LAKE WALES, Fla. — The Kissimmee Chain wasn't kind to Elite Series pro Matt Amedeo. He finished the Citrus Slam, presented by Longhorn, in 93rd place, with a two-day total of 11 pounds, 10 ounces.
But Amedeo didn't get to weigh-in his biggest catch on Day Two: co-angler Mary Delgado.
About an hour before Friday's weigh-in, Amedeo accidentally hooked Delgado with a scatterbait while retrieving another lure from a storage compartment in his boat.
"He was trying to help me out," Delgado explained. "He started catching some fish on that bait and asked me if I wanted one to fish with. So he laid down his rod and went to pull one out of his bait box. But when he pulled the lid up on the box, the rod flew up and the bait went straight into my nose."
The lure's single hook went into Delgado's nostril and the hook point went through her nose from the inside out. Fortunately, the hook's barb didn't completely penetrate her nose.
"I'm a girl, so of course I started crying," Delgado said, laughing about the incident a couple of hours after it happened. "I'm sitting there, holding this bait that's stuck in my nose and the tears are streaming down my face."
Amedeo cut the lure from his line and tried to help Delgado extricate it.
"But every time he touched it, it hurt — bad," Delgado said.
Finally, Delgado wiggled the lure enough that it fell out.
"Then Matt tied the lure back on and started fishing with it again," she said. "We wondered if the blood on it might help attract some fish."
"I felt horrible," Amedeo said. "Right in the nose. That's the way you're supposed to hook your fish, not your co-angler."
Delgado took an ibuprofen she got from Elite Series pro Britt Myers while waiting for the Toho lock to open, before returning to the weigh-in site. She was checked out by an emergency medical technician at the weigh-in, but needed no additional medical treatment.
"I felt bad for Matt," Delgado said. "It was an accident, and he's out there trying to fish, but had to take time out of his fishing to help out a crying girl in his boat with a bait stuck in her nose."
Delgado is the girlfriend of first-day leader Byron Velvick. Since meeting him on the reality television series "The Bachelor," Delgado has taken up bass fishing, often competing as a co-angler in Elite Series events.
"I told her she might as well go ahead and put a ring in there, now that she's pierced her nose the hard way," Velvick said.
Byron Velvick, who's in second place going into Saturday's third round, is no stranger to television cameras.
He was the star of the reality television series "The Bachelor," where he met girlfriend and Citrus Slam co-angler Mary Delgado. Velvick also worked for two years as a commentator for the ESPN2 show "BassCenter," a weekly program that aired from 2005–2006. Velvick also worked the TV coverage of the recent Bassmaster Classic as an on-the-water reporter.
Obviously, he's no stranger to the camera.
But that doesn't mean he likes to be in front of one when he's fishing. As the Day One leader on the Kissimmee Chain, Velvick was followed by an ESPN camera during Day Two of the tournament.
"I hate the camera," Velvick said after the Day Two weigh-in. "It's a jinx."
His perspective is understandable. After catching a tournament-best 25 pounds on Thursday, Velvick fell to second place Friday, when he boated just 11-6.
"I was a wreck while that camera boat was with me," Velvick said. "And as soon as it left me about noon, I settled down and started catching fish."
Besides the superstition about a "camera jinx," Velvick explained a practical reason for not wanting a cameraman on the water with him.
"The cameraman got out of the camera boat and got in my boat," Velvick said. "I'm using a push pole to quietly move around to fish for these bedding fish. So now I'm push-poling three guys instead of two: It's not fun. I felt like a gondola operator in Venice. With three of us in the boat, it was like I was pushing a barge."
The Citrus Slam is being held out of Lake Wales, Fla., not far from the spring training homes of several Major League baseball clubs. In fact, the Cleveland Indians' spring training home is next door to the hotel where most members of the ESPN crew are staying, in Winter Haven, Fla.
But Elite Series pro Greg Gutierrez says the baseball teams aren't the only ones taking part in spring training.
Gutierrez finished 87th on the Kissimmee Chain this week and 107th on the Harris Chain a week ago.
"Florida kicked my butt," Gutierrez said. "But for me, it's like coming out for spring training, while the rest of these guys are showing up for the first real game."
