(Editor's note: Chris Huffine, a BASS member on the coaching staff of the NHL's Carolina Hurricanes, was an official observer at the Bassmaster American. He filed a daily blog of his experience here each day.)
posted Friday, May 18, at 10:15 p.m.
The second day of the tournament begins with Kelly Jordon. He's in 38th place with 10 pounds, 2 ounces. Today was an exciting day because it was the elimination day to make the top 12.
The weather was a little different today than Day One; much colder, cloudy and the wind changed today. What's amazing is to see how many pros can figure out the same techniques and/or patterns that work the best on the lake.
I'm a fan of Bassmaster Magazine's "Day on the Lake" format so I'd like to give a brief rundown of the past 2 days fishing:
Mike Iaconelli launched 34th spot in the 3rd flight.
6:30 AM: we pull into a pocket an Ike proceeds to "turn on some music" for the fish with his Biosonix. Five minutes later there were shad jumping and fish schooling all around us. I would not believe it if I had not seen it with my own eyes! Noteworthy: between about 6:30-8:30 AM Ike caught approx. 30 white bass and 10 largemouth too short to keep.
6:38 AM: First keeper on a lipless crankbait.
7:00 AM: Second keeper on a top water popper-style bait.
7:30 AM: Third keeper top water popper style bait.
8:30 AM: The sun came out and we moved to do sight fishing.
8:53 AM: Fourth keeper, third cast on tail weighted "french fry."
9:20 AM: Had line wrapped around the reel and broke off a "kicker" fish.
9:35 AM: Ike regrouped and moved to a new location.
9:53 AM: Fifth keeper on a tail weighted "french fry," the biggest fish of the day.
10:25 AM: Bad luck strikes again and a keeper breaks his line.
12:40 PM: Sixth keeper tail weighted "french fry", culled.
1:10 PM: Seventh keeper, sight fishing with a tail weighted "french fry", culled.
1:40 PM: Eighth keeper, deep diving crankbait, culled.
2:50 PM: Check in time.
Kelly Jordon launched in 38th spot in the 3rd flight
By the time he got to his 2 starting points there were people on them already, so we had to change his plan.
7:15 AM: Lost a big fish on a buzz bait.
8:30 AM: First keeper off of a stump on a straight tail worm.
9:30 AM: Broke a big fish off.
10:30 AM: Second keeper, sight fish on a straight-tail worm.
10:45 AM: Third keeper, sight fish on a straight tail worm
He had 2 other sight fish that he was working on, but we left the area with the plan of coming back to them however, they were gone on our return.
It was very educational fishing with Kelly today. He's got a knack for sight fishing and impressed me again and again with his ability to see the fish in the conditions we were in and make them bite. He took time to explain a lot to me and showed me several "helpful hints" on the water.
It was amazing watching these guys the past two days. They can make anything, a cast, landing a fish and holding your boat in position look much easier that it really is. I think this sport is more difficult in many ways, than most people realize. It has the mental demands of a golf game, excluding of course the ability to see your target. It has the endurance of a marathon; you're on the water in the elements all day. At times, it has the speed of NASCAR and with a little wind and boat traffic it can get quite rough out there.
At the same time, this is one of the few sports that anyone, at any age could potentially compete at its highest level. Honestly, you could not come into training camp for any NHL team at 40 years old with a dream of starting a career on the ice. The fish don't discriminate. They don't care how old or young you are, how big and strong you are, if you're male or female. They just bite, hopefully!
Although today had the added pressure being "elimination" day – only the top 12 will advance to fish on Lake Townsend - there's something to be said for all of the anglers involved in the Bassmaster American Tournament. These truly are the best the sport has to offer and it is awesome that BASS gives fans the opportunity to participate in this manner. I'm really looking forward to the next 2 days to see how the anglers fare on a lake that I grew up fishing. In my wildest dreams, I NEVER thought I'd see one of the pro's fishing for a quarter of a million dollars on a Greensboro city lake, potentially in some of the same creeks, on the same points I once fished!
I would like to say thank you for supporting BASS, to Mike Iaconelli and Kelly Jordon for your time, professionalism and instruction and to everyone, for reading my thoughts for the past few days. If you're ever in Raleigh or the Hurricanes are coming to your city, look for me during the pre-game skate behind the bench! Now, it's time for "war" and may the best man win!
posted Thursday, May 17, at 9:05 p.m.
Day one is complete. WOW! All of the initial questions that I had regarding what separate your average angler and a pro were answered today. The accuracy of the casting, the way he dissected the water, the organization of the tackle, the way he positioned his boat, the use of his Sonar/GPS and Biosonix….I really could go on and on here!
Today was really a challenge for me. It seemed so incredibly WRONG to be in the boat for 8 hours without a rod in my hand! However, this is an incredible opportunity to have no pressure on me to perform with a private tutor giving hands on lessons. I can't stress enough how much I think that any angler would find joy and benefit greatly from an experience like this. The best analogy I can come up with is this: How much would you pay to have unlimited access to Lowe's Motor Speedway the day of the race, walk up to your favorite NASCAR drivers car, drop the net and climb in the passenger seat for the entire race? That's what I did today, watching from the back of the boat, one of the best fish for a chance at $250,000.
