Everything around here seems to have a connection to Abraham Lincoln or the Chicago Bears. Not a lot of bass history in these parts. In fact, if you break All-Star Week into two events, they will be just the seventh and eighth B.A.S.S. tournaments ever held in Illinois and the first since the 2000 Bassmaster Classic on Lake Michigan out of Chicago.
What’s even rarer is a B.A.S.S. tournament winner from Illinois. In more than 600 professional tournaments, there have only been two. Joe Verbeck of Belleville won on Lake Seminole in 1969 and Tom Burns of Carbondale won on Kerr Reservoir (Buggs Island) in 1995. Of course, that list won’t grow any this week since none of the all stars are from Illinois.
And in 42 Bassmaster Classics, only six anglers have represented Illinois in the world championship.
We've just picked up Edwin Evers again as he idles back toward where Faircloth just left. Evers is going back farther into the small bays and pockets. He gestured to us that he's got four fish and seemed dissatisfied with that. We'll see if this creek won't turn his luck around.
Since moving, Todd Faircloth has seen no action. His last two spots have been duds, and the high, clear skies don't seem to be helping his cause. Despite the inactivity, BASSTrakk still had him in second, as Swindle and Evers are both making runs toward the top.
Ott DeFoe had to weed through three non-keepers in Possum Creek before finding a keeper, and it was just barely that.
"He made it by the hair on his chin," said DeFoe, after making certain it met the 14-inch minimum..
That gives him four fish in the livewell and about 11 pounds total.
"That was by far the smallest one," DeFoe said.
He's got a half-dozen boats following him, it's dead calm in this creek channel and there's plenty of conversation going on between boats. It's a little party in Possum Creek, and DeFoe's the entertainment.
In a format like we have here at All-Star Week it makes sense that the guys who always seem to catch ‘em — the guys with the highest bassing averages — will have an advantage. After all, if they catch more bass on average than their Elite Series counterparts, it probably means they figure things out faster, zero-in on good patterns more quickly and generally find ways to get it done.
So who’s the best at putting together a limit in 2012? Two all stars limited every day they were on the water in 2012 — Angler of the Year Brent Chapman and 2004 AOY Gerald Swindle. When it comes to putting bass in the boat, they were right at the top this season (Shaw Grigsby and Scott Rook also limited every day they competed). The rest of the all stars weren’t far behind.
Ott DeFoe and Terry Scroggins tied for fifth among all Elite anglers with a 4.9630 bassing average. They both limited every day but one and had four bass on that day. Randy Howell ranked seventh at 4.9615, while Aaron Martens was eighth at 4.9583. Todd Faircloth was also in the top 10 at 4.9231. (This morning he smiled as he asked if today’s competition would affect his bassing average. I told him it would not since this is a special postseason event. He’s one of the very best at consistently bringing a limit to the scales and it shows in his consistently high AOY finishes.)
The rest of the all stars? Edwin Evers was 11th (4.9167), Skeet Reese was 16th (4.8750), KVD was 22nd (4.8400), Mike Iaconelli was 25th (4.8095) and Matt Herren was 28th (4.8000).
That’s obviously not much difference between the top (Chapman and Swindle) and the bottom (Herren), but remember two things: (1) These guys are the cream of the crop this year, and (2) the difference between a superstar .300 hitter in baseball and a journeyman .250 hitter is just five percent! The little things can mean a lot.
Faircloth is idling toward the front of the creek after not so much as a nibble. He's taking his time on his way out, stretching and chatting with his Marshal.
We have moved from Brent Chapman to Ott DeFoe, who BassTrakk currently shows leading on Day One. DeFoe was moving out of Coon Creek and into Possum Creek as we met him.
This is the fishiest-looking spot we've seen so far on Lake Shelbyville. The banks are lined with vegetation and there are lots of dead trees sticking from the water. Plenty of targets.
DeFoe is methodically working through them with a crankbait. He's caught two non-keepers, which is the most action we've seen so far.
"All the smart fish have stopped biting," complained Aaron Martens. He's managed to catch seven dumb ones so far, including two keepers totaling 2 1/2 pounds.
He said a combination of weather -- a cold front came through a couple of days ago -- and boat traffic have made the fish play hard to get. Martens missed a good fish at the bridge a minute ago. The bite occurred where he caught a 4 1/2 in practice. "I don't know if this was a bass, but it was big," he said.
A 4 pounder would be golden in this tournament, where all fish seem to be on the small side.
Martens is hanging up his jig on almost every cast. He describes the riprap as "snaggy." The rocks are teeming with baitfish. He wishes he could throw a shallow crankbait, but the rocks make that inadvisable.
We've left Evers and are now on Todd Faircloth, who's way up a shallow creek that's loaded with standing timber. He told us that he's got three keepers that don't weigh much. We'll stick with him as he cranks his way through this mess.