LITTLE ROCK, Ark. Scott Rook fully realizes how lucky he was to have one fishing hole all to himself during the first two days of the Bassmaster Legends presented by Goodyear. In fact, under any other circumstances, Rook would have thought something was wrong if he'd been fishing without any other boats around him.
"When I first started fishing BASS, you could find a place and have it to yourself," Rook said. "Now days, if you find fish, somebody else is going to find them, too, if not two or three people."
That's exactly why Mike McClelland had plenty of company in Casebar Creek off the Arkansas River on Thursday and Friday. Three of the other top-12 qualifiers in the semifinals Saturday spent most of their time the first two days in the same creek, including first-day leader Brian Snowden and second-day leader Gerald Swindle.
"It's been that way the last two events," said McClelland, who is from Bella Vista, Ark. "Jeff Kriet and I have been putting our heads together during practice this year. On the Potomac River (two weeks ago) when we went up Nanjemoy Creek the second day of practice, we were the only two boats in there. We thought we'd found gold."
But when the Citgo Bassmaster Capitol Clash Tournament started, McClelland and Kreit quickly realized that several other pros had found that gold, too. After the second day of the tournament, five of the top 10 leaders in that event were fishing in Nanjemoy Creek, and that didn't include Kriet.
"Then we did the same thing here the third day of practice," McClelland said. "We were the only two boats anywhere around (Casebar Creek) that third day.
"We thought, can it really be? We both told ourselves, no, there's going to be three or four other boats in here when the tournament starts. We knew we couldn't be the only people who found it."
And they were right. But it wasn't always that way on the pro fishing circuit. McClelland's game plan used to always include a long run to a fishing hotspot that no one else was likely to find. That simply isn't possible anymore.
"When you put this much money at stake with the quality of anglers in these things today, they are going to explore every nook and cranny there is to explore," said McClelland. "I don't think you can count on being by yourself anymore.
"Every now and then you can get lucky and find an area where there aren't a lot of boats. But every event I've fished this year, even the ones I've done well in, there's been boats fishing in the areas I've caught them.
"It gets to be a deal where you have to use your skills to do different things in those areas to catch fish that, hopefully, other guys are missing."
Rook was able to fish alone Thursday and Friday because of his familiarity with the Arkansas River near his hometown of Little Rock. He went 30 minutes up Little Maumelle Creek to a "neighborhood lake" near where he lives. Rook noticed that it wasn't marked with GPS coordinates on any of the maps available to the other pros in the event. He said that's probably what helped keep him isolated Thursday and Friday.
But he wasn't counting on that. Rook found out that fellow pro Alton Jones had flown over the Little Maumelle Creek area last Sunday, but Jones didn't notice the small lake created at the end of the creek in the housing edition where Rook lives.
"Anymore, I'm amazed when I go to a tournament and find something and go there on the first day and nobody's there," Rook said. "Now, if I pull in there and nobody else is there, I think, oh, no, there's not that many fish here.
"These guys are that good."