2009 Elite Series - Dixie Duel Wheeler Lake - Decatur, AL, Apr 3 - 5, 2009

Hail & Quesadillas

About the author

Don Barone

Don Barone

db has been in the reporting biz for over 30 years, won some Emmys and other awards, but is proudest of his four-decade marriage, his two kids and the fact he founded Tackle The Storm Foundation to help children.

DECATUR, Ala. — No sport I have ever covered in 15 years with ESPN would have played through what I saw today.

Ducks hid.

You could have surfed the boat ramp.

At one point the rain was pounding my back, and my face, straight on AT THE SAME TIME.

Rained so hard there were actually MEDIA people in the MEDIA trailer.

I saw four lightning bolts hit the ground in the distance, watched clouds try to grow long spindly fingers, had some big guy with a garbage bag duct-taped around his camera tell me about, "...'fraidy holes," concrete things dug 8 feet into the ground that you are supposed to be jumping in on days like these.

The schools closed early.

The TV weather guy kept talking to people off camera while he was ON camera, a sure sign you better buckle up.

And through it all, the Elites fished.

Competed.

Let me say that again, on a day when red ruled the weather screen, these guys still played their sport.

Over sweet tea and quesadillas, Elite pro Jon Bondy told me of his "adventure" getting back to the ramp in time for weigh-in.

"db, I've never seen anything like that in all my time fishing."

Let me set the stage here, Jon Bondy is a fishing guide in Canada. He's Canadian ... people from Canada can say anything they want about the weather because MOST weather begins somewhere up there in Canada, and I know that for a fact because I grew up in Buffalo, pretty much the focal point for Canadian weather, and because while growing up in Buffalo the Canadian TV Network, CTV, would fall over the Niagara River and onto Buffalo so I could see Canadian weather for myself, and sometimes it was so bad we, the folks of Buffalo would watch that free Canadian TV coming our way and say to each other, "Geeze it's a good thing we don't live up there."

That's pretty much the exact definition of "bad weather."

So I stop eating the Buffalo Wings I'm chewing and start writing down what Jon is telling me, because if HE'S never seen anything like this, it must be a story.

Here's Jon's story:

Jon: "I'm like 20 miles from the ramp (pretty much where the money of this sport happens if you get there on time) ... and I'm driving right into it."

Still Jon, and anything else you see quotes around: "I couldn't see 20 yards in front of me. The hail is hitting me so hard in the face it's like little needle pinpricks."

"Both bilge pumps are running ... I'm about to be late as it's taking me twice as long to get back to the ramp as it normally would. And I'm running strictly on GPS ... I can't see a thing ... my head is down below the windshield and all I'm focusing on is my GPS unit."

"Four times I had to pull over because the lightning was all around us, and no visibility, none db, I was real concerned about running into a barge."

Not seeing a barge in front of you would be the exact definition of "zero visibility."

"The wind is coming straight up the lake, I'm dodging trees and debris coming down it because it is all swollen, and at one point, suddenly, for about 40 seconds the wind suddenly starts hitting us FROM THE SIDE. Damn near blew my boat sideways."

"It was a solid downpour for 40 minutes straight. I made it to weigh in with only a couple of minutes to spare."

"At the beginning of the day the Marshall who was riding with me told me that he would love to trade jobs with me, at the end of the day he didn't quite feel the same way."

And that would be the exact definition of a bad day.

— db

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