"We kept the weigh-in going, but he must have had 50 or 60 people back there taking pictures. You'd have thought an alien landed," Tournament Director Stan Honeycutt told Kelly Bostian of The Tulsa World.
One big bass, however, doesn't make a tournament angler's career. Maybe the 43-year-old Lemon has reached the magic "10,000-Hour Rule," as detailed in Malcolm Gladwell's best-selling book, Outliers. The big bass simply signaled the start of Lemon's recent success.
As Gladwell wrote, there seems to be something about 10,000 hours. It's the difference between innate talent and experience in the role of success, and experience wins – 10,000 hours of it. Gladwell cites examples ranging from Bill Gates to The Beatles.
Maybe Billy Lemon has hit that mark in bass tournament fishing. He's been a B.A.S.S. member and a bass tournament competitor since he was about 20 years old. But the 43-year-old father of two admits he'd just about given up on his dream of being a full-time professional bass fisherman until this recent run of success.
"In the last three or four years, I'd started thinking that I was getting too old to do this," Lemon said. "But winning that Nichols event and two BFLs has helped build my confidence back up."
Lemon's success has allowed him to buy a new Ranger Z521 boat with a 250-horsepower Mercury outboard, so he'd definitely geared up for the big stage. He was fishing in it when he won last week at Fort Gibson. And the recent success has allowed him to commit to fishing the Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Open Series as the next logical step in his dream.
Tehmohan Sawhney caught his first 5-pound bass with the help of his wife, Nandini, shortly after he came to the U.S. seven years ago. It was caught from Lake Atalanta, an 800-acre lake in Rogers, Ark.
"My wife grabbed the line and dragged it in," said Sawhney.
It marked an unlikely beginning for a bass fishing fanatic, especially one who grew up almost halfway around the world in India. Sawhney, 36, was born in the hills of Pune, but spent most of his life in India's capital city of New Delhi, where he graduated from college specializing in industrial design.
Sawhney was working for Walmart in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, when he was offered a position at corporate headquarters in Bentonville.
He left Lake Atalanta that day after releasing the 5-pounder and gaining some bass fishing tips from local youngsters who were fishing nearby in a boat. That's when Sawhney realized he needed to upgrade from the $40 spincasting combo he was using. Soon after, Walmart executive Gary Green took Sawhney under his wing and educated him about the intricacies of bass fishing.
"I learned all the talk from Gary," Sawhney said. "I'll never forget the first day we went out on Beaver Lake in his boat. He said, 'Son, this is a bass boat.'"
Then Sawhney met another Walmart employee, Drew Barnes, who had grown up in northwest Arkansas and was an experienced local tournament angler. Barnes was in the vehicle with us on that drive from Rogers to Grand Lake in April.
It was Green and Barnes who helped Sawhney endure a potential roadblock in his growing passion for bass fishing: Walmart moved some of its corporate retail offices to New York City in 2008, including the fine jewelry division.