Brent Chapman is chatting up a storm with his observer and a spectator nearby. Most pros with this much at stake concentrate exclusively on their fishing -- they can't afford to lose focus, even for a moment. Chapman is keeping his eyes on his depthfinder much of the time, making sure he's at the right depth as he drags his jig across the bottom. It's slow fishing. "You pull up here and catch three in an hour, and you'd think i could fish around here and catch another," he said. It's been almost 1 1/2 hours since his last bite.
"If I could catch just two more fish of any size I feel like i would have a legitimate shot at making the semifinals," Chapman said. I think he's right, based on what others are catching -- or not catching -- today. "This wind's not making it easy," he added. He's using the same football jig he fished to win the Toledo Bend Battle Elite event earlier this year. He has added a big Tightlines UV Hawg as a trailer.
Brent Chapman is all smiles right now. "I'm feeling a lot better than I was about 9:30 this morning," he said. He has three bass in the livewell for a total weight of 5 pounds, 7 ounces to go with his one small bass from Day One. BASSTrakk has him in fourth after two days with 7-0. He caught the three today very near the point where his fish from yesterday came. He's within site of the Shelbyville Dam, and he's dragging a football jig in deep water. When we pulled up to talk to him, our boat was in 22 feet of water. He's patiently dragging the jig across the bottom, sometimes slow-crawling it with the reel handle.
Chapman, recently on Cloud 9 after being crowned 2012 Toyota Tundra Bassmaster Angler of the Year, was dejected after 10th among the dozen All-Star anglers yesterday. It's amazing what a few good bites will do for your mood.
Due to having copious amounts of photos of Edwin Evers, we've moved a tad farther toward the dam (or "darn" as my boat driver calls it - a bit of Midwest humor, he says) and found Kevin VanDam (VanDarn, perhaps, in these parts) throwing a crankbait. He just laid into a short fish. The astonishing thing is that his flotilla of followers has dwindled to three, as word spreads of other anglers' success. We're moving on now to find Todd Faircloth.
Evers' streak continues, but the last fish he caught was a striper. It put up a mighty and dramatic fight, though. He's moved offshore and is dragging either a football jig, Texas rig or Carolina rig, which my boat driver Joe Cupp says is usually productive. In typical Evers fashion, though, he's always moving.
Aaron Martens may be finally figuring out a pattern for success on Lake Shelbyville. He moved across the lake from today's launch site about 11 a.m., then quickly caught a 2 1/2-pounder for his second fish of the day.
"I had a depressing morning," Martens said. "I missed two just like that. I saw them."
Martens did some research on his iPad last night. Using Google Maps, he found images of Lake Shelbyville when it was 7 feet lower than it is now.
"That really helped," Martens said. "I wish I'd known about that sooner."
By studying those images, Martens has been able to find some now-submerged fish-holding targets. He's casting a 5/16ths-ounce Davis ball-head jig with various soft plastics rigged on it.
"I'm swimming it, mostly," he said. "That (last fish) makes me feel a little better."
Editor's Note: Correction - Evers has roughly 9 pounds with 5 fish.
We've picked up Edwin Evers, and he's on a roll. He grabbed a keeper in a small main lake pocket, then promptly bounced downlake to his next stop where he caught a fish on his first cast along a mudline. That makes three in the box and a heckuva day so far.
Still no keepers for Michael Iaconelli. He's caught white bass, crappie, drum and undersize bass so far this morning, but still no largemouth over 14 inches. He doesn't seem worried, though. "It's not 12:30 yet," he said. That's the time he caught the single bass he weighed in yesterday. It weighed 4 pounds even and left him in a tie for sixth place after Day 1 with Kevin VanDam. We watched him pull in an 8-inch bass just now. He appears to be fishing a shaky head jig, and he's concentrating on riprap banks. He said the only promising pattern he had going in practice involved fishing around rocks. On this lake, most of the rockpiles were placed to control erosion around bridges and on a few select shorelines.
We stopped near Ike as he fished riprap around the Highway 11 bridge. On the way downriver, Matt Herren passed us, heading for the stumpfields where we abanoned our search for Skeet Reese. Hope he makes it there and back. It's dicey running.
I'm impressed with the number of spectator boats trailing each of the anglers. Ike has his share, which is to be expected for the angler voted into Alll-Star Week as the No. 1 fan favorite. Kevin VanDam had as many as 16 boats following him yesterday. I guess a lot of diehard anglers have taken these days off work. Some locals are fishing here and there, but most of the boats we've seen today are followinbg their heroes.
There's more to the Kaskaskia River than Steve Bowman and I are able to survey. We chickened out in our effort to track down Skeet Reese. After navigating stumpfields and mud flats for most of an hour, we've decided not to go any further. A phone call to Skeet's Bassmaster cameraman, Rick Mason, informed us that they are another mile up the channel, which is almost impossible to follow. The depth goes from 3 feet to nothing in a matter of feet, and it's not intuitive to follow. Skeet told us he idled his way upriver in his scouting trip there but was able to run back downriver on plane. We're idling out, just as we idled in. Mason said Reese hasn't caught a fish yet, so we're returning to the main lake to look for other anglers we can photograph and interview.
It's as certain as the sun rising in the morning: Ask Gerald Swindle a question and you'll get a memorable answer.
As we were leaving Ott DeFoe in the back of Possum Creek, we saw Swindle fishing his way into it and decided to check in with the G-Man.
"Let me tell you something," he said, "I've been to a lot of good lakes, and this lake doesn't have anything in common with a son-of-a-bitching one of them. Blog that!"
"I've been to some tough lakes, but this one right here will flat take the fire out of you," he added.
Just then Swindle felt a bite, but nothing he could set the hook on.
"I just missed the only bass in the lake," he said, then motored his trolling motor back to the spot, saying, "Let me get back in here where my bass is."
A minute later, Swindle was hung on the bottom.
"Now I've gotten hung dragging a 3/16ths-ounce Texas-rigged worm," he said. "That will make you want to whup somebody."
Good day or bad, Swindle always leaves you laughing.
Bassmaster photographer Seigo Saito texted me a minute ago that Edwin
Evers has boated his third bass of the day already. Evers, the leader
on Day 1, caught one just under 2 pounds in a pocket by the launch
site just minutes after takeoff.
He boated a 1-pounder at about 9 a.m. And a 2 1/2 a half-hour later,
Seigo said. Evers is running pockets along the lakeshore. Whatever
he's doing is working.
Steve Bowman piddled around too long and let Skeet Reese get too far
out in front for us to follow in his wake. Consequently, Skeet's out
of sight in the far upper end -- the extremely shallow end -- of Lake
Shelbyville. He's probably catching fish and we're stuck in mud.