Gleason’s Don’t Want the Party to End

I was leaving the Shelby Street boat launch at the conclusion of take off for day one of the final FLW Tackle Warehouse Pro Circuit event of the year when I saw Randi Gleason pulling out of the parking lot.

Randi’s husband is Darold Gleason. An FLW Pro Circuit rookie and one of several anglers who came to Lake Erie on the bubble to make the Tackle Warehouse TITLE presented by Toyota. Anglers have to finish in the top 50 in points to qualify.

I’m not sure she’d admit it, but I’m fairly certain Randi was already checking FLW’s Live Leaderboard when I saw her… ten minutes after boats had launched. The Gleason’s pull no punches when it comes to their steadfast support of one another or their enthusiasm for competitive fishing.

“Say a prayer for five nice ones if you would,” Randi said emphatically. “He’s gotta catch them today so we can keep this thing going… we don’t want the party to end!”    

The party Randi refers to is traveling around the country together for Darold’s professional fishing career. A full time pro bass fishing gig is something both Gleasons’ have dreamt of for years.

Darold has been a part of the fishing industry for over a decade. As a legendary guide on Toledo Bend Reservoir, as a field staff staple for Toyota Bonus Bucks, Carhartt, and Yamaha Power Pay, as a talented regional competitor, and as one of the good dudes of the sport.

So when Gleason qualified for the FLW Pro Circuit at the end of 2019, they knew what they were getting into. And they were all in.

Their 2020 season began on a high note, with great finishes at Sam Rayburn and the Harris Chain. Randi and their pup “Rowdy” enthusiastically traveled with Darold, making up team Gleason and it seemed their dream season was off to the races… until 2020 decided to throw a wrench in everyone’s plans.

The struggles began with a less-than-desired performance at Lake Martin for Gleason, who credited bad decision making en route to a triple digit finish. Followed by a global pandemic essentially shutting the world down and redefining the Gleason’s “new-normal”, as Randi is a Cystic Fibrosis patient.

Cystic Fibrosis is the most common fatal genetic disease in the United States, and puts patients at far greater risk when it comes to the effects of COVID-19. The Gleason’s love for each other is so strong they couldn’t fathom finishing the 2020 season without being attached at the hip to one another.

So days before the Lake Chickamauga event, they bought themselves a 5th wheel trailer so Randi could travel to and from FLW tournaments safely and comfortably. Darold, a long-time Toyota Bonus Bucks participant, tows his Phoenix boat with the Tundra and Randi tows the 5th wheel with her brother’s borrowed truck.

Both Darold and Randi have hearts and personalities big enough to fill Lake Erie; throw their dog Rowdy in the mix and you start to understand “the party” theme Randi referred to.

After another substandard finish at Lake Chickamauga, and shooting par on the Mississippi River, Gleason came into this event in 53rd place in the points race. And he’s certainly feeling the pressure to qualify for the Tackle Warehouse TITLE on Sturgeon Bay later this month.

“I’ve got my work cut out for me but that’s indicative of my entire career,” Gleason said before day one. “I’m sure most of my peers feel the same way, but it never comes easy for me. I feel like I always have to out work my competition. Either way, I’m grateful to have a chance to qualify this week. I’m feeling the pressure for sure, but I guess I’m prepared for it in a way.”

That pressure was only compounded by the fact this Louisiana born angler had never seen any of the Great Lakes, let alone fished them. To make matters worse he heard the whispers and dock talk of anglers saying they needed to make a 100-mile run to Lake St. Clair if they wanted to excel in this tournament.

“My poor brain was spinning in circles every night after practice,” Gleason joked. “Four days of practice sounds like a lot but it doesn’t feel that way when trying to break down a Great Lake. I decided to maximize my fishing time and not make any long runs.”

Gleason’s decision proved fruitful as he currently sits in 25th place after weighing 16+ pounds of Lake Erie smallmouth on day one. Randi’s supportive prayers came true and their dreams live to fight another day.

If Darold can back up his day one efforts today and tomorrow the Gleason’s might have to fire up some Robert Earl Keen at the Sandusky campground, cause this party ain’t over yet!

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