It’s never too early to get it in gear on the Bassmaster Elite Series. Even though this is only the third event of the 2013 season, it may be now or never for a few Elite pros. In Elite history, plenty of anglers have missed the first cut in the first three events, but only one (Aaron Martens in 2012) went on to qualify for the Bassmaster Classic. Who missed the first cut at both the Sabine River and Falcon Lake? For starters, Tommy Biffle, Davy Hite, Tim Horton, Randy Howell, Mike Iaconelli, Jared Lintner and Brandon Palaniuk. They each need a good finish at Bull Shoals to turn their season around get back on track for the Bassmaster Classic.
Alton Jones has to retie after snagging the bottom. Alton Jones is fishing much more slowly than anyone we've seen so far.
The sun is shining strong on Tommy Biffle in a short cove off a creek arm. He's a ways off the bank casting and not wielding a flippin' rod, which is his strong suit.
When asked how many he had, Biffle held up a lone index finger.
Just as Biffle was leaving, Alton Jones pulled into the area and started casting to a different bank. He holds up three fingers.
The water here is 56 degrees.
We ran to the back of another creek and found Steve Kennedy. The sun is beginning to break through the clouds, but it is still darn cold and windy.
The water temperature here is nearly 56 degrees. Kennedy might be onto something.
He has four bass that he caught in the first 30 minutes.
He is looking for redemption from a poor showing here last year.
Where Kennedy is fishing now is not where he caught his bass earlier. He's not catching them here.
One thing to remember as we get this event started. Bull Shoals is a huge lake from a fishing standpoint. It's about 45,000 acres which doesn't sound overly large, but it has more than 700 miles of shoreline.
The lake stretches from Bull Shoals, Arkansas well into Missouri, and unlike many of the lakes we fish, much of it is pretty isolated. You won't see a bunch of docks or swimming areas once you leave the lower lake. This is in heart of the Ozarks, so a lot of the lake is narrow with long and short creek arms shooting out in every direction.
Last year the anglers spent a lot of their time fishing on the mid- to lower-end of the lake. The fishing was good all over the lake, but you didn't have to go far to catch them. It's not much different this time either. But many of these anglers are spreading their wings and heading further north and west into Missouri. Matt Herren did that last year and finished third, while never seeing any other boats.
Elite anglers like isolation, so more and more of them will seek that out.
The problem that causes for our group of inky scribes is it makes it harder to get eyes on anglers. And with the isolation of the Ozarks comes tougher cell service. You hear the cell companies say they have 96- to 99-percent of the country covered. That 1- and 4-percent uncovered area falls right into the valleys of the Ozarks.
Every venue seems to have its own challenges. That's the one we are dealt this week, unfortunately an all-to common hand.