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From Front Line to Fishing Line

After serving in the US Army Special Forces, Troy O’Rourke has a new mission: gathering intelligence and deploying equipment to capture bass.  His Capri truck camper serves as transport and base.

Bass fisherman, Troy O'Rourke

If the experience of fishing was judged solely on the quantity and quality of fish caught, many fishermen would probably give up the sport.  Thankfully, fishing offers many wonderful life affirming moments that have nothing to do with the fish themselves.  Being near or on the water and sharing time with family and friends define the pastime as much as anything related to a rod and reel.  Of course, catching a big one doesn’t hurt.

In Troy O’Rourke, we meet a US military veteran who has found a new career path from something he deeply enjoyed prior to deployment; fishing.  Now a professional bass fisherman, Troy travels the country in a Capri truck camper over 150 nights a year competing in fishing tournaments.  Once on site, he puts his 21-foot Legend bass boat in the water and gets to work.

Troy’s mission has changed, but his focus and determination have not.  Look out bass.

Capri Camper and Troy O'Rourke

Above: Troy O’Rourke and his 2016 Capri Retreat

TCM: How did you first get into truck camping?

Troy: I’ve always enjoyed being in the outdoors and did a lot of tent camping as a kid.  When I got older, I purchased a tandem axle travel trailer and used it while competing in fishing tournaments.  For the tournaments, I had to either tandem tow with a bass boat or make separate trips for the bass boat and travel trailer.  That made things difficult.

As I progressed in competitively fishing bass tournaments all over the United States, I needed a camping system that was compact, safe, and light weight.  I also needed an affordable rig that would easily tow my bass boat and allow me to be comfortable for more than 150 nights of camping per year.  These requirements focused my choices to a truck camper.

I looked at every brand within a 200 mile radius.  During that search, I went to the Capri factory and met Pete D’Acosta, Owner of Capri Campers.

Capri is a small company, so they were able to customize a camper for me as a fisherman.  They built exactly what I needed.  I was even able to match the colors with my boat and truck.  It was extremely important to me that my entire rig was eye catching and really represents who I am as a professional bass angler and my previous career as a US Army Special Forces (Green Beret) soldier.

Capri Camper and Legend Boat

TCM: Thank you for your service to our country.  How does your service in the US Army influence your efforts as a professional bass fisherman?

Troy: My military career really shaped who I am in my everyday life.  It was a unique opportunity to transition from carrying everything I need for combat on me in a backpack and carrying everything I need for a bass tournament in my new kind of backpack, my ultimate fishing rig.

I like my equipment to match, look clean, and, most of all, be dependable.  From my generator on the front of my truck to the Mercury outboard on the tail end of my boat, I’m compact and can move from tournament to tournament the same as I did with my gear from mission to mission during combat.  Everything is functional and serves an important purpose to help win.

Short Bed Capri Retreat Model

Above: Troy’s Capri Retreat, a short bed model with a shower

TCM: With that kind of focus the fish and fellow fisherman had better look out.  Which Capri model did you get?

Troy: I ended up getting the Retreat short bed.  They were able to fit in a good-sized shower stall, a flat screen television, and a refrigerator.  I needed USB slots near the bed to do my mapping on my iPad.  It worked out really well.  I have everything I need to be able to do my homework before I go out on the lake.

Best of all, I only lost 1.9 mpg with the truck camper.  The Capri is very aerodynamic and light.  With that little change in fuel economy, I’m extremely pleased.

TCM: Have you made any modifications to your truck and camper since taking ownership of the Capri?

Troy: I added a Torklift StableLoad system, which helps.  I have no sagging, even with the boat attached, and absolutely no rocking left or right or front to back with the system.  It’s simple and easy to use, especially since Capris are very light compared to a lot of truck campers now a days.

Sponsors on fishing rod tube

Above: The large tube on the roof is for fishing pole storage

TCM: What is the PVC pipe on your roof for?

Troy: We used a roof rack system that Capri reinforced for roof top accessories.  On to that system we installed a customized 8-inch fishing rod tube system that’s lockable.  It’s easy to get up on the roof and store the rods that I don’t need.

The rod tube was something I designed and built.  I had it wrapped with sponsor logos and handed it off to Capri to mount on the camper’s roof.  Being able to add that fishing rod tube is just a perk of being able to work with the company directly.

Troy O'Rourke fishing with his kids

Above: Troy fishing with his two boys, just like his dad did with him

TCM: How did you get into fishing?

Troy: I started fishing with my Dad when I was five or six years old.  We lived in southern Louisiana, so fishing has always been a part of my life.

After high school, I joined the military, and fishing became secondary.  When I had time, I competed locally in small tournaments.

After the military, I started gradually stepping it up.  I competed in smaller tournaments and did well.  First I was a co-angler with other people in their boats.  Eventually I realized I could compete effectively.

