Skeet Reese had been in this situation before — second place going into the final day of the Bassmaster Classic — and that first one didn’t end well for him. In 2007 Reese was in second place going into the final day at Lay Lake, and that’s where he finished, only 6 ounces behind Boyd Duckett.
“You have no idea how much that hurts,” said Reese at the time. “You don’t get many chances to win the Classic.”
But in 2009, Skeet had another chance to win the Classic. The 2007 finish had been so painful, Reese didn’t let his mind go there as he searched the Red River for a fish that would put him over the top this time.
Reese already had a limit in his livewell, but it included a 1-pounder. It was just after 1 p.m. when he moved to a big log that he had already fished at least a half-dozen times that day. He had caught fish there earlier in the week. The log was atop a shallow ridge near the mouth of Caspiana Lake, where Reese had spent most of his time the previous two days, working over the shallow cover with a spinnerbait and a jig, amassing the 38-pound, 1-ounce two-day total that had him in second place.
“It was just a matter of when you would find a fish that had moved up there,” Reese said. “I kind of sat on that ridge when the water warmed up.
“Sure enough, I threw a jig right along that log, and I jacked one that was 4-plus-pounds. That’s when the emotions started hitting me. I knew that was the fish that could win it for me.”
But the Auburn, Calif., angler wouldn’t know anything certain about the outcome of the 2009 Classic until he was on stage for the final weigh-in at Bossier City’s Century-Tel Center.
Reese wasn’t encouraged after several anglers told him that Mike Iaconelli had sacked a big limit Sunday, possibly weighing 22 to 24 pounds. And he’d done it with the help of a 6-pounder caught in the final hour. Jami Fralick, the Day Two leader, had faltered, but if Iaconelli really had that much weight, it would put him in first place, not Reese.
And making Reese feel even worse, Duckett had caught a 6-pound, 9-ounce bass in the final hour in 2007. Reese felt a sickening sense of déjà vu.
“After Boyd kicked me in the (groin) in Alabama, I was a little gun shy,” Reese said. “I was keeping my legs crossed a little bit, waiting for the next kick.
“But you just don’t know. The only thing I kept telling myself was that Ike usually big-eyes them. If he says he’s got 25, he’s got 20. If he says he’s got 20, he’s got 16.”
Sure enough, Iaconelli’s fish totaled 20 pounds, 3 ounces, leaving him 11 ounces behind the 2009 Bassmaster Classic champion — Skeet Reese.
Reese will savor that moment for the rest of his life — the explosion of fireworks, the cheering crowd and the lap around the arena with his wife and two daughters sitting in the boat with him.
And he won’t forget about catching that 4-plus-pounder at 1 p.m. Sunday, which gave him the first glimmer that a Bassmaster Classic trophy might be in his immediate future.
“I remember that fish vividly,” Reese said.