Steve Bowman had a critical lapse in judgement today that severely impacted our ability to cover this tournament. He brought a banana in the boat. A real angler would know bananas bring bad luck on the water. And sure enough we had a series of issues.
It started at 10:00. We had been covering the 3 Amigos (Kevin VanDam, Russ Lane and Jeff Kriet), when they decided to break up and go their separate ways. At the time each had just one fish in their livewell. We decided to give up on them and seek out more action.
Matt Herren had risen to the top of the BASStrakk leaderboard so we went in search of him. When we found him we also found our crew of Chris Mitchell and Craig Lamb already covering him. So we weren't needed there. In fact those boys accused us of poaching. Departing that situation with our tail between our legs we learned Russ Lane, the angler we left, had just caught a 7 pounder and we had missed covering that action. We raced back to catch up with him. But when we got back to Russ there was no more action to be had. We hung out with him for another dry spell, then headed out to check on KVD. While we had been away from him KVD had caught a limit, we had missed all of that action too except for his one early fish. The banana had cast it's spell on us.
To top it off I wrote up this story three hours ago, sent it to our web producers, and somehow it got lost in the internet. I had to write the whole thing again. At that point I begged Bowman to eat the banana. He finally did. Thanks a lot buddy!
Originally published Saturday of BASSfest.
Looking back through the many photos from BASSfest today, this one may be my favorite. It's a selfie snapped on stage right after the University of Tennessee Chattanooga won the College Eastern Regional. I believe it was snapped by Lance Geren, lower left, who along with teammate Robbie Moore won this derby. The photo incudes the second place team from UT Knoxville, Tyler Wadzinski and Matt Beeler; the third place team from Western Carolina, Austin Neary and Zach Hicks; B.A.S.S. College Tournament Director Hank Weldon, and emcee Dave Mercer. Pure enthusiasm!
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Photo by Bassmaster Marshal Robert Allison
We've noticed much less boat traffic on Chicamauga today compared to Saturday and even Friday when it seemed quite busy. But our boat driver, local Mark Grimsley, tells us those days were light compared to a normal weekend; many boaters were down in Chattanooga at Riverbend, the big annual event with music and fireworks. We're thinking many of those boaters may have hangovers today and are staying inside.
Matt Herren is fishing deep structure now, returned to a spot he tried late this morning. He's got around 17 pounds right now, but during the first three days of this derby he's averaged more than 22 pounds a day. If he can get back to that number today we're looking at a tight finish.
Jacob Wheeler has been working his way back north from Chester Frost Park. He stopped briefly and fished "the Hammer Hole" again. Nothing. And he's made several other brief stops on the way past Possum Creek. In fact, these stops were so brief - one cast here, two casts there - that we thought he might be "spinning out."
But Wheeler is a man executing a plan today. His last stop came at 2:00, and it resulted in a 4.90-pounder that allowed him to cull up 2 pounds. That puts him at 21 3/4 pounds today.
"Yes! Yes! Yes!," yelled Wheeler as he held the fish in the air. "One more like that and it will be lights out."
I think he's catching these deep fish on some type of hair jig and a soft plastic trailer, but he's not talking about it. The bait is white, I know that. The fish he caught shallow this morning in the Hiwassee River came on a bladed jig (white), I think. Usually we can get these guys to talk about lures on the last day of an Elite Series tournament, but Wheeler is keeping his game face on all day today.