Cliff Pace shows off two of his fish at the bump station at Wolf Creek Park before heading to Tulsa for the weigh-in. (Mike Suchan photo)
Heading to the bump station, the crowd gathered around the line of anglers let out a big cheer.
Cliff Pace pulled out two of his fish to show the folks, and they responded with appreciation.
“That is one Grand fish,” one exclaimed.
He then pulled out another stout bass. Adding up the first two, guesstimated at around 5-plus pounds each, plus the other hog, and three of Pace’s fish should add up to well into the teens. He also has two more.
BASSTrakk only has Pace at 14-13 today, 3 ounces back of unofficial standings leader Mike Iaconelli’s 36-8 pace. Could the Petal, Miss., angler have put it to the pedal today?
Perhaps. Yesterday, Pace was off the radar as BASSTrakk only had him for around 15 pounds, and he weighed in 21-8 to tie with Ike. Did Pace’s Marshal once again short-change him?
Check out the weigh-in to find out.
Carhartt College Bass champion Matt Lee of Auburn University took a few minutes Saturday to reflect on his Classic experience.
"It's unreal," he said. "Takeoff is like nothing else. Then you get to your first spot and don't catch a fish for 20 minutes and start thinking everybody else is slamming them and you start thinking you couldn't catch fish in a stock pond. It's real overwhelming. But an awesome experience. There's nothing like it."
Tournament fishing is a game of time management. From keeping a lure in the water to being in the right areas at the right times, an angler's ability to manage his time on the water plays a crucial role in his success.
Time management carries over to dry land, too. It's been interesting to see these contenders working hard after they trailer their boats each day. Te fishing part of the day may be over, but the work continues. As the anglers made their way to have their fish checked by B.A.S.S. officials, they waited in a line of boats and trucks. But nearly every angler used that down time to prepare tackle for tomorrow. They were stripping line, tying on lures, stowing rods and performing numerous other tasks.
It's especially important this year because of the 1 1/2-hour drive to the weigh-in in Tulsa. With that much time on the road and time spent at the BOK Center (it's not just about crossing the stage and weighing fish; most anglers spend an hour or more doing media interviews and signing autographs and such), every minute of tackle prep is important.
"Every little bit helps," Marty Robinson said as he stripped line and spooled a reel while waiting to check his fish Saturday. "It just helps you get finished up so you can get to bed at a decent hour."
Mike Iaconelli became emotional when he experienced mechanical issues during the day, but managed to rebound nicely with a big fish near the end of the day.
"You've got to keep your head in the game," he said. "No matter what, keep casting, keep fishing. It's frustrating to lose key time to those kinds of issues, but I'm managing it better. It would have devastated my day 10 or 15 years ago. Now I'm able to release my frustration and get on."
There are good days to be the most popular angler on the planet, and then there are some not so good days.
From what we can tell (and what it looked like at the bump station, although I couldn’t say for sure), Kevin VanDam only caught four fish today. When you’re as competitive as VanDam and the Classic is within reach, catching one short of a limit is not going to leave you in the best mood.
But the fans (hundreds who showed up to watch these guys bump their fish) don’t know and/or don’t care that he had a bad day at work – they want to see him. They want autographs and they want photos.
There were so many people surrounding VanDam’s boat as he rode to the bump station, it was bogging down the entire process. To VanDam’s credit (and the delight of kids and adults alike) he smiled, and signed and catered to as many people as he could during the 10 minutes he was in line.
Hank Cherry has spent much of the first two days fishing in the same general area as KVD. While he's been awed by VanDam's spectator gallery, overall the experience has been a good one.
"I'm honored to know that I came here, didn't know the lake at all, figured it out and ended up in the same place as the best in the world," he said.
Bill Lowen had quality today but not quantity. He had a total of seven bites, but his best five were better than yesterday's limit. He caught all of them on the same lure, something we haven't seen anyone else tie on, let alone fish.
Hank Cherry reported that he lost a key fish today, one that would've been his biggest of the day, when his jig broke. That's something that has never happened to him before and it couldn't have come at a worse time. Then again, there may be a silver lining to be taken away -- he barely fished the jig at all day and promised it would get a better workout tomorrow...a new one, of course.
Emma Ward is sure to be a fisherman, already exaggerating her largest catch. (Mike Suchan photo)
When asked what her biggest fish was, Emma Ward, 4, from right down the street in Wolf Creek Cove, did an arm stretch of a much more experienced angler.
She, her older sister Gracy, 6, and dad Gerry made a short walk from their home to see the anglers come in. The girls might not understand what's all at stake, but it was pretty neat to see all the fancy, dolled up boats coming in.
Gerry said the girls do fish, and have caught them. Gracy has a 12-inch or so bass to her credit and Emma a perch a scad smaller than what she showed.
"I love fish." Gerry said. "We go to the Bass Pro Shop in Springfield and the one here in town (Broken Arrow)."
He admitted being so close it was hard to pass up just seeing the spectacle, but the Wards do go fishing almost every weekend.
We're back at Wolf Creek and the anglers are streaming in behind us.