GREENSBORO, N.C. — Edwin Evers had a stroke of good fortune Thursday that helped him capture the Day One lead at the Bassmaster American presented by Advance Auto Parts.
Throwing a crankbait in the morning, he fouled it on some structure and broke it off. It was a make and model he favored immensely and was one of only one or two he had aboard, so he was quite upset at losing it.
Checking on the same area much later that afternoon, he found a nice surprise floating on the surface."Oh yeah, I tied it right back on and caught a few more fish on it," Evers said with a laugh while speaking to the press backstage.
Wolak's missing toad
Dave Wolak was pleased with his effort Thursday (4th place, 17 pounds, 10 ounces), but should he stumble on Friday and not make the cut, he'll no doubt think hard about the one that got away.
"I was moving to another area with the trolling motor on high, but still reeling in a crankbait," he said. "A fish hit it and because I was moving so fast, it didn't feel really big. When it got to the side of the boat and I saw how long it was, I was shocked."
The very-much-green largemouth made a strong run and popped Wolak's 12-pound line.
"I was really upset because when you're in a tournament like this when you're changing lakes, you want to get every single pound out of it," he said.
Mike Wurm (7th, 16-0) was the last angler to make the cut for the American. He needed a 13th-place showing at the Guntersville Elite to qualify, so he knows pressure. He also knew that he didn't want a streak to end.
"I've fished every one of these type of events, all of the Elite 50s," he said. "I thought it would be a shame to break that run. I thought, 'Wouldn't it be great to make the cut in this one?' I barely missed the cut in Guntersville, so maybe this was an omen of some kind."
No one believed Jeff Kriet when he told this story, but he swore by it, several times, so it must be true. And if it's not, well, it still deserves to be in print.
He said he and his observer were in a creek when they noticed a buzzard pushing a soccer ball in someone's yard. Then the buzzard returned to the house and got a mini-basketball, and pushed that into the water, rolling it, playing with it. He returned again for a small blue ball, and a final time for a beach ball, which he roughhoused with until he stuck his beak right into the side.
"I'm telling you right now," Kriet told other anglers after the weigh-in, "a whole corner of that fence was balls."
Kriet quoted his observer: "I ain't never seen no buzzards play with no beach ball."
Everyone agreed with that assessment. Kriet's own take: "It was like he didn't have any friends."
Jeff Reynolds and Chris Lane were playing catch with a football Wednesday afternoon when Lane got the worst of a Reynolds spiral. The ball caught his right middle finger in such a way that it either dislocated the top joint or broke the digit altogether.
Lane fished with a makeshift splint and tape on it Thursday, and didn't fare so well. With his usual power finger busted, he couldn't throw the spinning rod the way he would have liked, and caught just 7-11, for 44th place. He can't curl the finger into a fist, but won't take it to a hospital until after the tournament.
Reynolds said he regretted the accident, but added, with a chuckle, "He needs to learn how to catch a football."
Incidentally, Reynolds caught only a half-pound more than Lane, in part because motor troubles this week reduced his practice time to about one day.
First of day got away
Gary Klein's first fish of the day was not to be.
In an reflex move, Klein grabbed a topwater rig after eyeing a flurry of feeding activity erupting across a long, tapering point. The cast landed precisely where it should have, and a nice bass smashed it upon its entry into the water.
Klein worked the leaping fish back to the boat, reached down and grabbed the fish around its girth. As he did, the fish slipped through his hands, shook free of the lure's treble hooks, and swam away to safety.
"It was the biggest fish I'd seen all week during practice, at least a 4-pounder," he lamented.
He would not break the 4-pound mark again that day.
Chris Huffine, a coach on the 2006 Stanley Cup champion Carolina Hurricanes, is participating in the Bassmaster American as one of the official observers.
An avid angler, Huffine was paired Thursday with none other than Michael Iaconelli, a rabid fan of the NHL's Philadelphia Flyers.
The two hockey buds spent the entire day bantering about which team skated better on the ice.
"I set him straight on a few things, specifically about who took home the cup," Huffine mused. "It was actually awesome though, for me, to see another type of professional athlete in his element. The intensity is no different on the water with these guys than it is with our players on the ice."
Added Iaconelli: "Yeah, it was really awesome. I had nothing at all going and it was neat to figure the game plan out with Chris, together. I figured out the pieces of the puzzle and it was cool to have him in the boat with me to kind of participate, help me figure it out. It was a cool learning experience for him. But the Flyers still rule the ice, no matter what."