Elite Series rookies on nerves, indifference and crowds

Elite Series rookies discuss nerves, indifference and crowds

Brandon Palaniuk

Reality set in for Ben parker at the pre-tournament briefing as he sat down beside some of his heroes-turned-competitors. Before then, his schedule hasn't afforded him time to take in his first tournament as an Elite Series pro.

"I've been so busy that I haven't had time to get nervous," he said as he prepped his rods for Day Two. "But let me tell you the coolest part about this whole thing.

"When I walked into that meeting after practice (on Wednesday), I suddenly realized who I was sitting at the table with. It was all the guys who I've seen on TV for years and idolized. But now, I'm fishing against them! When I realized that was the situation, my stomach kind of tangled there for a bit."

Parker's anxiety level only got higher as Day One approached, but he was able to settle in and bag a limit by the first afternoon.

"I'm taking this thing one day at a time," he said. "Getting a limit on Day One was huge for me. It really helped me calm down. I didn't want to get skunked on my first Elite tournament ever."

Not all rookies are eaten up with the jitters, though. Craig Schuff was calmly lounging, the picture opposite of Ben Parker and his ball of nerves.

"I don't really know what to make of it all; it's kind of the same as an Open to me," the low-key Texan said. "There are a lot more people at the weigh-in, though."

If Schuff and Parker are the extremes, Lee Sisson falls somewhere in the middle. He's fascinated by the level of competition, but is holding his own so far. The 63-year-old currently sits in 14th place.

"Being here is something that you dream about; you're fishing against the best guys in the world and when you're my age, you don't think that you're going to get the chance, but I did and now it's like, 'where do you go from here?'" he said.

Ryan Said was at a loss for words yesterday as anglers were showing off their caches at the tanks before weigh in. The Michigander is doing his best to take in the whole experience.

"I was standing in line looking at who's around me and saw all these guys I've read about for years and thought that was pretty cool," he said. "Guys were pulling big fish out from their bags -- and I'm from Michigan -- so I've never seen bass as big as the ones they were showing off. Also, everyone's been really nice and welcoming. This is a dream come true."

Keith Combs, who previously fished with FLW, says the biggest difference between that and B.A.S.S. is the fan base.

"When you do well here, everyone knows about it because there's such a big crowd and so many people follow it," he said. "On the water it's mostly the same, but when you weigh-in, that's where the differences really stand out."

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