HUDDLESTON, Va. — Chasing after stubborn bass on the spawning beds can be a high-risk, high-reward predicament for the professional fisherman.
If he doesn't go after a lunker he's found, he may wish he had the poundage at the weigh-in. But if he spends too much time in pursuit of it, he wastes valuable time in the fishing day.
For some anglers at the Evan Williams Bourbon Blue Ridge Brawl at Smith Mountain Lake on Friday, the chase paid off. For others, it did not and they are heading home, falling below Friday's 47-man cut line.
Gerald Swindle of Warrior, Ala., probably would have made the cut even if he had not gone after a troublesome 5-pounder on Friday. But with it in his livewell, he is in eighth place heading into Saturday.
"I'm not the guy who's going to spend four hours trying to catch one fish," Swindle said, whose two-day total is 32 pounds, 10 ounces. "I saw that fish yesterday. Today, I did something I don't normally do: I ran the fish out of the bed and chased it down the bank. When it turned around, I was waiting for it to come back and I caught it. You normally don't do that. I caught it about 25 feet off the bed."
Swindle said he went against his usual judgement because while there are plenty of 2-pound fish to be caught this week on Smith Mountain Lake, 5-pounders are few and far between.
"I've sight fished every year I've been here, and I never catch the big one," he said. "I look and look, but the few you find are always so squirrelly you can't catch them. So I feel very fortunate."
Elite Series rookie Bradley Roy of Lancaster, Ky., experienced a chase of his own with no success.
Roy had caught four bass, but his time spent pursuing a fifth — one that he hoped would put him over cut line— did not pay off.
"I just thought if I could get that last one it would be really close," said Roy, whose two-day total of 22-15 left him in 78th place. "It was active. It went back to the bed six or seven times. Usually after they do that, they bite. This one never would. I bet I threw 15 different baits at it, everything you can think of. I was ready to throw my hat at it. Nothing worked."
Stephen Browning of Hot Springs, Ark., found a huge bass during practice earlier in the week. But his four-hour chase for it on Thursday spelled his doom for the rest of the tournament.
"It was probably 7 or 8 pounds," said Browning, who finished in 64th place at 24-12. "I spent four hours of an eight-hour day on Thursday trying to catch her. I caught the male fish and thought I would catch her right after that. I ended up letting the male go, hoping to get her fired back up.
"That kind of fish, that's a deal-breaker, a game-changer without a doubt. One like that would put you at 16 of 17 pounds, and that's a big stringer on this lake."