LAKEPORT, Calif. — Finally, after 120 hours of being "Jared Lintner, News Story", Jared Lintner got back to being "Jared Lintner, Bass Fisherman." Except, after the traffic accident that caused him to be "News Story", it wasn't quite as easy being "Bass Fisherman".
As we've documented on Bassmaster.com, Lintner is just five days removed from a traffic accident that left his boat, motor, trailer, tow rig and fishing gear scattered along the side of a ditch on I-5 north of Stockton, Ca. Lintner spent most of Saturday afternoon, Sunday, Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday of this week in a DefCon 4 scramble to find a replacement boat and truck, and to locate, inventory and sort through a tangled mess of fishing tackle.
Thursday afternoon, he was thankfully standing on a trolling motor, casting swimbaits and competing in Day One of the Golden State Shootout on Clear Lake. As he was doing that, though, he found himself constantly rifling through the compartments of his borrowed boat, looking for needed items.
Like a Band-Aid.
"I have a whole bag with dippin' dyes, marker pens and little stuff like that," Lintner said Thursday night. "Today, in that bag, wherever it's at, I could've used a Band-Aid. I caught a fish at some point, grabbed it and somehow sliced my finger wide open. No Band-Aid. Here I am with this little towel I happened to throw in the boat last night, tied around my finger to stop the bleeding."
Lintner's not excusing himself for mistakes or shortcomings suffered on Day One — and, for that matter, for as long as he fishes the Shootout — but the reality is that the other 92 anglers in the tournament are focused entirely on figuring out Clear Lake's largemouth.
Lintner, who's fishing out of friend Mark Crutcher's boat, is just as focused, but he's also somewhat spitballing, fishing on a foreign fishing platform, sorting through (to him, anyways) disorganized tackle, and battling rinky-dink little time burners that would never happen on his own boat.
"It's just the little things you don't think about when it's your own boat, your own system, because you know where everything's at," Lintner admitted. "When you have a boat or a garage that you've organized, you have certain places for certain things, and you do things a certain way. This week, I feel like I don't know where anything is."
It didn't seem to affect him much on Thursday as Lintner bagged 23 pounds, 4 ounces and settled into second place behind Byron Velvick (29-0) heading into Day Two. The Arroyo Grande, Ca. resident, who many local anglers identified as a clear favorite to win the Shootout, is fishing at partial strength, though, estimating that he's lacking "about 35, 40 percent" of his typical tournament gear, and struggling mightily to be as efficient as possible given the situation.
"I'm constantly telling myself 'Man, I know I have this, whatever it is,' and it takes me forever to find it," Lintner said. "I have four to five boxes of swimbaits — small, large, different sizes — and I couldn't find my small swimbaits. I have no idea where they're at. Today, I was fishing down the bank, thinking to myself 'Man, I need to be throwing a big Senko,' and it took me 15 minutes to figure out where I put the Senkos. I had to open three three different compartments to figure out where I put them."
That's been Lintner's life since last weekend. During the accident, many of Lintner's estimated 75 to 80 bait boxes were scattered across the freeway, several of his rods were ejected from his rig, and what could be salvaged form his carefully organized tournament gear eventually ended up in a giant, tangled pile on the floor of his garage.
And so Lintner, his family, friends and sponsors began to pick through it, bait by bait, piece by piece, until he had a basic collection of baits to bring to practice on Monday, a day that, admittedly, Lintner can't really remember much about the actual act of practicing.
"The whole thing was, I really didn't know where my stuff was," Lintner said. "I had stuff scattered all over the place, and it was kind of freaking me out. It really bothered me during practice. When I was loading the boat that day, I'd look at something and go 'Well, this might come in handy,' and throw it in. I was just a mess."
The mess has gotten progressively tidier in the three days since, though, thanks to the continued help of Lintner's longtime sponsors and friends at Tackle Warehouse in San Luis Obispo, who have helped him sort out and organize his mountain of road-rashed gear. Lintner now starts each fishing day with a foundation of gear — roughly 25 boxes worth — that he knows he'll need for the Clear Lake fishery, and a handful of other items he feels like he'll need that day, based on observations from the day before.
Normally he'd have 35 to 40 different bait boxes on his boat, but, for now, the smaller payload will do.
"Just knowing Clear Lake and knowing its tendencies for this time of year, I knew I needed my swimbaits, I knew I needed a Senko-type bait, and seeing how clear the water was in practice, I knew I might need some finesse stuff," Lintner says. "I started with the pile in my garage and went from the giant, 9- to 12-inch swimbaits down to the little, tiny drop-shot worms. I have the basics, and I'll switch out two or three boxes and maybe put two or three others back at night, depending on what I see out there."
As he's gotten progressively better organized this week, Lintner has also marveled at the generosity of his fellow Elite competitors. Mark Menendez, upon seeing the bloody strips of cut-up towel Lintner was using on his gashed finger, hooked him up with Band-Aids and tape. Almost to a man, the entire field has approached Lintner with heartfelt offers to help.
"It's a little overwhelming," Lintner admitted. "Everbody has reached out to me: 'Hey, anything you need, dude. Baits, rods, reels, tackle, whatever, you have my number, Call me.' These guys want to step on your neck when it comes to fishing, but when something like this happens, they're 100 percent behind you."