EVANS, Ga. — For the top co-anglers fishing the Pride of Georgia presented by Evan Williams Bourbon, the tournament title came down to two ounces — and the difference between a fish missed and a fish re-caught.
With Joe Buddin weighing in a limit of 9 pounds, 10 ounces on a fairly lean day for the remaining co-anglers, it looked as though his 29-0 total would stand. But near the end of the weigh-in, fellow South Carolinian Sean Ravenscroft came to the scales with a bulging bag that needed to weigh 13-6 to surpass Buddin.
Ravenscroft knew it was going to be close, and he knew where he went wrong if he lost. Early in the day fishing with Jim Murray, Ravenscroft went to set the hook on a 3-pound fish and tumbled backward over the motor.
"Comic relief," he called it later, but the humor turned black when the scale registered 13-2 — the biggest co-angler bag of the day, good for only second place.
"That 3-pounder would have put me way over," he said afterward. Second place didn't diminish his day: "It was awesome. I wouldn't change nothing for the world."
So it was instead Buddin hoisting the winner's trophy and claiming the $50,000 boat package that came with the co-angler title, but it's worth noting that he had experienced his own bizarre moment a day earlier, when he missed a 4-pounder near one of the points that anglers have been pounding this week on Clarks Hill Lake.
He and his pro that day, Boyd Duckett, returned a couple of hours later, only to have Buddin haul in the same fish, Buddin's worm still lodged in its mouth.
"I had one of those days I couldn't do nothing wrong," Buddin said Saturday. He had a limit of fish by 10 a.m., and caught nine keepers on the day, mostly on a Carolina rig that his Day One pro, Peter Thliveros, had advised him to tie with a yard-long leader.
The owner of Williams Sporting Goods in Sumter, S.C., Buddin said he had plans for the blue-and-silver trophy. "I'm gonna put it on my counter," the 40-year-old said.
Third place went to Joel Etheridge (27-11), fourth to Tony Postell (25-13) and fifth to David Elder (24-12), who drives Randy Howell's massive truck/motor home.
"I was just two fish away," Elder said.
Postell earned plaudits from his Day Three angler, Pete Ponds, who praised Postell for helping him boat fish and for not turning their day on the water together into a two-man competition.
"It really is fun when you get somebody who wants you to catch fish, and doesn't want to beat the pro," Ponds said. He added that a co-angler who outfishes the pro runs the risk of jarring the pro's focus, which can contribute to a pro's doubts and frustration.
Postell said he appreciated Ponds' respect for his abilities on Postell's home water, and for respecting him as Ponds would a colleague.
"His first quote to me was, 'The main difference between you and me is, I've got the money and the backing to do this,'" Postell said.
"He gave me every opportunity to catch fish," Postell said. "That's all you can ask for. It was phenomenal. We'll be friends for a long time."
Ponds, it should be noted here, finished the day in second place on the pro side, 5 round pounds behind leader Chris Lane. No doubt Postell will be
watching Sunday to see whether Ponds adds $100,000 to the war chest that keeps him on the Elite Series.