COLCHESTER, VT. — The game is on.
Last night’s weather reports calling for winds of 25 mph or higher had Tournament Director Jon Stewart considering either cancelling the final day of the B.A.S.S. Federation Nation Eastern Divisional or restricting the tournament waters to Mallett’s Bay. When Stewart checked the weather conditions at Colchester Reef about an hour before this morning’s take-off the wind speed registered at 21 mph but by 6:15 a.m. the wind had diminished to 12 mph, so Stewart sent out the contestants.
A cold front moved in last night dropping the temperatures into the 40's and prompting the competitors to dig out the coveralls, stocking caps and gloves for this morning’s take-off. Tournament leader Skip Sjobeck was bundled up for a cold ride and ready to make some adjustments for the changing weather conditions. “I just have to fish slowly like I did (yesterday). I marked a lot of fish with the graph that I could drop down on and catch, but then on some I would drop down (his drop shot rig) and they would swim away. They weren’t really feeding, but they did feed at times.” Today he plans on sticking with bottom-bouncing tactics with his drop shot rig and Carolina-rigged plastic lizard.
This is the first time in eight divisionals that Sjobeck has been in position to win the event. “I have been to the Nationals (Federation Nation Championship) three times and to win a divisional would be the ultimate. It would be the next best thing to making the (Bassmaster) Classic.”
Maine’s George Cooper nearly won last year’s divisional at Candlewood Lake and he is challenging again as the tournament runner-up. Competing on Champlain for the first time, Cooper is catching smallmouth from the mid-depth range. He is making a run of about 20 miles and was probably glad to see the wind diminishing. “I’ve got to try to go to those areas because that’s where the fish are,” he said.
Connecticut leads the team competition thanks to the motherly care of Connecticut Federation Nation President Sylvia Morris who has cooked dinners each night for the squad. “Everybody has been eating and sleeping well and doing their homework,” she said. “The guys talk to each other. As a group we don’t separate. We all stay together and must eat together so they have no choice but to talk to each other.”
The individual and team champions and qualifiers for the Federation Nation Championship and Junior Bassmasters World Championship will be determined during today’s weigh-in at 2:30 p.m. at Mallett’s Bay.