Now, I fish full-time.  I follow tournaments and fish against professional anglers.  I fish strictly in bass tournaments.  I’m a regional professional in the southern states and I’m working my way up to the national level.  Competing at bass circuits is time consuming.  It takes time to invest and get good companies to sponsor you.

Bass-Fisherman-fish

TCM: Tell us about the tournament lifestyle.

Troy: A lot of the bigger tournaments have a cut-off date.  A couple weeks or a month before, you are not allowed to go on that lake and fish.  You also can’t talk to people about where or how they are catching them.

The Sunday before the tournament starts, the lake opens to you and is no longer off limits.  We have official practice on Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday.  Wednesday is an off day with tournament meetings.  We also clean up and prepare our equipment. Thursday, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday is the tournament.

Truck camper backing down boat launch

Above: Troy backs down the ramp, with his Capri camper, to launch his boat

That was another thing I liked about the Capri.  There are a large number of guys who have truck campers.  They need an extra day to get their camper off their truck.  Then, after the tournament, they put it back on.  With Capri being a lighter camper and easy to use, I just leave it on the truck throughout the tournament.  I unplug, unhook the water, and go to the boat ramp.  There is no tear down or set up.  I like that.

Usually we stay at the closest campground to the tournament, which is a couple of miles from the tournament.  Bass fishermen will come in, in waves.  We will fill up an entire campground, so it is full of truck campers and RVs.  Everyone on the circuit hangs out afterwards and talks.  It’s like a big family.  We’ll even share notes on the lake.

With the camper, it makes it so much easier to have everything right there.  In the beginning I rented hotel rooms, and had to constantly check the boat and truck to make sure that no one was getting into anything.  I know guys staying in hotels who have stuff that is stolen from their trucks or boats.  I open the back door and look at my boat.  It’s less stressful.

Bass-Fishermen Troy O'Rourke fish-caught

TCM: How many tournaments do you participate in every year?

Troy: At this time, I go to 20 to 30 tournaments a year.  I try to add one more division to my schedule, adding 5 to 6 more tournaments every year.

I fish tournaments from Texas over to Potomac River in DC/Maryland.  One of the last tournaments this year is in upstate New York.  I have never gone further west than Colorado for bass fishing.

Deck step and Orion Cooler

Above: Custom hitch with step and Orion cooler

TCM: Tell us about your hitch set-up.

Troy: As soon as I step out of the truck camper I have a custom hitch that was designed to be a step into the camper on one side and an open tray system on the other.

I use my hitch to carry an Orion 45 cooler.  It’s really accessible to step out and grab cold drinks and have overflow for my refrigerator.  I don’t have to worry about buying ice every day.  It simply keeps ice and is one of the top rated coolers in the world.  It goes back to my comment about everything I have serving an important role.

Bass-Fisherman-Camper-Boat

Above: Troy’s 21-foot long Legend bass boat is towed behind his truck camper rig

TCM: What brand of bass boat do you use?

Troy: I fish out of a Legend bass boat that’s 21-feet long.  It is made in Arkansas.  I met the owner a few years back.  It’s also a smaller company so I was able to customize.    Just like Capri, Legend is not your typical cookie cutter boat factory.  That has worked out well for me.

Legend Bass Boat custom made

On the boat I have a GPS, trolling motors, colored LED lights, and shallow water anchor systems.  The boat is my Operations Center where I spend countless hours preparing for a battle with bass.  Bass can be the most elusive creatures I’ve ever tried to track down and capture.  Some days I can collect enough intelligence on them to find their hiding spots.  On other days they are on top of their game and I have to keep looking.

So my Operations Center (boat) requires equipment to really help with the overall purpose of catching fish.  From the electronics to the hydraulic Power-Poles anchor systems to keep the boat positioned in the wind, every component serves a purpose.

TCM: You talk about needing intelligence on these fish.  Where have you found the best bass fishing to be?  We have a lot of readers who love to go fishing while traveling with their truck campers.

Troy: Six years ago I moved to a town I had never been to before, near Toledo Bend.  It is on the border of Texas and Louisiana.  There are two reservoirs here; Toledo Bend Lake and Sam Rayburn Lake.

Toledo Bend is rated number one for bass fishing in the United States.  That’s one reason why we have stayed.  I am one cast away from a double digit bass of a lifetime.

Tournament fishing Troy O'Rourke

Above: Troy with one of his bass catches

TCM: Do you only fish for bass?

Troy: For the most part, I strictly bass fish.  The biggest bass I’ve caught was 9-pounds.  I have yet to catch a double digit bass.

Now bass fishing has become my job, so I am always in preparation for tournaments.  Opportunities to just go out, relax, and go fishing, get slimmer and slimmer the higher I take my fishing level.

