If you've ever wondered about the "hot seat" on the stage at an Elite Series event or Bassmaster Classic, you might be interested to know that it comes by its name honestly. The hot seat is actually heated to a balmy 135 degrees to make the angler sitting on it more than a little uncomfortable. That, along with the professional pressure of leading a major tournament, is why the guy sitting in it squirms so much.
The seat is also electrified — a lot! The reasoning behind that is two-fold. First, when the angler sitting in the hot seat is ousted by another fisherman who has just bested his catch and taken the lead, we need the guy out of the chair ... now! They can linger in the weigh-in line or the boatyard, not on the stage when we need to crown a champion.
Second, we really bump up the charge when the angler in the hot seat has just officially won the tournament. After the last challenger has weighed in and fallen short, B.A.S.S. officials run a full charge through the chair in order to propel the winner out toward the crowd and get that primal scream and menacing look that you've seen so often on The Bassmasters and in Bassmaster Magazine.
And if you believe that, I've got a bass pond in Alaska to sell you. After all, an Elite title, the big blue trophy, $100K and a berth in the Bassmaster Classic is more than enough to get anyone jumping out of the hot seat!
Because this one might be close, you'll be interested to know about Rule C20 of the Official Rules of the 2012 Bassmaster Elite Series. It provides as follows:
"In case of a tie for first place weight in the Pro division at the end of the tournament, there will be a fish-off between the tied competitors under the direction and special rules established by tournament officials."
Despite the close calls at Toledo Bend in recent years — the last two tournaments ended regulation with a combined separation between first and second place of exactly 1 ounce — the lake is actually better known for blowouts than close calls.
In 13 previous B.A.S.S. events (including the Niggemeyer and Rojas wins that were impossibly tight), six had margins of victory of 10 pounds or greater, and three of them were by more than 16 pounds.
That's a gigantic chasm between first and second place, and no other venue in B.A.S.S. history has produced as many big "beatdowns" as Toledo Bend.
Brent Chapman culled up to 20 pounds. Cliff Pace culled up to 20 pounds. Then Chapman culled up to 22. Then Pace caught another good keeper. Here in the waning minute of the Toledo Bend Battle, Cliff Pace and Brent Chapman are doing battle! And, by the way, they are within eyesight of each other.
They are both in a flurry of catching bass, so this tournament is likely to come down to who catches the biggest bass in the next few minutes.
Be sure to watch the live weigh-in at 3:15 Central, where we'll find out if we have a clear winner, or a two way tie.
Toledo Bend was also the site of one of B.A.S.S.'s most recent ties. In March 2009 at the Bassmaster Central Open, Elite Series pro James Niggemeyer and Jerrel Pringle ended the three days of regulation in a dead heat at 37-14.
The two were forced to compete in a 3 1/2-hour fish-off to determine the winner. Niggemeyer prevailed with 14-1 in extra innings compared with Pringle's 7-8.
With this tournament looking like it's coming down to the wire, now's a good time to talk about the closest events in Elite Series history. After all, one of them was right here on Toledo Bend.
Two Elite tournaments have been decided by a single ounce. The first was on the California Delta in 2010 when John Crews edged Skeet Reese by the narrowest of margins, 72-6 to 72-5.
The second was here in Many, La., just a year ago. Dean Rojas led every day of that tournament, but he saw his lead whittled down to a single ounce in the finals. That's how close it got between Rojas and Gerald Swindle. When it was over, Rojas had 70-15 to the G-Man's 70-14. It doesn't seem like much until you look at the difference in prize money. Rojas earned $100K, while Swindle had to settle for $25K.
When bass sell for $75,000 per ounce, you know you're in an expensive neighborhood.
Just finished doing some research on Toledo Bend's productivity in years past, and the lake is holding up pretty well. The average bass this week weighs 2.69 pounds, and that's very close to the historical best here.
In June 1980, the average bass weighed 2.79 pounds. That's the only time Toledo Bend has posted a better number than it's doing this week.
Taking a look at only the winner's catch, it looks like this year's champ is going to average about four pounds per bass. In 13 previous B.A.S.S. events, that number has been topped only three times and not at all in the last 10 years.
Cliff Pace just caught at 5-pounder, which moves him into a virtual tie with Brent Chapman.
This photo was taken by Dave Mercer right out side the door of the War Room. It's actually in the off-limits area of the lake. And that's Aaron Martens with his kids and Brent Chapman's daughter Makayla. He was having some success teaching them how to drop shot.
While he was there, Randy Howell wasn't too far away doing the same with his sons.
And an hour or two earlier, Todd Faircloth was standing on the bank with his sons as they fished, trying to catch a big one.
Nice to see these guys never really take a day off, even better to see them do it with their children.
If Cliff Pace wins this tournament, it'll be the first time since 2010 that an angler took the first round lead, lost it and regained it in the final round. Skeet Reese did it on Guntersville in 2010, and it's happened three other times.
Pace led after Day 1 here at Toledo Bend, slipped to third on Day 2, fell to fourth yesterday and is apparently having another big day today. If he wins, it'll be his first Elite title and first B.A.S.S. win since the 2004 Central Open on the Atchafalaya Basin.