LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — University of Iowa anglers Tyler Mehrl and John Haynes came to the 2007 Under Armor College Bass National Championship looking like a well-oiled machine. Despite all the odds against the Hawkeye team, the anglers found themselves on Saturday's final day with a chance for the title. They brought the latest in tackle, more than enough rods and reels and sported matching Hawkeye fishing jerseys. But the problem was they didn't have a boat in which to put the oil.
"We asked all the guys in our club if we could use their boat," Haynes said. "But they were all maybes."
The anglers drove to Little Rock, anyway. After they arrived, the desperate search for a loaner boat began. Practice days turned into "let's find a boat days," Mehrl said.
The team soon found success.
"So we met this guy named Vince who owns a local bait and tackle shop and he let us borrow his boat," said Mehrl, referring to Vince Miller and the tackle shop is "Fish 'N Stuff" in North Little Rock.
Before launch on the final day, the anglers pulled an extension cord so the batteries on both their trolling and main engine would charge. Mehrl and Haynes realized that they needed to switch the main engine's battery with the trolling motor's battery after learning of some wiring by the boat's owner.
Also, the boat contained a livewell, but no aerator. And throughout the long days on the water, the anglers were forced to improvise once they landed a keeper to avoid a losing fish-weight on penalties.
"We were the manual aerator," Mehrl said. "John and I took turns pouring in new water and pouring out the old stuff."
The University of Iowa team will return to the same backwaters off the main Arkansas River channel on Saturday in an attempt to pull out the win.
"We're supposed to just drop the boat off at Vince's house after the tournament," Haynes said. "I think he's an official in some other tournament."
The Long Night
Many anglers fishing in Saturday's top five tried to get a good night's sleep for the final day of action. Some did, but others had a tough time trying to catch some Zs.
For the Virginia Tech side, the results were split.
"I couldn't sleep at all last night," said Hokie angler Brett Thompson. "And I had nightmares of what could go wrong when I did."
Scott Wiley had no trouble falling asleep in fact he "slept like a baby," he said. But around 2:00 a.m. his cell phone began to blow up from friends back in Blacksburg.
"You know last night was Friday night, so everybody back home was out and about," he said.
The University of Oklahoma team shared some of Virginia Tech's anxiety. The Sooners, however, were able to rest well enough to be among the first at the launch-site on Saturday morning.
"We picked up some more baits and went to bed," Sooner angler Matt Pangrac said.
Pangrac also commented about how surprised he was of toll the tournament's long days on the water took on all aspects of his body.
"Physically, I knew what to expect," Pangrac said, "but the mental part was draining as well."
"We were so tired last night we didn't even have the TV on," said Pangrac's partner Chip Porche'. "We re-tied, re-lined and went to sleep."
The 2007 event will be televised on ESPNU on Nov. 1 at 2 p.m. ET and Nov. 4 at 11 a.m. ET; and on ESPN2 on Nov. 2 at 5 a.m. ET. Weigh-ins will also be streamed live daily to ESPNoutdoors.com.