If I’m practicing on a lake, I get there a couple days early.  When I practice, I don’t hook them.  They will come back during the tournament.  I can tell the size on the way that they bite.

TCM: You don’t actually catch the fish during practice?

Troy: Bass are one of the most aggressive of the game fish.  They will hold onto a lure without a hook.  I have a piece plastic over the wire, where it can’t hook them.  I can feel them bite, and I reel them in slowly and I do not yank them.

I get them to the surface so that I can see how big they are.  I make notes during practice of where the fish are and how big they are.

Two days later when I’m competing, I’ll come in and catch the same fish.  Bass are smart.  If you hook them, the next time you come by, they will not eat the bait.

Bass Fisherman, Troy O'Rourke

TCM: Are you sure you want to give away your tournament secrets?

Troy: If more people knew that, that knowledge would put less pressure on the smaller lakes.  Once a fish is hooked, it probably won’t be eating a bass bait in the near future.

We need the people who practice not to hook.  Then the fish wouldn’t become as wise.  On a lot of smaller lakes, there are a ton of bass fishermen who just hook them.  The fish wise up.

TCM: What tips do you have for our passionate fishermen readers?

Troy: Do your research ahead of time, especially on the bigger lakes.  Also, call the local bait shops and ask them.  The Toledo Bend guides will share their knowledge of where to catch the best fish.  I have learned it’s important to use a bait or lure you believe in.  You can catch fish everywhere with your confidence bait.

TCM: Do you go dry camping with your truck camper?

Troy: I dry camp often, especially if I’m going to a tournament that’s a good distance away.  I will pull into a Walmart or Cracker Barrel for a night to get some sleep.  If I’m fun fishing in extreme heat, I’ll tie the boat up at the launch ramp and relax, watch television, and enjoy the air conditioning until it cools down.

And then there’s the big bad storm that hits at least one of the tournaments a year where the campground loses power.  I just crank the generator and use everything as if I had full hookups.  In this job, if we can’t charge our boat batteries, we are in a bind.  Being ready for the unexpected is a huge aspect for me.

Bass-Fishermen-boys

TCM: Does anyone travel with you?

Troy: I typically travel alone to the tournaments, but my kids love to spend the night in the Capri in my driveway.  I have nine and seven year old boys who refer to the Capri as their tree house.  They love it, especially because I keep a Dish Tailgater in my camper so the television gets all the same channels I get at home.  We have 300+ television channels in the Capri.  I feel a little spoiled with it sometimes.

Bass-Fishermen-boys

This year I think I’ll let them each have a friend sleep over so they can know how important a Man Cave is at a young age (laughs).

TCM: Other than fishing, what do you enjoy doing while truck camping?

Troy: Between tournaments I try to visit a VFW (Veterans of Foreign Wars) or an America Legion at every place I stop for a bass tournament.  I enjoy visiting with Veterans from every war and just telling and hearing stories with them means a lot to me.

As we age, we often revisit our combat days internally and most just feel comfortable talking about their experiences with other Veterans no matter which war they were a part of.  It’s a good feeling talking with Veterans and every Veteran should be proud of their service.  The United States of America is the greatest place on earth!

TCM: Where have you been with your truck camper that you would recommend to other truck campers?

Troy: I recommend traveling the roads less traveled.  I enjoy getting off the interstates and seeing what’s out there.  I can guarantee you will meet some of the most interesting people America has to offer off the well beaten paths.  There are good people and pieces of American history on the sides of the roads that still show the old days.

I love driving through Oklahoma and Arkansas.  When I drive there, I spot a good number of classic cars that are running the roads.  These aren’t show cars, just simple people who enjoy the simpler ways of life.

Bass-Fishermen-family

TCM: What are your truck camping plans for the future?

Troy: I have a very big fishing schedule this year, from Texas to upstate New York.  I’m really excited to travel New York in the Capri.  It’s a part of the country I haven’t been to yet.

I just love my truck camper!  It’s the best way to travel and possibly the safest for tournament anglers.  I hear too many horror stories about fishing equipment getting ripped off every tournament from the guys staying in hotels.  I’d like to really express how affordable Capri campers are and give a thanks to my sponsors.  Check out my Facebook page for more information.

Truck: 2015 GMC Sierra, Crew Cab, 4×4, Diesel, Single Rear Wheel, Short Bed
Camper: 2016 Capri Retreat Short Bed
Tie-Downs: Capri System
Suspension: Torklift Stable Loads
Gear: Capri Porch hitch, Honda 3000i generator, Thule Rack System, Custom Fishing Rod tube, Orion Cooler system
Boat: Legend 211R, Mercury Pro XS 250 outboard, Power-Pole Blades twin 10’ anchor systems

 

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