GUNTERSVILLE, Ala. — Brent Chapman spent his unexpected day off with his father, kids and wife, then treated her to a nice dinner of broiled catfish and fried pickles at one of the fancier joints in this lakeside hamlet.
Dean Rojas took advantage of the daytime hours he never sees to make business calls. Mike Wurm "had a really nice afternoon" golfing with a fishing buddy, talking about past tournaments, eyeing the cloud cover that he was wishing he could fish under.
As the day shaped up, Lake Guntersville became "a sight fisherman's dream," Ish Monroe rued, but he ran what errands he could, getting the oil on his truck changed. Jeff Connella ate breakfast at Huddle House — "That was fun. I so rarely get to eat breakfast." — and visited tackle shops for his sponsors, then stepped out to see the movie "Wild Hogs."
For a day, at least, the Bassmaster Elite Series pros got to live a normal, pedestrian weekday. A weather system that produced heavy rains Thursday morning — and which looked ripe for tornadoes — led BASS officials to scrap the first day of the Southern Challenge presented by Purolator.
The day off was both a blessing and a nuisance for the 108 pros who were suddenly left adrift in a small town, all dressed up with no bank to troll.
A quick poll at the take-off dock on Friday morning suggested that for every Casey Ashley, Jason Williamson and Bryan Hudgins, who segued from playing Texas hold 'em in the afternoon to singing three-man karaoke renditions of Garth Brooks tunes in a darkened bar before bed, there was a Doc Merkin, who spent the day napping and wishing he were on the water.
"It was OK," Connella said of the unexpected day of rest. "I tried to get my mind off the tournament. I really didn't want any more time to think about catching them. I wanted to go catch them."
Said Chapman: "I feel really refreshed and rested. I guess we'll see if that's a good thing or a bad thing. It might make me fish really fast or fish really relaxed, because I am relaxed."
"Three weeks in a row, it's been every day," said Jimmy Mason, who played poker with the rookies. "So yesterday was kind of nice to have a day to sleep in, to go back to bed for a while."
Anglers also confessed a sense of unease over the lost day. None criticized the decision to scrap the day – it was the best decision with the information available, they said — but the rain day disrupted a familiar pattern. Rojas compared the feeling to a canceled flight confining a traveler to an airport.
I cleaned my boat, messed with tackle," Gary Klein said. "But you can only do that for so long." Especially when the cable goes out, as it did for Klein and his roommate, Shaw Grigsby.
Asked about his day, Grigsby recounted a trip to a nearby Texaco, of all places, for sushi, and an aborted effort to watch a DVD too scratched to be worth his while. "Bored to tears, really," he summarized. Beyond mere cabin fever, he said he lost a sense of what the lake was going to hold.
"You're in such tune with it, you go every day, you feel how things are going, how things progress," he said. "Now you're having to go out and try things, instead of know things.
"We really don't have that buffer day anymore," he continued. "You catch them, or you're done."