LEESBURG, Fla — The weather forecast called for gusts of wind up to 40 mph on Day Three of the Sunshine Showdown presented by Advance Auto Parts. Unfortunately, it didn't disappoint.
Weights were way down Saturday, and angler after angler came across the stage talking about how their spots on the Harris Chain of Lakes had became worthless, or almost getting blown out of their boat — or, in Gary Klein's case, actually getting blown out of the boat.
"It's never happened to me in all my years of fishing," he said. "I reached out to pull in a five-pounder, and I went in head first. That fish will probably cost me making the cut."
He was right. He weighed in four fish that went 6 pounds, 4 ounces and he finished 1-13 out of the cut.
But these guys fish a lot of tournaments, so surely they've seen wind like this before, right? Not according to 22-year BASS veteran Mark Davis.
"I have fished a lot of windy days but I have never fished in sustained wind like today," Daivs said after weighing in 5-4. "Perhaps I've been where wind blew this bad in tournament conditions, but there's no place to hide from it here. It was brutal and weights are showing that."
Davis said he found a spot at the end of Friday where he thought he could catch fish, but when he got there on Saturday, it was covered with huge waves and muddy water.
"It takes a very special area to catch fish on a day like this, and I didn't have one," Davis said. "I'd like to go back in there tomorrow if the wind would lay down one more time. But I think I'm going to miss the cut."
He finished in a tie for 11th with Todd Faircloth and Brad Hallman, but both of them had limits all three days, while Davis only brought four to the scales on Saturday. The first tiebreaker is fish caught, so Davis won't get that chance.
Davis said the wind hurts the bite in two ways: boat control and line control. Davis had caught all his fish finessing a worm without a weight, and he had trouble controlling his bait in the wind.
"This is the third day of the event and the fish are beat down, so you need better conditions on Day Three instead of worse," he said. "You can still make good casts but boat and line control were hard.
"If you were spinning or something — power fishing — it might not bother you as much, but that wasn't how I was catching my fish this week and I didn't have any idea where I could catch fish doing it."
The wind may have blown Davis' chances of making the cut, but nobody took a harder hit than 68-year-old Guy Eaker. After catching 12-4 and 17-4 on Days One and Two, he brought in zero fish on Day Three.
"I've fished in a lot of bad weather, but this is in the top 10 because of having to fight that wind," he said. "I've fished worse days — cold days — but as far as wind … you couldn't even control the boat. I stood up and almost got blown off. I had to lean against my seat all day."
Eaker said this wasn't the first day the wind had hurt him in this tournament. He and Paul Elias had found a spot in practice they figured could produce at least 25 pounds a day, but when he got there on Day One, it was too muddy to fish because of a south wind the night before.
"I was fishing lily pads and trying to hit the stems with my bait," Eaker said. "There was no chance today. If the wind wasn't blowing my bait around, it was blowing all the water out of the creek I was fishing."
Visit Bassmaster.com for full coverage of the Elite Series Sunshine Showdown on the Harris Chain of Lakes, from Leesburg, Fla., March 6th–9th, 2008. Daily weigh-ins with live streaming video and real-time leaderboards start at 4 p.m. ET. "Hooked Up" will air Sunday at 10 a.m., noon and 3:30 p.m. ET. And a reminder … Daylight Savings Time starts Sunday, so remember to set your clocks.