MARBURY, Md. — James Niggemeyer staged a comedy routine on the deck of his bass boat Friday morning. He had an audience rolling in laughter. And he got paid for doing it.
The spark for Niggemeyer's improvisational routine was an 8-pound, 2-ounce bass, which came from the Potomac River on the second day of the Bassmaster Elite Series Capital Clash presented by Advance Auto Parts.
"It was the first stop I made," said Niggemeyer, a 35-year-old Elite Series rookie. "I was just waking up. Maybe I was a little over-caffeinated, I don't know. But I shouldn't have caught that fish."
Niggemeyer flipped a three-inch soft plastic "creature bait" into a mat of the thick aquatic vegetation lining the Potomac River. He felt a bite, set the hook and started reeling.
"I didn't realize the fish was that big," he said. "It came to the boat covered in weeds. Then it shook the weeds off and just went crazy."
That's when Niggemeyer's audience, specifically Steve Kennedy, began howling with laughter.
"I was all elbows," Niggemeyer said. "I had my rod underneath the water. Then I missed her, and she slapped against the side of my boat."
Kennedy couldn't keep a smile off his face when asked about Niggemeyer's "comedy routine."
"That's a good way to put it," Kennedy said. "It looked pretty awkward. That's all I'm going to say."
The comedy continued when Kennedy asked Niggemeyer how big the fish was.
"Kennedy said, 'What was that, about four-and-a-half (pounds)?'"
Niggemeyer recalled. "I said, 'Yeah, I think about four-and-a-half or five.'
"My (co-angler) said it was at least six. But I'm like, 'Nah, five maybe.'
"It was the underestimation of a lifetime."
These Elite Series pros don't miss the weight of a bass very often. They can hold up a bag with a five-bass limit in it and guess pretty close to the official weigh-in total. And Niggemeyer may be a rookie on this tour, but he's hardly a newcomer to catching big bass. He grew up in California fishing Castaic Lake, a famous big bass reservoir, before moving to Texas near Lake Fork, another famous big bass reservoir.
Although Niggemeyer's co-angler came closer to guessing the correct weight, he was two pounds off. Several other observers saw the bass before it was weighed, and nobody guessed eight pounds.
Niggemeyer's pay for his comedy routine came in the form of the Purolator Big Bass $1,000 check Friday. That 8-2 matched what looked to be the big bass of the tournament — Gary Klein's 8-2 on Thursday.
In addition to Klein, one other angler probably didn't appreciate the humor in Niggemeyer's routine. Brian Snowden brought a 7-13 bass to the scales Friday and walked away without any big bass money. Considering a 5-15 bass took top honors over four days in this event last year, you can bet Snowden wasn't laughing.