Unlike many Elite Series pros, Gutierrez still has a full-time, non-fishing job. He's a firefighter for California Forestry and Fire Protection (also known as Cal Fire) out of Red Bluff, Calif. During the off-season period, Gutierrez fishes very little, so he can accumulate work hours in order to take time off in the spring and summer for Elite Series events.
"While most of these guys are out fishing during the off season, I'm pushing a pencil," Gutierrez said. "I spent all last week at the Harris Chain, just learning how to cast again. From the Harris Chain to here, I bet I picked up 30 feet on my cast. And flipping? When it's supposed to slip into the water, I'm making a huge splash.
"It's like in baseball. A pitcher gets his fingers on the seams just right, and he can throw a mean breaking ball. It's the same with fishing. It's about muscle memory, and it takes a while to get back in the groove."
Not only did Gutierrez struggle with his performance, but he had to make a transition to new equipment, including a new Nitro boat and new rods and reels that he hadn't used much prior to last week's season opener.
"I had to break in the boat, break in the rods, and break in Greg," he said.
Jordon Out Of Fish?
If the wind blows as expected today — 15 miles per hour, from south, southwest — it may put the clamps on sight-fishing. An earlier forecast predicted even higher winds — 25 mph.
You simply can't see the spawning beds when there's much of a ripple on the water surface, even in areas that have some protection from the wind. And when sight-fishing, the critical aspect of boat control also becomes nearly impossible.
Reese thinks Day Two leader Kelly Jordon (44-13) will have to shift from his sight-fishing pattern, which so far has worked well for him.
"From talking to him, I got the impression that he caught the remains of what he had yesterday," Reese said. "With that wind direction and excessive wind, it's going to really make it tough for sight-fishing.
"If he can go out and catch 12 to 14 pounds today, he should have a pretty commanding lead going into tomorrow, I'd guess."
Reese Shooting for Top 20
The 2007 Toyota Tundra Bassmaster Angler of the Year didn't come to Florida these past two weeks with any dreams of jumping to the top of the 2008 AOY point standings.
Skeet Reese finished 17th on the Harris Chain. He is in 33rd place, with 22-15 going into Saturday on the Kissimmee Chain.
"I'm not feeling optimistic," he said before Saturday's take-off. "I've never caught a big bag in Florida in my life.
"If I can somehow pull a top-20 finish out of this right now, I'd be a happy camper."
Big Bags, but Different Methods
Shaw Grigsby is from Gainesville, Fla., and an experienced veteran on these Florida waters. He made the 50 cut, and goes into Saturday in 40th place, with 21-5. Grigsby loves sight-fishing, but knows with the forecast high winds, the chances of continuing in that vein are slim.
"They'll catch 'em," Grigsby said of the Elite Series anglers. "Wind is a good thing. In Toho, it will really help, except for the conditions of having to hold your boat.
"In these other lakes, it's pretty stained. It will be great with the sun and this wind. It will really help the bite.
"What I think you're going to see today is that a lot of those guys fishing offshore will bust some big bags. And those guys fishing onshore will struggle. They can still bust a big bag by catching one big one. An 8-pounder gives you a heckuva deal."
So what does Grigsby plan to do today?
"I'm going to do some offshore stuff," he said. "I might do a little looking (for spawners), but I'll probably stay offshore most of the day."
Skeet Reese was in complete agreement with Grigsby's assessment.
"I imagine there will be a group of guys that still catch them pretty good because of the wind," he said. "There might be a few bed fish caught somewhere, but I don't foresee that being a big factor today.
"The guys that I've talked to this week that have done well in practice and the tournament, the wind has been their friend.
"The key here is hydrilla: To catch those bigger fish you have to have a combination of hydrilla, lily pads and Kissimmee grass — that kind of stuff; if you can find that in areas that are protected, but still have a bit of a breeze on them."
Chains Even More The Same
It was noted here yesterday how similarly the Harris Chain of Lakes last week and the Kissimmee Chain this week had produced fish for the 109 Elite Series anglers. Those numbers became nearly identical after Friday's totals from Kissimmee.
You can see in the totals below that Harris fished Thursday almost exactly like Kissimmee fished Friday, and vice versa, hence the similar two-day totals:
|Day||# Limits||# Fish||Total Pounds|
Big bass: 10-6
|Day||# Limits||# Fish||Total Pounds|
Big bass: 10-3