LEESBURG, Fla — There were quite a few firsts on Day Three of the Sunshine Showdown, presented by Advance Auto parts: it marked the first time Mark Davis has seen wind so furious and also the first time an angler has jumped from 50th into the top 5 on the Elite Series (Chris Lane).
But on a day where weights were way down, there were at least two firsts you wouldn't expect. Both Marty Stone and Alton Jones had a bass jump into their boat for the first time in their tournament lives — and add Jimmy Mize to that list, although he's had it happen before.
"We we're fishing Lake Carlton today in about 3 feet of water and I heard a splash," Jones said. "I hear something flop on the boat and there is a 3 1/2- to 4-pounder on the deck."
He thought it was his co-angler's, but his co-angler looked at Jones with the same confused expression. The bass had jumped into the boat on its own and before flopping across the deck and off the other side.
"It's never happened to me," he said. A second later he remembered one other occasion, but it wasn't during a tournament and he wasn't even fishing. "When I was a little boy, I was frog gigging with my dad and my grandpa, and we had a 3 1/2- pounder go across the deck. It was between us and the bank, as we were shining frogs with light."
Stone came across the stage after Jones and told an almost identical story: He and his co-angler were fishing, facing opposite directions, when they heard a thump — and both assumed the other had just landed a bass.
The only difference was, Stone's co-angler realized what was going on and got his hands on the 2-pounder.
"I immediately knew that was a fish we couldn't keep and my partner knew as well," Stone said, "It has to be caught in a sporting manner. Now, if it were a 6-pounder, we might have flipped a coin."
And before either one of those anglers crossed the stage, Mize stole the thunder. He told a story of a 3-pounder jumping across his boat and his co-angler just missing it. Mize, who only managed 8 pounds, 5 ounces on Saturday, just shook his head.
"My co-angler is chasing it all around and it jumps off the back deck and I'm like, 'Dang, we can't even catch a fish if it jumps in the boat,'" he said. "I've had them do that at home, fishing in the grass. I've had a 4-pounder just fly up on the boat. I don't know if he thinks it's an alligator trying to get him or what."
Mize said he spooked the fish with the trolling motor Saturday, and Stone added it was the weather that caused three of these instances the same day.
"The cold front has to make a difference," Stone said. "They're in the middle of that grass and you get that trolling motor going and it scares the 'be-jeebies out of them after 109 pounds go over their head. They jump, and the next thing you know they're in the boat."
But Jones' experience goes against the trolling motor explanation.
"We didn't do anything to spook the fish," he said. "I was sitting still. I wasn't on the trolling motor — nothing. That fish must have been chasing something.
"He came up on to the back deck, flopped all the way across and off the other side."
Whatever the reason, both Jones and Mize joked that it might be a plausible pattern for future tournaments.
"It's a good way to locate fish isn't it?" Mize laughed.
Jones added: "A Skeeter is an artificial lure isn't it?"
Visit Bassmaster.com for full coverage of the Elite Series Sunshine Showdown on the Harris Chain of Lakes, from Leesburg, Fla., March 6th–9th, 2008. Daily weigh-ins with live streaming video and real-time leaderboards start at 4 p.m. ET. "Hooked Up" will air Sunday at 10 a.m., noon and 3:30 p.m. ET. And a reminder … Daylight Savings Time starts Sunday, so remember to set your clocks.