as well. Just like pink is the color of breast cancer, purple is the symbolic color used to identify domestic violence. I wear a purple fishing jersey as well. I can identify with the abuse that you've felt, because your past never truly goes away. Learn to live with your past while you map out a better future for yourself. I fish steady to bring women and men out of violent relationships. I know what it's like to have felt a touch that is anything but loving, soft, and healing.
Official practice started on a cloudy day. I would have 3 days and about 6 hours to pre-fish. I knew where I wanted to fish and I started exploring the waters. Kasey was my practice partner for the tourney. I loved having him on my boat. He is one of my biggest fans and a huge help in finding fish. He respects me in all I do. I did my homework for the lake 5 days prior to official practice. Each day off the water I spent hours, watching water levels, looking at the water from the land, researching articles, watch videos of fishing and plotting my course.
Anglers are early risers. I awoke on day one of practice with butterflies. I was up at 4 AM packing the boat, packing lunches, watching the weather channel. I did my fair share of killing time before sunrise, too. I said a prayer as the boat left the trailer for the first day of practice. I pray for safety first. I launched between two bridges. The water between the bridges are famous for taking out the engines lower unit. The path out to the channel looks clear but danger lurks below the water in the form of trees and stumps. If I run over a stump I could kill the lower unit and then be unable to compete in the tournament. Replacing the lower unit can take a week or longer.
I had the best Day One of practice I’ve ever had. I found fish in 4 out of 5 locations. I was on top of the world. I had to call a no fishing day for day two of practice. The weather warned of tornados. I do not fish during lightening weather and I sure wasn’t launching the boat in tornado weather. Fishing is one of the most dangerous sports, honest. I believe in safety first on and off the water. Before you cast a line in the water, Mother Nature has to say, “Go fish... or stay on the bank”.
Mother Nature plays her part in every fisherman's life and she is unpredictable. Abuse for the most part can make people lie to themselves and others, like the weathermen lie to us daily. Abuse is the storm for which there is no weather vane to predict where the violent destination will rest. There are no formula’s to predict the outcome of abuse. You can hope for the best but you need to be aware that 2,500 just like you didn’t survive last year’s violence. Every three minutes a woman is being raped. Every eighteen seconds a woman is being beaten. It's happening right now, as I write these words to you. You rarely heard the reports of just how at risk these people were. There were no storm warnings issued for their life. With very few resources spent in the right direction, there are few options to find shelter during the storm of violence.
Like the water on a lake abuse lies beneath the surface. You know it's there and avoiding it is a scary task. What looks safe could be the very obsticle responsible for ending your life. You can't see it, but it is there. It can kill you. "The weather changes” is a true statement. Turbulent eruptions in the atmosphere predict a storms path, unlike the violent person in your life. One day there are bright blue skies and the next thing you know minutes seem like hours as the darkness takes over. Make the decision now to build your own shelter from abuse. One of the best resources to protect your life comes within. It’s called the will to survive. Stir that instinct that has been beaten down with words and actions from another person. Once you’ve accomplished the stir within you to live, take the appropriate cover.
The remainder of the pre-fish wasn’t like day one at all. Finding the fish became hard as the waters continued to rise and the winds blew in excess of 25 mph. The waves grew large with the southern winds and resulted in stirring up the mud that lay below. The slightly stained lake waters became a bowl of overflowing chocolate milk.
Tournament day finally arrived with a roaring wind. The weatherman said, “No rain in the forecast”, but it poured rain and contributed to muddy waters everywhere. Of course I packed my 100 MPH suit and I had it on. While in practice I saw 3 boats in the creek I wanted to fish. The fish were big en’s. I was boat number 2 in the line-up. I was first in creek. Three days prior to the tournament the creek held ample numbers of big bass. On tournament day the creek was high and the bass had left the creek. Carp and gar fish that decided to spawn where my bass were living. I left the area and did battle in the open wind and rain. I lost two fish and weighed in zero. I was able to go across the stage and talk about domestic violence. I offered help to anyone in the audience with domestic violence problems. So I had zero fish, but the good news was a woman came to me. I succeeded in fishing steady.
