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First Fish Wonder
By: Derrick Schmidt

Double bacon cheeseburger, french fries and a side of ranch dressing. That’s what I ordered that evening at this specific hometown diner called “The Lumberyard”. I was a Junior in high school at the time, fresh off the completion of another basketball season. I had recently started working at AMS Bowfishing, which was located right in my hometown of Stratford, WI. A program through school allowed me to work during 7th and 8th hour at AMS, and still be able to accrue credits for college while doing so. My childhood was consumed with hunting and fishing so I knew bowfishing was something I had to try! I had been working at AMS for a couple months at this point, gluing nocks on arrows, barbing points, building reels etc.…and I was very intrigued by the entire process, but I had still yet to shoot a fish myself. The waitress brought my food, and just as I was about to indulge in a bite of bacon goodness, my phone vibrated. The text read, “The smell of bowfishing is in the air. Want to shoot with me tonight?”.

Mathew Schillinger had been working at AMS for many years by the time I started. Matt was almost never around in the Spring and Summer time. He was always out filming for our DVD’s, shooting a tournament, or going on photoshoots for our yearly catalog. In essence, Matt was ALWAYS on the water. In all honesty, he was almost a mythical creature during those first couple years I worked there. Always on the road, always shooting big fish, and always doing an amazing job representing the company. He was the one who texted me asking if I wanted to go shoot fish with him that night. I remember dropping my burger in excitement, asking the waitress for a to-go box, and immediately driving home.

I met Matt at his house, which was about 10 minutes from mine. That night’s bowfishing adventure included Matt, myself and Tim, the lead design engineer at AMS. Tim could usually be found with his head buried in a machine; programming them to produce masterful precision cuts on many of the AMS core products.  If something needed to be repaired or improved, Tim was the guy you went to. Upon arrival, I remember marveling at the company boat that was parked in Matt’s yard. A big flat deck on the front with lights mounted all around it, paired with a massive, elevated filming platform. The boat was wrapped in an extraordinary green AMS boat wrap. On the hour or so drive down to the lake, I remember trying my best to be a sponge, and soak in all the bowfishing information that Matt and Tim would spew out effortlessly. I recall thinking to myself that these two could write a book on the sport of bowfishing. At some point during the drive, Matt told me I needed to put on a blind fold as we were getting closer to the spot we were going to shoot, so I couldn’t remember how to get there in the future, or tell anyone about the spot. Although he was joking, there was a second or two where I thought he was dead serious. We arrived at the boat launch just as the sun was setting behind the treetops. A pinkish orange hue covered the sky, and as everyone else was coming off the water to go home, our night was just beginning.      

We loaded up the boat with bows, arrows, and my nervous excitement. We took off across the lake, cutting across the glass calm water like it wasn’t even there. As we neared the first spot where we would shoot, we started the generators, turned on the lights, and lit up the surrounding water. Matt gave me a brief walk through on how to efficiently operate the AMS gear we were using. We were all ready to start slinging some fiberglass. We turned off the big outboard motor, and Matt deployed the 112 lb. thrust Minn Kota® trolling motor, and we were almost immediately covered in fish, common carp mostly. The quick pace of the sport caught me off guard. No time to slowly draw, find your anchor point, and slowly release like I was used to in the target archery world. This was fast and furious. Matt and Tim started shooting fish left and right, retrieving them right into the boat with ease.  With every missed shot, I would get more and more frustrated. At one point, I think Matt and Tim had close to 15 fish in the boat to my zero. We went around a bend, and from underneath the boat swam a common carp, sitting broadside in the water to me. I drew back, took just enough time to aim, and released. I saw the arrow hit the fish and the arrow began to dance along the surface of the water. Finally, SUCCESS! The overwhelming feeling of excitement and adrenaline was something I had only experienced a handful of times before in my life. I retrieved the fish into the boat and Matt snapped a couple pictures, and I don’t think anyone has had a bigger smile while holding a 12 lb. common carp than I did that night.

I have since travelled all over the U.S. with Matt, and shot fish much bigger and more impressive than the common carp I shot that night. But through all my journeys, no memory tops my first fish wonder.