Randy Howell got choked up on the weigh in stage when emcee Ray Scott asked him about his wife, Robin.
Although he couldn't finish his thought on stage, he later explained his emotion.
"After the last E-50 event of this past year, Robin and I were driving home from Wisconsin and I had the first Southern Open event of the year to fish the next week at West Point Lake in Georgia. We were both so tired after the end of the season and we had been on the road a long time. As we made that drive home, I decided I just didn't want to go fish another tournament that next week."
"I had made up my mind not to go and a day later, Robin sat down with me and told me that she really thought I should fish the tournament because it would give me another chance to qualify for the Classic. I thought about it a while and realized she was right. So I fished the Southern Open Division and look where it led me."
Robin Howell adds, "I just had a feeling that he needed to go fish that tournament. We were coming off two months on the road, and believe me we were both tired. I promise you I wanted to go home and rest. But I just thought that he had committed to fish the Opens, and I knew that making the Classic was so important to him. I just thought I should encourage him that we could find the energy to go one more week and then rest."
Howell took his wife's advice to heart and fished at West Point, the first of three Southern Open division tournaments where he ended up finishing 20th in the points for the season. That standing earned him a spot in this Open Championship where the Top 5 win a berth in the world championship. After qualifying today, he will make his 6th appearance at a Bassmaster Classic in February.
"I'm going to the Classic again. And I probably wouldn't be here if it weren't for Robin," he said.
Jon Bondy, who qualified for the CITGO Bassmaster Open Championship through the Northern Opens was gunning for a trip to the Bassmaster Classic. Bondy is from Ontario, Canada where he is a full-time fishing guide with plans to fish the Elite Series in 2006. He knew a Classic berth would be a great way to start the season. After finishing 10th, he was disappointed but resolute.
"The water was down about 3 feet. All my good spots were up on land. But hey, no excuses, I just couldn't catch them."
Talking about the Classic
Mark Menendez knew he was going to the 2006 CITGO Bassmaster Classic even though he had not qualified yet. Menendez is part of the broadcast talent team for ESPN's coverage of the event.
Before the weigh in Mark Menendez seemed sure that he would not make the Top-5 cut at the Open Championship which was his last shot at qualifying as a competitor in the Classic.
"I just had to make it all up today. I caught 9 keepers but they were all small ... just cute little fellas. I won't make the cut, but it's OK, I'll still be at the Classic," he said.
Menendez ended up tying with Matt Reed for fifth place and after winning the tie breaker secured a spot in tomorrow's competition as well as a qualification for the CITGO Bassmaster Classic in February. He will be happy to compete in the championship instead of talking about competing in the championship.
It was a dog day afternoon when Steve Kennedy entered the weigh in area. His Jack Russell Terrier, Louie, let everyone in the crowd know where his loyalties lie.
While the song "Who Let the Dogs Out?" played on the loudspeakers, Louie's barking was louder than the crowd's cheers as his master who is sponsored by Pedigree dog food made his entrance. Other dogs in attendance joined the canine refrain.
Like Father, like son
The first CITGO Bassmaster Classic that Steve Kennedy attended was in 1982. He was 13 years old at the time and was thrilled to be there to see his own father compete.
"My father has been in a BASS club for 30 years — the Twenty Six Bassmasters out of Macon, Ga. He fished the Classic on these very same waters back 24 years ago."
While the younger Kennedy didn't secure a spot in the 2006 Bassmaster Classic this week, he will be fishing the Elite Series next year. And his father is still going strong in his club.
"Just a week ago he came in second in the points race for the third time in 30 years in his club. He's gone to the Federation Championship two or three times over the years.
"My wife is at home rooting for me and against me this week. Our third baby is due at the first of March, so with making the Classic (which will be held the last weekend of February), I could be in a tight squeeze," Brauer said.
Chad and his wife, Nicole, currently have a 5-year old daughter, Abby and a 10-year old son, Colby.
"I sure hope this works out," Brauer said. "Maybe the third one will come early."