By LARRY VAUGHT
Since they were 10 years old friends Doug Coulter, age 57, and Todd Wilson, age 56, of Boyle County have been fishing together — “We cut our teeth fishing on Clark’s Run,” Coulter said — but it wasn’t until last weekend that they won their first national championship, and a boat to go along with it.
The two friends won the Fishers of Men national championship in Leesburg, Fla., on the Harris Chain of Lakes. The tourney started with 147 teams from 24 states ranging from Texas to Maine and the top 29 advanced to the final round on Saturday.
“We were in second place after two full days,” said Coulter. “Todd and I have participated in this circuit for 23 years. We have participated in 11 national championships.”
Yet they had never won the event until this year. Just getting to the final is not easy as they fish events at Dale Hollow, Laurel Lake, Cumberland, Green River and Barren River in Kentucky to earn enough points to advance to the Berkley Team Series National Championship.
The duo usually compete in 10 to 15 tournaments per year but have always been big believers in this series.
“It’s one of the best team series around. In 23 years there has never been a repeat champion,” Coulter said. “We have fished in Texas, Alabama, Kentucky, South Carolina , Florida , Tennessee, Louisiana, and Georgia . It relocates every year for logistics reasons.”
The win did not come easily. Coulter said the final day was an “epic mental battle” because the fish did not bite like they had the first two days.
“We only had six bites all day,” he said.
They decided about 90 minutes before they had to be back at the dock — a 45-minute journey — to change locations.
“We stopped on a spot we had lost a big one in practice and someone was watching over us as we got the 3.5-pound bite we needed,” Coulter said. “We have been so close on four different occasions and laid an egg on Day 3.”
Coulter noted that “perseverance and believing” rewarded the two just when it looked like the championship might slip away.
This event is different from others because the night before the tourney begins a chaplain delivers a message to the fishermen.
Coulter and Wilson both heard from many friends not long after their national championship win. Coulter said it was “very overwhelming” to hear from so many people.
“We both have received texts from numbers we do not have as contacts. We don’t have the words to describe it. We’ve been so close four times in the past. Makes this one even better,” Coulter said.
A tournament official brought the boat they won back to Portland, Tenn., and Coulter and his father, Ernie, went to get it and bring it back to Danville Monday.
“We’ve never won a boat. We have won several regular season events over the years but never a boat,” Coulter said. “We will sell the boat.”
Coulter did get one surprise when he returned to Kentucky after eight days in Florida where there was “no panic” about the coronavirus.
“People were going about their daily routine. It was like it was an unknown there,” Coulter said. “We stayed in a retirement village all week and it was a non-issue to them even though everybody there was probably over 75. Nobody said anything about it.
“We had a meeting with over 400 people there the night before the tournament started and nobody talked about it. Nobody. Shopping centers, restaurants were full. Stores didn’t have empty shelves. It was like a different world when we got back home.”