LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — Following in the footsteps of his father, Hank Weldon fished for Alabama in the Under Armour College Bass National Championship on Thursday.
On the weigh-in stage, Weldon was asked by tournament emcee Tommy Sanders how does he come out from the shadow of his father, BASS tournament director Trip Weldon.
"Fortunately, er, unfortunately, I'm an inch taller than him," said the diminuitive Weldon, who helped the Crimson Tide to a 9-pound, 6-ounce first day. "He's my mentor. I just wanted to make him proud."
Hank said he caught first fish at age 3, a trout in an expo show tank. His first bass came about a month later. In his first tournament, at age 8, the Weldons won a father and son event with 12 pounds.
Weldon and Jeff Aul are in sixth place after Day One and hope to make up some ground Friday to qualify for Saturday's five-team finals. Even if they don't, Weldon said he's happy just being able to follow dad on a bass stage.
"This is fantastic. What can you say about Under Armour, Costa del Mar and BASS," he said. "And JM (Associates) for putting this on. You can't say enough."
Trip Weldon loves the University of Alabama. So does his son, Hank.
Hank, who is representing the University of Alabama fishing team, received quite a bit of flack from Tommy Sanders and Steve Bowman, who also work with his father on the Elite Series tour.
Guessing the elder Weldon was watching via the Internet on Collegebass.com, Bowman thought he'd offer a friendly jab at Trip.
"Now, do you know as much about Barney Fife as your dad?"
St. Ambrose University anglers Tony DeVolder and Tim DeVolder keep hooking up with other college teams, but in the worst way imaginable.
In practice on Wednesday, they had to tow in an Oklahoma team whose boat had broken down. On Thursday's first day of competition, St. Ambrose stopped to help Texas Tech, which had a dead battery.
"A mile from the ramp, Texas Tech couldn't get started," said Tim, whose boat then broke down. "We called our friends from North Carolina State."
North Carolina State had already checked in and went to pick up an angler from each dead boat, but both teams were six minutes late to check in and took zeros.
The DeVolders noted that things like this happen all the time, and they didn't appear too shaken.
"The timing today wasn't that good," Tony said. "At least we were only a mile from the ramp and instead of below the lock."
When the College Bass anglers broke down, it was H2O Sportz to the rescue.
"They called us right before five," said Ken Adamson, general manager of the one-stop boating center. "I told them we would stay until we got them fixed."
Larry Morris, Mercury master technician, and Larry Jacks, who is studying to be one, stayed a little bit late to help out to repair boats the college anglers had driven hours to reach the event.
"I fished the Open series. I've been in their shoes," Adamson said. "I've been in places where you have to find the right person. You needed somebody to help you."
The University of Illinois fishing team headed out for Tuesday's practice in search of big fish. Largemouth, Kentucky or spotted bass to be specific. But sometimes the waters of the Arkansas River offer up other treats.
"We thought we caught the biggest bass of our lives," Illini angler Rob Russow said at Thursday's weigh-in.
The problem was that it wasn't a bass.
The angler had snagged a hefty Asian Carp on 12-pound test. The angry fish proceeded to take the anglers on an unwanted, 45-minute tour of the river's backwaters.
"I really thought I caught a rock that was rolling through the river," Steve Mui said.
Tips from the Pros
BASS Elite Series angler Scott Rook stopped by the weigh-in site on Wednesday to see how the college anglers fared.
Rook, who makes his home on the nearby Arkansas River, admitted he was thoroughly impressed with the quality of anglers at the event. Several collegiate anglers surrounded him after they weighed in to share stories and perhaps receive some insight into the fishery.
After several conversations, Rook turned to an ESPNOutdoors.com writer who was standing next to him.
"I'm probably talking to my future competition, right here." Rook said.
"Dad, if you're watching, the boat broke."
— St. Ambrose University's Anthony DeVolder
— University of Louisiana-Lafayette anglers, Cody McCrary and William Carstens, in unison.
"Why not spend the whole day in the lock? It's a good way to meet people."
— ESPNOutdoors' Tommy Sanders
"I might ask Bobby (Knight, the outspoken coach of Texas Tech's basketball team and avid angler) to take our place after today."
— Texas Tech's Dustin Cotten
"The people from Vlassic called. One of their pickles escaped."
— ESPN Outdoors' Steve Bowman on a 12-ounce fish weighed in by University of Tennessee at Martin's Braden Maddox and Michael Keatts.
The 2007 event will be televised on ESPNU on Nov. 1 at 2 p.m. ET and Nov. 4 at 11 a.m. ET; and on ESPN2 on Nov. 2 at 5 a.m. ET. Weigh-ins will also be streamed live daily to ESPNoutdoors.com.