A Killer day
COLUMBIA, S.C. — Tommy Biffle needed only a half-day to catch a five-bass limit weighing 14 pounds, 14 ounces on the first day of the Bassmaster Elite Series Carolina Clash presented by Evan Williams Bourbon. That would have put him in 20th place after Day One on Lake Murray.
But a malfunction on the livewell timer in Biffle's boat left all his bass floating belly-up. When Biffle discovered the problem around noon, his day was over. BASS rules state that dead fish can't be culled. So Biffle knew then that any casts he made Thursday afternoon would simply be practice for Friday.
"I didn't fish much after that," said the 50-year-old Wagoner, Okla., resident. "There was no point in me fishing if I couldn't catch (and keep) one.
"We had a pretty good day until that happened."
BASS tournament regulations for dead fish penalties reduced Biffle's bag to 12 pounds, 6 ounces, which knocked him all the way down to 44th place.
Biffle, of course, was sick about his misfortune. It's one of those accidents that happen from time to time on the Elite Series tour, and to anyone relying on the equipment in a livewell aerator to keep fish alive.
But fish care is big concern on the BASS circuit, therefore the dead fish penalties are big —big enough to knock you from 20th place to 44th place and take away half your day on the lake, in this case.
Sponsor comes in handy
Jason Quinn hoped to put on a show for his home state fans and his major sponsor this week. Quinn lives in York, S.C., and is sponsored by Evan Williams Bourbon, also the title sponsor of the Carolina Clash.
However, Quinn caught only two bass weighing a total of 4-13 Thursday and sits in 104th place after Day One.
"Today was one of my worst days on the water," the charismatic Quinn said. "Anything I tried didn't work out. I had a lot of missed opportunities.
"This lake is full of big fish, so you can turn it around real quick."
But Quinn knows the odds of turning around 104th place and making the top 50 cut are stacked against him. He did, however, find one consolation.
"Today's one of those days when I'm glad I've got Evan Williams Bourbon as a sponsor, because I could use a bottle."
Said emcee Keith Alan, "A bottle? Watch out for Jason Quinn later this evening, but he won't be driving."
A no frog Thursday
Chris Lane found a strong topwater bite during practice this week on Lake Murray. But when he saw the overcast skies Thursday morning, he decided to save those areas for another day.
The plan worked out well for him, as Lane caught 18-10, which was good enough for fourth place on Day One. His limit included a 5-pound, 1-ounce kicker.
"I've got some fish that I'm catching on a frog, but I never went to those today because I think you need the sun for that," the Lakeland, Fla., resident said. "The fish were out on those points this morning, so I stayed there. And I think that's where the bigger fish are, so I just tried to do the best I could out there today."
It helps to be lucky
Mike McClelland had some good fortune go his way in compiling the 18-7 that put him in fifth place on Day One. The Bella Vista, Ark., pro has had a good season, which began with a win on Florida's Harris Chain. He entered this tournament in second place in the Toyota Tundra Bassmaster Angler of the Year points race.
It was 9:30 or 10 before I caught my first one," McClelland said. "I had my best one follow the bait to the boat. I stopped (the lure), and he ate it. It was all the way in the back of his throat."
McClelland was probably one of the few fishermen who had that experience Thursday. Angler after angler came to the weigh-in stage and mentioned how bass were following their lures, but seemed too finnicky to bite. Scott Rook was one of those.
"I heard (McClelland) say that fish followed it to the boat and hit it," Rook said. "Mine followed it to the boat and wouldn't hit it. I had a tough day."
Rook, who is fourth in TTBAOY points, caught 12-0 and is in 47th place.
Praise for Lake Murray
Ish Monroe rates Lake Murray among his top five bass fishing lakes in the U.S. And his practice days served to confirm that. That's why Monroe was disappointed with his 27th place weight of 14-1 Thursday. It's a total that many of the Elite Series pros would have been happy with.
"I had a great day (of practice Wednesday)," Monroe said. "I really thought I'd catch 20 pounds today.
"I definitely rate this as one of the top five lakes in the country. It's just an awesome lake. It's got a ton of big fish in it."
Early flights important
The Elite Series pros who had the luck of drawing early flights Thursday definitely had an advantage. Skeet Reese explained it best, saying, "After that morning bite, you might as well drain the lake because they're not going to bite."
Kevin VanDam seconded that notion, saying, "If you don't catch them by 9 o'clock, it's tough after that. These (blueback) herring spawn at night, so the bass and stripers are really active first thing in the morning."
VanDam noted that the overcast skies Thursday kept the stripers actively feeding on the herring well into the day. He hooked a few of them, too.
"It's fun for a second," VanDam said. "But that's not what we're out here for."
"There's five little fish again. That's all I seem to be catching this year."
— Charlie Hartley, who led the Bassmaster Classic going into the final day but is 91st in Toyota Tundra Bassmaster Angler of the Year points after five events this season
"The key is to learn something each day you're on the water. I just haven't learned anything this week. I had a tough practice and a tough first day."
— Todd Faircloth, 90th with 7-5, tied with Hartley
"If you don't see any other Elite Series anglers around you by noon, you're doing the wrong thing."
— Rookie Clark Reehm, who is 107th with 3-8
"I'm a finesse fisherman, and that's what I did all day."
— Matt Sphar, who is third with 18-14