MUSKOGEE, Okla. — Veteran Elite Series angler Paul Elias waited nearly an hour after he weighed in to find out whether he had qualified for the Bassmaster Classic tournament for the first time since 2004.
Elias paced back and forth, up and down the stairs to the backstage area where the weights were being tabulated countless times until the last angler was done before he started calculating his own numbers.
"Unofficially, I made it and all I can say is the Lord came in there, because I did everything not to make it," said Elias, who garnered 16th overall with a 14-pound, 12-ounce limit. "It cost me the top 30 in points. I mean, Kentucky Lake is probably one of the best lakes on the schedule and I didn't even hit the limit the first day. It was like I was trying not to make it."
Elias weighed in 45 pounds of fish in his three days at Fort Gibson Lake and moved up from his 44th spot in the standings each day.
"I'm fishing better, I feel good and I've got a lot of family support," he said. "My wife is worth a million dollars to me and she stayed behind me all the time. My kids all push me and tell me how good I am and you know, the Lord is telling me the same thing. I'm going down there and winning the Classic."
Rick Morris knew where the fish were on Fort Gibson and moved to third place in the Sooner Run standings with 20 pounds, the highest limit total weighed in on Day Three.
"I caught them three-fourths of the way up the river on a smaller jig, a big crankbait and a 12-inch worm," said Morris, who had finished fourth in a tournament at Fort Gibson in 2000. "I only caught six fish and almost a seventh."
Of the six he caught, Morris grabbed Big Bass honors with a 6-pound, 10-ounce bass, the largest of the tournament's three days. Morris also will be in the hunt for the top prize at the Sooner Run, sitting on a total of 53-6, 2 pounds, 2 ounces behind leader Tommy Biffle.
"It's awesome," Morris said. "This lake has been good to me. I like Oklahoma. Now it's on and we'll see what I can do tomorrow."
Day Two of the AutoZone Sooner Run would be a day that Matt Herren would like to soon forget.
Herren was suffered a fish care penalty because of a malfunction in his livewell. That unfortunate event cost him dearly in the standings, but he rebounded nicely with a 19-pound, 9-ounce limit on Day Three that boosted him to sixth place overall.
"I had a pretty good day," Herren said. "I think I'm finally dialing in on these fish more every day. I had a bad problem yesterday with a 10-dollar part that fell apart and it cost me. I had a 4-pounder in my hand and a 2-pounder I was going to cull. It was a 4.5-pound mistake that would have given me 57 pounds and put me in second heading into today."
Herren found three schools of fish that brought him back into the top 12 on Saturday.
"I'm on them," he said. "I caught them fairly early. I ran around in practice and tried to get a little more understanding of what's going on and that's what I'm going to do tomorrow. I'm going to fish like hell."
Cliff Pace and Gary Klein were two of the first to weigh in on Day Three and both stood by the backstage entrance anxiously awaiting the results for two different reasons.
"I was hanging around to see if I made the top 12 in this tournament," Klein said. "I ran around the lake and fished like everybody else did and did what I like to do, fish slow and methodically. I didn't catch a lot of fish, but they were quality ones when I did. It is what is and you have to deal with it."
Klein, who had a 17-pound, 1-ounce limit, safely reached his goal when all weigh-ins were in the books.
Pace's news was even better. Not only did he qualify for the post-season like he was hoping, he also will be fishing on Day Four after weighing in 16 pounds, 14 ounces, good for seventh place.
"I caught most of them on structure using a jig like I've done all week," Pace said. "I was catching one fish here and one fish there, but I managed to get three off of one spot, which was the most I'd caught at one time. It's a hustle. I came into this event to make the post-season and I may have done that, but I can't be mad if I didn't."
"The Lord is at the wheel." -- Paul Elias while he was waiting on the last angler to weigh-in to see if he made the Classic
"Actually, we stopped and got a pizza." – Mark Tucker, on why he and Grant Goldbeck were the last two anglers to weigh in Saturday
"I had so much sweat in my eyes that I had to take my contacts out, so I was fishing with one good eye." -- Jami Fralick
"Let me sum it up, it's a relief. I can breathe now." -- Bradley Roy on winning Rookie of the Year.
"The wind didn't blow as hard, the water cleared up and the fish didn't move up shallow for me. Maybe they were all gone." -- Brent Chapman
"I was clueless why I didn't catch them. I guess I tried to push too much." -- Derek Remitz
"When you get one in heavy current and he gets you around a rock, it's lights out. You got trouble." -- Mark Davis
"It gets really hot in Alabama for June, but Oklahoma is pretty dang hot." -- Russ Lane
"This lake fits like a lake back home." -- Pat Golden
"I'm just fortunate to compete with the best anglers in the world." -- Gary Klein
"I think we ought to do more of this. Just show up and go fishing." -- Kenyon Hill