BUFFALO — Grant Goldbeck was sitting in his boat, tied to the dock Saturday morning, when John Crews walked past, and with hands shoved in his pockets, put one foot on Goldbeck's bow and began to rock the craft.
"This is how it's going to be all day," Crews told his fellow Bassmaster Elite Series pro.
"You'd have to be a little bigger to make it like the other day," Goldbeck replied. He was referring to the wind and chop on Lake Erie that brought broken equipment, seasickness and a healthy dose of wanton dread to Day One of the Empire Chase presented by Mahindra Tractors.
BASS officials took no chances Friday, canceling the second day of the tournament amid forecasts of high winds. Tournament leader Paul Hirosky slung 21 pounds, 11 ounces of smallmouth into the livewell on Day One, then had to wait out Friday on dry land with the rest of the field. The day off shortened the tournament — an acknowledged advantage for anglers with a lead — but also had the effect of cooling him off, Hirosky said.
He expected the bite on Saturday to suffer from a post-frontal letdown but benefit from a surplus of sunlight. Ideally, he said, a day so sunny would also be so calm that an angler could sight-fish. Bright skies with just enough wind to keep the water choppy "will be an interesting challenge, for sure," he said.
Even if the bite drops off somewhat, anglers expect weights to increase, if the wind doesn't wreak the havoc it did on Day One. The blustery conditions made trolling motors almost useless as anglers drifted along their chosen spots, often getting no more than a few seconds to cast where they wanted.
Fred Roumbanis compared the Day One conditions to offshore fishing. "You go out on a charter boat and drag your line on the bottom," he said. "You can't control what bites." The day off for the anglers will also mean a day free of pressure for the smallmouths who inhabit some of the "obvious" topographical features of the lake that several anglers have decided to fish, he added.
"The fish won't be as active, but they'll be easier to fish for," John Murray said. "The advantage to all that wind is the fish are really active — they come to you. But the advantage now is you can fish how you want to fish."
The shortened tournament means that the full, 108-angler field will be slashed straight down to 12 after Saturday's weigh-in. After the first day of fishing, the 12-cut stood at 19-8, while the money cut was at 15-7. Eighty anglers brought more than 13 pounds to the scales on Day One.
Randy Howell (62nd place, 14-10) figured he's still scrapping with "60 or 70" other anglers to earn a check. "It's a shootout for me today," he said. He said he planned to fish areas Saturday that the wind made impossible to fish slowly on Day One.
With 13-3 and in 79th place, Kenyon Hill also figured to be in that bubble bunch. "This is an outstanding fishery," Hill said. "We would have blasted them yesterday afternoon, with that sun and wind. Smallmouth seem to be solar-powered."
But he apparently needed the day of rest. The Day One waves and rain put his GPS unit on the blink after about 10:30 a.m., which made for a long afternoon of fishing blind. On Friday, after tournament director Trip Weldon announced to the field that the forecasted 25 mph winds were too dangerous to brave, Hill returned to his hotel, took a nap, tended to his tackle, ate some lunch and took a second nap.
"I was more worn out than I thought," he said. "(This sport) takes a lot more out of you than you realize.