Winning on day one
On the first day of the Classic, angler after angler carried massive fish onto the stage at the Orange County Convention Center. And angler after angler deflected praise with the old refrain that you can't win the Classic on the first day, only lose it.
That adage may need revision after a tournament in which fishing conditions deteriorated after the first day. The opening day was borderline ludicrous, with seven anglers bagging limits over 20 pounds. The average bag that day weighed more than 14 pounds. Saturday, with only two fewer total fish caught, the average bag was about 11 pounds. On Sunday, the remaining top 25 anglers scrounged bags of only 8 pounds apiece. Sunday's big bass was exactly half the size of Friday's.
No surprise, then, that anglers who feasted on Friday tended to stay near the top of the leader board. Among the top 25 anglers on Friday, only Marty Stone, Chad Morgenthaler and Andre Moore missed the Saturday cut, and the top 17 all survived. Eventual champion Luke Clausen caught more than half his record 56 pound, 2 ounce total in that first day.
Weather or not
Even as the anglers lined up to debark on the Classic's final morning, the National Weather Service knew it would be a rough day, having issued a lake wind advisory for the region shortly after 5 a.m.
Later in the afternoon, Tim Sedlock, a National Weather Service forecaster in Melbourne, Fla., said that sustained winds at Orlando International Airport, about 10 miles away, had been measured above 20 miles per hour, with gusts into the 30s.
"But it could be more on a flat lake," he said. "I wouldn't be surprised if it got up to 40."
Judging by anglers' comments during the weigh-in, many of them wouldn't be surprised if it had gone even higher. Heck, George Cochran complained that his winds were "about 60 miles per hour."
Other anglers also dabbled in meteorology on stage:
• "I hadn't really watched the weather this morning. But did another hurricane hit central Florida today at around 8:45? It sure felt like it." Jeff Coble, who caught five fish weighing 5 pounds, 6 ounces
Asked whether he checked the forecast, Coble replied: "I studied it, and it happened like they said, unfortunately."
• "I caught four so fast it would make your head spin. Then, boom, those 30 mile per hour winds hit, and it was over." Larry Nixon, who bagged 10 pounds, 6 ounces
• "It was pretty brutal out there. Those 30 mile per hour winds messed me up pretty good." Scott Rook, who bagged 6 pounds, 8 ounces
• "Brother, I didn't get a bite all day." Gerald Swindle, who didn't catch a fish Sunday
• "Really, it was just survival out there. Those 30, 40 mile per hour winds nearly knocked me off the front deck of my boat. Swindle says he saw a tornado. But he didn't catch any fish, so who knows what he was doing." Jeff Kriet, who bagged 5 pounds, 8 ounces
• "If it gets below 70 (degrees), I'm in trouble." Kevin Wirth, who could use some sleeves when the rest of the cold front rolls through Sunday night, when temperatures were forecast to drop into the 40s
Sure, the weather wasn't ideal on Sunday during the Classic's final round. But Rick Clunn, who has fished more Classics (30) than any other angler, said even though the wind was blowing higher than 30 miles per hour at times, he thought it was a perfect day to make up weight. Why?
"Big fish are going to bite a lot on this kind of day. I caught my big fish on a spinnerbait. You can throw it in high wind. The guys that are dead sticking and throwing weightless Senkos, it's brutal on them on a day like today. I thought it was a great day if you were trying to catch up. I just didn't get the bites."
Gerald Swindle had as bad a day as an angler can have on the final day of the Bassmaster Classic. He weighed in no fish and had no bites for the entire day.
Somehow though, Swindle turned his tough day into a positive for the more than 10,000 fans packed into the Orange County Convention Center.
"I'm here to win," said Swindle on stage. "If you are afraid to swing for a home run you are never gonna strike out."
Then Swindle peeled off his CITGO/Triton jersey and throw it to a few screaming female fans in the front row. Despite a total shout-out on the biggest day in fishing, with a flex of his muscles and a wave to the crowd, he departed to the biggest ovation of the day to that point.
He should Work At The Circus
Tommy Sanders is the host of ESPN Outdoors on Saturday mornings and one of the hosts of the 2006 CITGO Bassmaster Classic.
Perhaps he should be guessing weights for Barnum and Bailey. In a pre-tournament pick 'em Sanders predicted the total winning weight for the event would be 56 pounds 2 ounces.
Today Luke Clausen won his first Classic with a total three-day weight of 56 pounds, 2 ounces. If you see Sanders you may want him to play Powerball for you next week.