After a long day of fishing, I went to a birthday celebration at the Word Famous Fish Company Restaurant at Bass Pro Shop for Cassie Hall’s dad. I wanted to share in the happiness that a dad has for his daughter who fishes. You see, my dad has always supported my fishing in every way. At the time of the tournament, I knew my dad was not going to be on this earth for much longer. He was in a semi-coma like state and wouldn’t respond to anyone or anything. I pushed my situation of sadness out by thinking on the good dinners I shared with my dad on a lake somewhere.
Day two wasn’t any kinder. The weather changed again. The clouds left and the winds stopped blowing. I decided to ride south as far as I could, away from the muddy waters. I was fishing blind because I hadn’t laid eyes on the structure I was fishing. Again, I missed the chance to land a big fish. I scared him. I left the area with intentions of coming back after the fish settled back into his habitat. A co-angler with Pro Kathy Magers caught the fish. It weighed over 6 lbs. After the tournament all I wanted to do was see my dad.
Good things happened in Texas regardless of my finish. I am an official member of the Lake Fork Trophy Lure company Pro Staff as the result of a chance stop. The bass seem to enjoy taking a bite out of one Lake Fork's Creature baits, so I respond in kind by giving them what they like for breakfast or dinner. I'm proud to be part of their Pro Staff. If you are in the Lake Fork area and smell the scent of garlic, look around until you see the LFT big bass logo and spend some time with owner Ronnie Parker an
You can’t change the weather but you can prepare for the worst. Anything is possible when you’re out there on your own. Abusers tend to isolate their intended victim. No one can leave for you. If you are in a violent relationship, “Get out, but be smarter than he ever gave you credit for being”. Make your own sweet list for leaving. The worst storms come if you announce your plans to leave. Because you are in an abusive relationship, start leaving, but start smart. Realize that you and those you love dearly are in danger. Never, ever, even hint that you plan to leave and abusive relationship.
There are many lists out there to guide you in your journey to freedom. Do your homework and scan every list you can find. One of the best lists to date is published in the book, Time’s Up, by Susan Murphy-Milano. I carry copies of the book on tour with me. Have a plan but know the weather can change from day to day. If you must leave abruptly, remember to never go back for any reason, regardless. I read a story about a woman in my hometown who went back to her home with a police escort. She left in a body bag. If you have computer access not in your home, read the stories on-line about the women who left and those who are missing. Know that your life is precious and know why you are in danger of losing the one thing you can’t buy or replace. You are irreplaceable. Once you walk out the door a whole world of possibilities are in your destiny. Love yourself enough to leave.
I know some of you think fishing can't be that tough, but it comes with daily challenges. It is easier than leaving a bad relationship. I'd rather face 1,000 new lakes than spend a day with an abusive man. I'm headed to Lake Dardanelle, Arkansas for the second LBAA event. I sure hope to perform like I know I can. All I need is 5 fifteen inch fish for two days in a row. That's all. Following the tourney Kasey and I will be fishing a benefit tourney on Lake Dardanelle. One of the tournament host is BASS Elite Kevin Short. We plan to spend a few days touring the boat factory at Legend Boats. Legend is a sponsor of the Ladies tour.
Time's Up is published as a resource for the abused who want to break free from the weather pattern of unpredictable violence. There will always be storms in our life, it’s all in the way you shelter down to prevent death. Time's Up for abuse. Life is precious.
One final note and then I'm through talking until i fish Lake Dardanelle:
My father lived a wonderful life. He had the gift of photography and he used his gift all his life. He passed away on April 12th. I miss my fishing partner. He’s is in Heaven, fishing with Jesus. I bet Jesus doesn’t talk as much as I did on the boat. Dad is enjoying the silent fish.
Karen Rae Elkins is a professional female angler and a survivor!