COLUMBIA, S.C. — Bass tournament fishing often comes down to ounces, minutes and strokes of good fortune. There was no better example of that than Jon Bondy's day on Friday in the Bassmaster Elite Series Carolina Clash presented by Evan Williams.The 35-year-old Windsor, Ontario, resident thought he'd hooked a striper on his swimbait early in the day."It hit it, and then I felt it hit it again," said the only Canadian on the Elite Series tour. "It got real heavy, and I couldn't bring it forward. I thought I had the fish hooked in the side."But Bondy did finally start making some progress on bringing it to the boat. When he saw what he'd hooked, it wasn't one striper, but two bass — one weighing about 4 pounds and the other 3 1/2 My (co-angler) partner grabbed one and I grabbed the other one," Bondy said. "We just kind of lifted them in the boat at the same time."That gave Bondy three bass in his livewell at the time and added over 7 pounds to his total."I struggled and struggled and struggled the rest of the day, then it happened again," he said.
Bondy had a 4-pounder and a 3-pounder this time, but wasn't as fortunate. The larger fish got off and he landed the 3-pounder."Then I struggled, struggled, struggled some more," Bondy said. "In the last two minutes, I caught about a 2 1/2-pounder."That became a big bass for Bondy, when the totals from the 108-angler Elite Series field were compiled. His 15-pound, 3-ounce limit Friday, when added with his 8-2 on three fish Thursday, gave him a total of 23-5. And, most important, it put him in 50th place and guaranteed him a $10,000 check for the Lake Murray tournament.
Bondy edged Wade Grooms of Bonneau, S.C., and Jason Williamson of Aiken, S.C., by 1 ounce for 50th place.Pressure pointGary Klein accurately predicted what the dominant fishing pattern would be on Lake Murray before this tournament started. Two weeks ago at nearby Clarks Hill Lake, the Elite Series pros concentrated on main-lake points, where the blueback herring spawn.There was no reason to think that would change this week on Lake Murray, another impoundment where blueback herring have established themselves as the primary forage for bass.
"I think if you were a squirrel in a tree on a major point, you could sit there and watch 15 or 20 boats come across it," Klein said before Thursday's launch. "I think they've been beat up pretty much."Those major points have been pummeled even more after two days of the 108-pro angler Carolina Clash."These fish are getting beat up on 15 or 20 times a day," said Bobby Lane, who made the top-50 cut for Saturday by totaling 26-1 (32nd place). "You'll fish a point and go to the next one. There's a boat on it, so you go to the next one. That's what we're all basically doing."
Casey Ashley echoed that saying, "You've got to take a number to get on one of these fishing spots. Everybody is doing the same thing."Ashley, who is 26th with 26-11, got the wind and sunshine he wanted Friday, but topped his Thursday total of 13-5 by only 1 ounce."It should have made it better, but I think the pressure is getting to them," Ashley said.Operator errorTommy Biffle was sick when his livewell timer malfunctioned on Day One, which meant he couldn't cull any of his 14 pound, 14 ounce stringer. After fish-care penalties, it only scored him at 12-6.
Upset over his misfortune and anxious to keep it from happening again, Biffle took his boat to get worked on Thursday night. As it turned out, there was absolutely nothing wrong with the livewell timer. The issue was with the livewell timer operator.
"I went down to get it fixed and he showed me how to use it," said Biffle, who's fished in 247 BASS events and scored 145 top-50 finishes. "I don't know, I've only been doing this 30 years. I'm getting old and forgetful, I guess."
He did rebound on Day Two with a similar weight as Day One (livewell issues aside), and sits in 21st place."I thought yesterday was going to kill me, but it didn't," Biffle said.Had he not messed up, however, he'd be sitting in 10th place.Kung fu fighting
Every time Steve Kennedy gets on stage, his Jack Russell terrier, Louie, starts barking his support. But Louie was nowhere to be found on Friday, which might have something to do with Steve Daniel's cat, Madonna.
Daniel said both Louie and Madonna were out at the same time on the campground some of the anglers are staying at, and "put a butt-whooping on Louie."She put some ninja moves on him that have never been seen before," Daniel said.
Kennedy fought through the mental anguish that comes with having your dog get whooped by a cat — and managed 15 pounds, 4 ounces on Day Two.Just plain mean
Kelly Jordon had co-angler Mike "Frank the Tank" Frazier on the back of his boat Friday. Frazier, who is a lot more tank than Frank, is well-known around BASS events, so Jordon decided to have a little fun on stage.
"The boat was a little uneven, but we were able to take the waves a lot easier," Jordon said, smiling right before he left the stage to let Frazier weigh in.Overheard
"I just want to be there at the end of the last tournament."
— Todd Faircloth on losing his Toyota Tundra Bassmaster Angler of the Year lead to Mike McClelland
"I told Jason how I caught them and he told me how he missed them."
— Russ Lane on he and fellow Evan Williams angler Jason Quinn's reversal of fortune on Day Two
"These are the smartest fish I've seen in my life. You pull up on a group and catch one, and it educates all of them."
— Cliff Pace
"Everybody who wanted the wind today, well you got it. I hated it, and it killed me."
— Wade Grooms, who went from 18-4 on Day One to 5-0 on Day Two and missed the cut by 1 ounce, two weeks after missing the Clarks Hill cut by 2 ounces
Visit Bassmaster.com for full coverage of the Elite Series Carolina Clash, May 15–18, 2008. Thursday through Saturday, daily weigh-ins with live streaming video and real-time leaderboards start at 3:00 p.m. ET. On Sunday, "Hooked Up" will air at noon and 2:45 p.m. ET, with the final weigh-in and live streaming video to start at 3:15 p.m. ET.