MANY, La. — If ever a Bassmaster Elite Series tournament has produced more wild fish tales, it doesn't come easily to mind. And if ever an angler had a chance to jump from 12th place on Day Three to victory on Day Four, it's at the Toledo Bend Battle.
"Look at what has happened to a lot of these guys," said Mark Davis of Mount Ida, Ark., who is in 12th place – 9 pounds, 15 ounces behind leader Brent Chapman's three-day total of 59-14. "They'll catch 25 pounds one day and eight pounds the next.
"You know that a guy can struggle, and any minute you can pull up to the mother lode."
Fred Roumbanis of Bixby, Okla., pulled up to the mother lode Saturday, but it literally got yanked from his hands. Within an hour, a big bass snatched a rod-and-reel from his grip, then an eight-pounder snapped his line and jumped from the water to taunt him.
"It was crazy," said Zach Taylor of Pine Bluff, Ark., Roumbanis' marshal. "The craziest thing I've ever seen. It's something I'll never forget."
Said Roumbanis, who had 10-12 Saturday, "I could have had 30 pounds. That's two that weighed 20 pounds easily."
That's why no lead is safe Sunday at Toledo Bend Reservoir. And Chapman's lead is only five pounds over Casey Ashley of Donalds, S.C., who is in seventh place with 54-14. The leaders are bunched closely.
"This tournament is going to come down to a guy that catches a big bag of fish (Sunday)," said Chapman. "I just hope it's me."
Chapman, who is from Lake Quivera, Kan., had a 1-pound, 9-ounce lead on Matt Herren of Trussville, Ala., after two days. Saturday that margin shrunk to 1-5 as Marty Robinson of Lyman, S.C., jumped from sixth place with 21-5 Saturday. It's just another indication of why Davis isn't out of it in 12th place.
"Thirty pounds is doable here – very, very doable," said Davis.
Timmy Horton of Muscle Shoals, Ala., almost hit that mark Saturday, finishing with a five-bass daily limit that weighed 27-9. His bag included an 8-15 largemouth.
But Terry Scroggins of San Mateo, Fla., topped it for big bass honors of the tournament so far with a 9-3 Saturday. Amazingly, he caught it on six-pound test line. Scroggins didn't make Sunday's cut to the top 12, but he had a big-bass story that was unlike any other on a day when Cliff Pace of Petal, Miss., also had an eight-pounder.
Scroggins had built confidence this week in a drop-shot pattern that produced more bites than anything else he tried. At 10 a.m. Saturday he made a long cast with 10-pound test braided line attached to a six-pound test fluorocarbon leader. He felt a bite in 25 feet of water.
"When I pulled back, it never moved," Scroggins said. "Then it just came straight up and jumped. I'm like, 'Oh my gosh, there's no way I'm going to catch that fish.'"
But he did a few minutes later. The female largemouth appeared to weigh more than 10 pounds.
"It was extremely long," Scroggins said. "But it's post-spawn. If you caught that fish about three months ago, it probably would have weighed 10 ½ or 11 pounds."
Roumbanis can only guess at the weight of the bass that yanked a rod-and-reel from his hands. "I've had a lot of 10-pound bites," he said. "This was a lot bigger." Roumbanis dropped a one-ounce Pepper football-head jig combined with a Zappu Twin Blade and a soft-plastic trailer into a deep brushpile.
"The fish set the hook on ME!" he said. "It felt like I was hung up. I was getting ready to lower the rod to clear the brush. But it was a fish that just ripped the rod out of my hands. It was so strong. Only a double-digit fish could do that."
That wasn't the final chapter in Roumbanis' day. After re-rigging another rod-and-reel, he got another big bite in that brushpile.
"I set the hook, and I was like, 'I've got her,'" he said. "I was kind of sawing up-and-down and my line breaks. I turned around, and I'm like, 'What did I do wrong?"
As if to taunt him, the bass jumped from the surface with Roumbanis' line hanging from its mouth.
"He sat down and the fish decided to show itself right behind him," said Taylor, who was serving as a marshal for the first time. "It was easy an eight-pounder, right behind him."
So, yes, there's definitely no insurmountable lead on Sunday, not even the one of almost 10 pounds that Chapman has over 12th-place Davis.
After Horton's big day, he thinks the sky is the limit for a one-day bag at Toledo Bend.
"Here, there's no ceiling," Horton said. "A guy could bust 40 pounds here pretty easy."
Added Pace, "It's like rolling the dice. If you pull up on the right place at the right time, you can catch a huge – Lake Falcon huge – stringer of fish."