SHREVEPORT, La. — Anyone paying attention could almost see this freight train coming. Two Bassmaster Classic competitors, Team Nitro members schooled in working together, duking it out in a tiny sweet spot within a community hole. There couldn't possibly be enough fish.
Only, according to both, it didn't go down that way.
Instead of a sparring match, Jami Fralick and Brian Snowden more or less spent three days dancing around each other. But neither could put together the right moves to win the crown.
"The water just got too cold last night. When I got there it was 51 degrees and the warmest it got was 54. The deepest water there is about five feet," said Fralick, who dropped from a Day Two lead to eighth place with a Day Three weight of 10 pounds, 9 ounces . "I actually got more bites this morning than I did the past two days. But they were short-striking. I really didn't think (the water temperature) would drop as much as it did.
"There's a big difference in 51 and 57, which is what it was yesterday. At noon they started biting better, but I just ran out of time. It just wasn't my time I guess."
Concern that Casey Ashley would yank more weight — brought up following Day Two and on their minds at this morning's launch - from the spot was assuaged almost right away. While Snowden switched boats just out of the lock separating Pool Five and Four, Ashley, who had shown up unexpectedly on Day Two and walloped the tournament's biggest bag, joined Fralick for the frigid early morning. Like he had promised Snowden, though, he did what he told them he'd do.
"The cold front shut 'em down. I made one pass and they wouldn't eat my spinnerbait. I caught one little towhead that wouldn't even weigh and got out of there," said Ashley, who had tagged the area as a back-up in the practice period, moving in when his Day One didn't pan out.
With another competitor out of the way, the pair was free to circle their area within "The Jungle," a popular backwater area consisting of stumps, laydowns and lily pads. Swimming a bluegill-patterned jig remained the pattern, with bites coming predictably more frequently as the high sun warmed the water.
"It was a rough day for me. You can't hold anything back today," said Snowden, who ended up fishing for only two hours and 40 minutes. "I actually didn't do that bad considering how little time I had (18-1). Once I got past breaking down, switching boats and switching back into my boat, I did okay. I probably could have culled again with a little more time."
Snowden agreed that their area was fertile enough to give both of them a fighting chance against the efforts of some of the bass fishing world's heavyweights.
"It seemed to be," said Snowden. "I just needed a five pounder.