Brett Reid is waiting for the Nation anglers to show up and weigh their fish.
Tim Johnston has the first limit that we've heard of so far. He says they're not much but he's proud of them.
Russell Phillips has two in the boat and maybe a third. The maybe is right on the line and he said he'll have to check it again before he heads in.
This is a tough style tournament to cover. The fish aren't exactly easy to find. A game of cat and mouse with the fish causes a game of cat and mouse between the cameraman and the anglers. One or two of the right bites is all that will separate 1st from 25th this week. Getting those bites will be very difficult and most likely spot specific so it's in the angler's best interest to do the most he can to conceal and protect any area he has confidence in. Now some of these guys will tell me exactly where they are. But it's still not as simple as just running to where they are and snapping a few pics like it would be if we were fishing a lake. These guys have figured out, through a process of beating and banging off a bunch of stumps, the best way to get into a certain area while making as little noise and stirring up as little mud as possible.
Now if I come rolling onto the scene and try to pick my way through, careful as I might be, I'm still going to make a lot of noise and muddy the water and then I'm affecting the game. And that's something that no journalist wants to or should ever do. You won't see a cameraman on at an NFL game stagger out into the field and plop down on the 25 yard line (although that would make things a little more interesting). So back to flirting with the fine line between coverage and interference.
Any hope as a journalist that this might be a tournament where anglers lined the river bank and were easy to find has gone out the window. After about 30 minutes of running around, we finally stumbled onto our first competitor, John Soukup of Oklahoma. He has two in the boat and is way away from civilization. This river system sets up like most in this part of the country. There's a navigable river channel with a few navigable offshoots and tributaries and then a labyrinth of backwater mine fields. Acres and acres of open water blanketed with gnarly, nasty stumps, typically just under the surface. The water stays a pretty consistent brownish green until it rains and hides those stumps quite well. The best way to find them is with your trolling motor in the water but it's hard to stay in the boat that way if you got it on high. And it seems for some reason that the fish are all the way in the back, so the anglers are also.
I've been here when the fish are on the river, so there was an optimism that allowed me to hope the guys would be catching them in plain sight of my camera this week. But no such luck. We're on the prowl again looking for something to shoot at. Looks like it's going to be a backwaters kind of tournament here this year. Then again, if you found something working on the main river you could have it all to yourself. Too early to say for sure.
Competitors representing Japan, Mexico, Zimbabwe, Spain, Portugal and Australia head out on Ouachita River on Day 1.