Mike was a very nice guy and what you see on television is what he's all about. He's a very intense individual and a tough competitor. He planned out his day the night before and pretty much followed it to a "T". I felt like I was watching a TV show with the way the day played out. You always wonder how things really go, how many fish they really catch and how many things are really edited out. I saw everything going as planned he was catching fish, and then adversity struck. This is where an average angler would get frustrated and stray from their plan, but he was able to re-group, compose himself, finish out his limit, and catch 3 other fish that culled. Quite impressive!
I also must take my hat off here to Mike on another account. I know how tired I was at the end of the day (and I didn't do anything) so he had to be exhausted!But he again was amazing with his fans. Even though it was a tough day, he didn't turn down a request to sign an autograph or take a picture with a fan.
I know you're all curious, but out of respect for all of the anglers I don't want to break down every detail of the day (how/when/where/most productive time of day/etc). At this point, I must plead the 5th, but check in tomorrow for all of the juicy details. I'll be in the boat with Kelly Jordan!
posted Wednesday, May 16, at 6:05 p.m.
I just left registration this evening at the Greensboro Coliseum. It's exciting to be a part of all of this. I'm behind the scenes at major sporting events quite often, but this was impressive! Everything rolled along nicely and quickly. They were able to get 51 boaters introduced to 51 observers, cover all of the rules and regulations and then some, have a meal and have everyone out in less than 3 hours!
I'm happy to say that the pro that I'll be observing tomorrow is Mike Iaconelli. I was able to meet up with him tonight and we had time to discuss tomorrow's plan of action. It will be interesting to see what his first move will be and where he will start his day. It looks like the weather will be different from the practice days he's had, so I'm curious about what kind of adjustments will be made to take that into account. Of course, I've packed my rain gear so that will surely bring sunshine and blue bird skies, if I didn't have it we'd see torrential downpours it's Murphy's Law!
Honestly, I really hope that there will be a good turnout with fan support for the Bassmaster American tournament. Unlike most professional sports, these pros are quite accessible to the fans not only for autographs, but for questions and story telling as well.
That was never more evident than tonight at "Angler Alley". I personally was able to get several questions answered from several different pros. I spoke not only with Mike Iaconelli and Dave Wolak but also Aaron Martens, who took extra time to explain and demonstrate for me how to use heat shrink wrap inserted into a tungsten weight to prevent line frays. Now don't get me wrong, I'm sure when the morning comes and it's time for launch there won't be much story telling, just time to get down to business!
Generally this is the time I'm burning the midnight oil, going cross-eyed preparing video meetings for the morning skate. Strangely, I'm off to do something I don't often get a chance to the night before the "big game"….get some sleep! Check in tomorrow to see how the 1st day played out.
posted Tuesday, May 15, at 4:35 p.m.
Hi, my name is Chris Huffine and I was born and raised in Greensboro, N.C. I've had TWO passions throughout my life; hockey and bass fishing (which at first glance, you would not think could ever intermix; but sometimes the impossible really is possible).
Fortunately, on a daily basis I am awarded the opportunity to live one of my passions as I am currently the video coach for the NHL's Carolina Hurricanes. This position has afforded me many "once in a lifetime" experiences such as, being appointed the video coach of the 2006 U.S. Olympic Hockey Team and being able to attend the winter games in Turin, Italy.
In addition to the incredible Olympic adventure, on June 19, 2006 the Hurricanes were able to bring the first professional sports championship title The Stanley Cup to North Carolina. With this accomplishment also came the distinction of being the first North Carolina native to have his name engraved on the trophy! What an honor and reward for all the years of hard work.
It is tradition that each member of the championship team is awarded 24 hours of personal time with The Cup. On my day I fulfilled a personal dream by taking it fishing for the first time in the United States (remember at the beginning when I said sometimes the impossible really is possible, for me this was it!). But no matter what other adventures life has presented to me, my other passion has always remained true bass fishing!
There are so many reasons that fishing has been such an important part of my life beginning at age 3, fishing farm ponds with my brother. I've always appreciated the ability to build and establish flourishing relationships based on a common bond, which is unique anywhere, but when it's combined with nature it is truly incredible. I've grown up loving bass fishing and dreaming of one day having a chance to do it for a living. And any angler knows that there's nothing better than lining up for take off with steam rolling off the water at sunrise the morning of a tournament!
I have had a unique opportunity to see professional sports from an entirely different angle from behind the scenes. To watch athletes prepare for "war" on a daily basis, under extreme conditions, against the best in the world is really something.
I'm excited that this (Bassmaster American) tournament will give me a chance to be surrounded by the most elite anglers BASS has to offer, where again, I find myself behind the scenes of a professional sport, watching the anglers prepare for their own "war", against the best in the world and mother-nature herself. It gives me a chance to see first hand what separates the amateurs from the pros. I'm eager to learn how they delegate their time, prepare their tackle, and divide their water.
Although life has taken me in a different direction all too often away from the water; I still do all I can to experience the best of both worlds. Maybe someday I'll have a chance to hoist a professional fishing trophy. Until then, I'll work on another trip to Falls Lake with The Stanley Cup!