Poling for dollars
One of the traits of the Bassmaster Classic is its effect on the lure buying habits of the bass fishing public. Millions of lures have been sold to avid fans that saw an angler catch fish on a particular bait. Poes 300 and 400 crankbaits, Fat Free Shad crankbaits, last year's retro Rogue 1200, are all examples of lures that have sparked the fishing public's interest and generated a great deal of sales for their respective manufacturers.
The 2006 Classic will be no exception; there will be something that sparks the interest of those that follow the sport. However, it may not be a lure that generates that interest as much as an item used for boat propulsion: the push pole.
Local favorite, Preston Clark, jumped to second place after the first day with a monstrous sack caught by sight fishing in Lake Toho. Clark credits much of his success to the use of the fiberglass pole to propel himself quietly through the shallow waters in search of bedding bass.
While many of his competitors chew through the shallow grass sending waves of sound through the water, Clark silently glides along with the trolling motor in the stowed position looking for bass around their beds. This silent approach allows Clark to slip up on bedding fish that others easily miss.
Clark also turns off the electronics during his shallow water hunting and is extremely careful to move slowly and quietly in the boat.
When he locates a fish, he quietly lays the pole aside and lowers an anchor to hold himself in position. Many times after anchoring, he will drop to his knees to lower his profile while casting to the prospective target.
Clark readily admits that this technique is necessary in Florida due to the number of boats that Florida bass have moving over their heads on a daily basis. Why will this technique not work in any shallow body of water across the country where anglers employ sight fishing during the spawn to locate and catch bass?
"A half a million dollars. I'd sit at home and stare at the wall for a week before I even decided what to do with the money."
Dave Wolak on Saturday morning, pondering the Classic's first-prize purse
Scott Rook needed only a 9 pound, 5 ounce bag Saturday to advance to the final day of the Classic. But he said he wouldn't have gotten that far had he not gotten a bite just after eating the cookie in his sack lunch.
When the cookie was gone, the drought returned. Until he made the strategic move to eat a second cookie.
"Go ask my partner," Rook said. "All I could think about was that cookie. I went an hour without a bite. I ate that other cookie and within five minutes, I caught another. He said, 'Man, you'd be on if you had a bag full of them suckers.'"
Hands of Stone
Marty Stone called it one of his best-ever fish stories when he weighed in on the first day of the Classic. Among the five fish in his 16 pound, 10 ounce bag was a fish for which he literally had to go to the deck. With the 6- or 7-pound fish on his line and the wind blowing his boat, Stone had drifted square over the fish.
He realized he was holding his rod too straight, and it was bowing. So he dropped to his belly and grabbed the line ("the kiss of death," Stone said). He was nearly shoulder-deep in the lake when the line snapped. Stone lunged and managed to get a couple of fingers into the lunker's mouth.
Asked on the morning of the second day what he was going to do for an encore to catching a fish bare-handed, Stone declared:
"Catch two fish barehanded."
Tough Act To Follow
Stacey King might have had the toughest draw in terms of weigh-in appearances. Yesterday King followed the most anticipated angler in the field, Mike Iaconelli, who had been embroiled in controversy for throwing a tantrum on the water that ultimately got his Day 1 weight disqualified.
Today King followed Terry "Big Show" Scroggins who weighed in 28 pounds 6 ounces, which included a 9 pound 5 ounce giant. King was congenial and upbeat on both days despite the following two of the biggest stories of the week.
Evers Optimistic Despite Underwhelming Day 2
Edwin Evers thinks he still has a chance to win the 2006 CITGO Bassmaster Classic. "I can still win it…without a doubt!" exclaimed Evers after following his day one weight of 23 pounds 10 ounces with an solid 11 pounds 9 ounces.
The 35 pounds 3 ounce two-day total has Evers in 7th place headed into Classic Day 3.
"I dumped the first few fish I hooked with shoulders," said Evers. "It makes me mad. It's a war and today I lost the battle."
It may not be hard to figure out why the fish won on day two as Evers is fishing in some of the heaviest grass on the Kissimmee chain. The ratio of fish hooked to fish landed in such cover will keep Evers in precarious conditions as he searches for big bites and his first Classic title.
Luck Bursts Stone Bubble
According to North Carolina angler Marty Stone the difference between Day 1 and Day 2 at this year's Classic has nothing to do with skill. "The difference between yesterday and today is luck," quipped Stone as he addressed the media after Saturday's weigh-in. Yesterday I had a 5 fish limit for 12 pounds, but one of those fish was a 7 pounder. Today I didn't catch the 7 pounder so I end up with 8 pounds." Just a smidge more luck would have been big for Stone. He finished 26th, missing the 25-man cut by a pound and a half.
Fourth time is a charm
Though Greg Hackney is the first to admit he hasn't fared well at the Classic. And after failing to make the cut in his first three Classics, he almost lost out on his shot this year. Hackney finished the second day of fishing with a total of 26 pounds, 3 ounces -- a weight that put him in a three-way tie for 23rd place with Ish Monroe and Tommy Biffle. Hackney seemed like a virtual lock to make the cut after finishing the first day of action in 11th place. But brisk south winds on Saturday stirred his targeted spot on Lake Hatchineha and kept Hackney waiting unitl the final minutes of the weigh in to learn of his fate.
So much for sticking your chest out
Andre Moore finished the Classic in 27th place, just 1 pound, 14 ounces from fishing the final day of the event.
When you are in the position it's easy to see several places during the day where you could or should have made up the difference.
In Moore's case, he felt it.
"I was fishing along in a heavy mat and had a good bite,'' Moore said. "I stuck the hook, the fish took off, got tangled up and I just ripped him.
"He came launching out of the water, a 2-pounder and hit me square in the chest."
That would have been a great way to boat the fish, but as soon as the fish hit the hook popped out and bounced straight back into the lake.
"It doesn't feel to bad,'' Moore said of the finish, not the retaliation by the fish. "The way I see it, I made the most money for the least amount of fishing."