BUFFALO — Several anglers who stumbled on Day One of the Empire Chase presented by Mahindra Tractors enjoyed revivals on the second and final day before the top 12 cut.
Marty Stone improved from a 4-pound, 11-ounce disaster to sack 20-11 on Saturday, Kurt Dove blew up from 13-10 to 20-7 and Mark Menendez improved from 14-15 to 21-7.
Eric Nethery's second act put them all to shame. After weighing just two fish for 4-11 on Day One, Nethery crashed the scales with the tournament's biggest bag of 22-6 on Day Two.
If he could have produced that sack the first day, he'd have a 3-pound overall lead. But his crummy first day doomed him to an 82nd-place finish.
On stage, he called his first day "a monumental screw-up." He explained later that he had stopped to fish near the dock before making a long run to a point past Dunkirk, a New York town around which many of the pros have been fishing this week.
Only after he began his run did he realized he had waited too long. Strong winds were whipping the lake into a meringue, and after going 22 of 40 miles, he turned back. "That pretty much blew the tournament for me," he said. "I'm pretty sure I could have caught 20 (pounds) a day."
He proved it with his Day Two sack, perhaps, but too late.
Back to his feet
After spending about three hours of Day One fishing from his back, with his stomach and head reeling from the oceanic waves on Lake Erie, rookie Marty Robinson found his magic cure on Saturday.
"Last night I got myself a magic patch that I put behind my ear," Robinson said as he weighed his fish. "I call it my pimp patch."
The prescription patch quelled his queasiness, and he improved his Day One catch by 3-5 to 19-0 and a 33rd-place finish.
45th and inches
Gerald Swindle knew that Lake Erie was different than the reservoir lakes he is so accustomed to fishing in the South. But up here, "the drops are in inches, not feet," Swindle said.
He explained that for most of this tournament, he relied on the digital numbers over the visual depiction of the underwater landscape.
"Here, the bottom is so tapered, the fish hold at the slightest little drop," he said.
Swindle used this knowledge to finish the tournament in 45th place.
By the afternoon, co-angler Jason Luszcak knew that Paul Hirosky, the tournament's leader on the professional side going into Saturday, might have been feeling the pressure of being top dog.
"He kept saying I need one more 5-pounder, I need one more 5-pounder," Luszcak said.
The pair of anglers hadn't moved around much during the morning hours but as the day grew longer, they were trying different sites at breakneck speed.
Lintner at a loss
An odd and quiet thing happened for the first time in nine Elite Series events this year. Jared Lintner failed to finish in the top 50, breaking the longest such streak on the tour.
"I just didn't get on big fish," Lintner said. He said he realized part of his problem, only too late. He fished shallow water in the mornings, then deep water later, missing the movement of larger fish coming and going.
"When the big ones were out, I was up. When the big ones were up, I was out," he said.
With the tournament shortened to two days before the 12-angler cut, Lintner had little time to adjust. He finished in 76th place, a little more than 4 pounds out of the money. He'll remain in third place in the Angler of the Year standings.
Grigsby on Tucker
Tim Tucker's unexpected death in a car crash in Florida this week stunned everyone who had read his unparalleled coverage of bass fishing over the past 25 years. Here's what pro Shaw Grigsby, a friend of Tucker's, had to say of the writer.
"You're always thinking about him. It's a sad thing. Did it affect my fishing? I don't know. I could have just as easily won it, and it would have been a tribute to him.
"Tim would have been the first one to tell every one of these anglers to fish as hard as they can. He just really, truly loved the outdoors. It used to be, he'd come to these things and fish them ahead of time. He'd have loved coming out here and catching those big smallies. He would have had a good time."