EVANS, Ga. — When you're waiting for over an hour to see if you won $50,000, the toughest of co-anglers turn squeamish sitting in the hot seat — even if you're a former boxer and current mixed martial arts studio owner by the name of Dave Elder.
"I'm about sick," Elder told emcee Keith Alan seconds before Kansas' Preston Frazell put the last co-angler bag on the scales. "Hurry up!"
The Tuscaloosa, Alabama, angler's nauseating butterflies quickly took flight once he finally learned he captured the tournament win on the co-angler side of the Pride of Georgia presented by Evan Williams Bourbon.
Barely leading all co-anglers going into the final day action, Elder jumped into the boat with Elite Series pro Casey Ashley to snag 12 pounds, 3 ounces of bass for a limit and an overall total of 32-12 pounds for the tournament. Shiga, Japan's Takuji Naruo finished in second place, vaulting into the top five with 15-13 pounds, including a hefty 6-12-pound fish. In third place, California's Tom Frink weighed in with 9-15 pounds, following a strong Day Two. Chris Gould, from Martinez, Ga., earned the fourth place slot after an 8-10 day, while fellow Georgian Ed Amos slipped one notch to fifth place with 8 pounds even.
After years in the ring and in the octagon, Elder, the self-described "luckiest man alive today," cited two fortunate breaks which helped him take the title at Clarks Hill Lake.
"I only had seven bites all day," he said, while cradling his trophy like a football. "My second fish bit my drop shot and when I set the hook, the rod broke at the handle."
The chiseled angler managed to land the fish despite the broken equipment.
Elder, a husband and father of two young children, landed two more valuable fish before his luck would return again. This time, he used a swimbait given to him by Elite Series pro Randy Howell.
"My fifth fish came after I got snagged on a stump," Elder said, explaining how partner Ashley tossed his rod aside and moved the boat closer to retrieve his lure.
"Then, as I was still shaking it on the other side of the stump, I saw a fish come up and hit it," Elder said.
The co-angler simply lifted the fish and the lure into the boat — and just in time, too. While in mid-air, the loosely-hooked fish spit the lure and both fell harmlessly onto the deck.
Elder had bagged his limit.
"When it's your day, it's your day," Elder said, laughing after he had shared the story with Elite Series pro Byron Velvick and co-angler Mary Delgado. The couple converged on the angler to congratulate him minutes after he left the stage.
Although his family couldn't make the trip to Clarks Hill Lake, fellow co-angler, close friend, and business partner Matthew Leavell joined the small mob surrounding Elder.
"We met six or seven years ago through fishing and hunting, and he apprenticed me for a few years," Leavell said. "Dave's just a great guy."
Both Leavell and Elder co-own a mixed martial arts studio named Strike Hard Productions, a hair salon and several other businesses.
"I tried to beat him, though," Leavell said, within earshot of the entrepreneur.
Family-friends Buddy and Jackie Vell also made the trip from Tuscaloosa and cheered Elder from behind the white barricade.
No stranger to fishing the co-angler side of Bass Elite Series tournaments, Elder will skip Lake Murray and head to Kentucky Lake to attempt another win.
But for now, he can celebrate and relax.