A stump wrecked Greg Vinson's outboard on Monday, just three days before the start of the Oct. 22-24 Bassmaster Southern Open on South Carolina's Santee Cooper Reservoir. Tuesday morning, he was on the highway instead of on the water scouting winning bites.
As he was towing his boat to a distant repair shop, he described what had happened on Santee.
"The water is about 2 1/2 feet low," said Vinson, a Bassmaster Elite Series pro from Wetumpka, Ala. "I thought I was in a safe area to run, but I wasn't. I found one of the umpteen-million stumps in Santee and damaged my prop and prop shaft. The good thing is that it happened in practice, and I've got a day to get things worked out."
Vinson seemed to accept the situation as just part of the game. It wasn't an easy to accept, said Vinson, considering a Bassmaster Classic berth is on the line at Santee, the Southern Open's season finale.
Only the top two in the Southern Open points standings will qualify for the 2010 Bassmaster Classic, Feb. 19-21 on Lay Lake out of Birmingham, Ala. Vinson is in second in the points standings heading into the Santee event, but his position is far from secure.
The points race is so tight, anglers will have to perform on Santee to solidify qualifying spots. Leader Terry Scroggins, Elite pro from San Mateo, Fla., has 515 points. Vinson has 509. If either stumbles at Santee, there are several pros who could easily jump ahead. Ohio's Mike White at No. 5, for example, is just 28 points behind Scroggins, and 22 in back of Vinson. Elite pro Peter Thliveros of St. Augustine, Fla., is in the No. 3 spot, just three points behind Vinson. The full standings can be found on Bassmaster.com.
Vinson, just off his rookie Elite season, would like his first Classic experience to be on Lay Lake. It's a Coosa River impoundment, just like his home water of Lake Jordan, and he has a long history on the entire lower chain.
There's another twist to Vinson's challenge this week: Lake Jordan was where half of the inaugural Bassmaster Elite Series Postseason was played out last month. That was a contest for which Vinson did not qualify, and he's determined not to miss out this year on another big tournament in his home state.
"I'm focused on a top-10 finish at Santee," he said. "Looking at who is ahead of me and behind me, a top 10 might not even be enough. My goal is to get a limit with one or two quality bites a day. Sometimes you can let the pressure eat you alive. I'll be trying to focus on catching one fish at a time."
And then there's the small matter of getting even with Santee.
"I had the bites here last year to put me in the (2009) Classic," he said. "I lost a 5-pounder and a 3-pounder last year and only weighed in three fish one day. It was the difference between a top-10 finish and about a 45th-place finish. It cost me making the Classic. I'm out for redemption now at Santee."
While others in the field will be looking to grab qualifying spots in the 2010 Bassmaster Elite Series – the top seven in the points advance – Vinson has already qualified by way of his 2009 Elite season and position in the Toyota Tundra Bassmaster Angler of the Year standings.
AND ON TO THE NEXT ONE
After sewing up a 2010 Bassmaster Classic qualification on Sunday, Pam Martin-Wells took off from Shreveport-Bossier City, La., for the season finale of the Bassmaster Southern Open on Santee Cooper Reservoir in South Carolina.
Martin-Wells earned a Classic berth by winning the points race in the 2009 Academy Sports + Outdoors Bassmaster Women's Tour. The race concluded Sunday in Louisiana at the WBT Championship, in which the pro from Bainbridge, Ga., finished in second place in addition to taking Toyota Tundra WBT Angler of the Year honors.
Martin-Wells said she and her husband, Steven Wells, arrived in South Carolina about 1:15 a.m. Tuesday. She was on the water by 8 a.m. practicing for the three-day tournament that will begin Thursday.
Did they get any sleep at all?
"Not a bunch," said Martin-Wells.
Has the reality of winning a Classic berth sunk in?
"To be honest, I haven't had time to think much about it," she said. "We have another job to do now."
"We" included her husband, who is entered in the Open's co-angler division.
When she gets to Birmingham, Ala., for the Feb. 19-21 Classic on Lay Lake, Martin-Wells will be only the second woman to be a Classic competitor. The first was Kim Bain-Moore of Alabaster, Ala, who as the 2008 AOY on the WBT circuit won a spot in the 2009 Classic.
A WELL-DESERVED THANK YOU
Two people instrumental in bringing last week's Academy Sports + Outdoors Bassmaster Women's Tour Championship to Shreveport-Bossier City, La., were thanked publicly on the WBT stage for their efforts.
Mary Ann Tice, Shreveport Regional Sports Authority executive director, and Shannon Vines, assistant director, were given awards by Bass Life Associates, an organization that works to improve fisheries in Louisiana, Texas and Arkansas.
The awards recognized the work of Tice and Vines in bringing to the area the WBT event as well as the 2009 Bassmaster Classic last February.
A WINNING VOICE
Air Force Staff Sgt. Chonté Walker is becoming a regular at BASS tournaments, but she's a singer, not a pro angler.
Walker sang the national anthem each day of the Oct. 16-18 Academy Sports + Outdoors Bassmaster Women's Tour Championship in Shreveport-Bossier City. A native of St. Joseph, Mo., who is stationed at nearby Barksdale Air Force Base, Walker also performed the anthem at the 2009 Bassmaster Classic when it came to town.
"This has been the most challenging tournament different, but awesome. It's how we learn to be better anglers." Laura Gober of Pendergrass, Ga., who fell three spots short of her bid to be the 2009 Toyota Tundra Bassmaster Women's Tour Angler of the Year
"It was my goal to win this championship. I was truly blessed this week." Judy Wong of Many, La., as she took the 2009 Academy Sports + Outdoors Bassmaster Women's Tour Championship on Oct. 18, a victory to add to her 2007 championship win, and third place in the AOY contest
STRONG START, BIG FINISH
"This has been an awesome year from the very beginning." Pam Martin-Wells of Bainbridge, Ga., who started the season with a win, then went on to claim the 2009 Toyota Tundra Bassmaster Women's Tour Angler of the Year award and a 2010 Bassmaster Classic berth