GUNTERSVILLE, Ala. — Encroachment can come with some negative connotations when anglers are fishing money tournaments like the Synergy Southern Challenge on Lake Guntersville.
But pro anglers Gary Klein and Mike McClelland found some common ground — or ledge as it were.
Klein and McClelland got together after the first day's limit and discussed sharing a honey hole that produced nearly 40 pounds between them on Thursday. On Friday, McClelland shot up the ranks to 21st with 22 pounds, 15 ounces and Klein managed only 16-9 but stayed within cut range at 12th.
"We're friends and that's sportsmanship," Klein said. "I found two schools of fish and I was sitting there catching them off the point when Mike pulled up yesterday. I was trying to save them, but he was thinking about fishing there and I told him he needed to be there first thing in the morning."
After notching 28-4 on the first day, Klein couldn't get the fish he wanted on Day
Two, but with an assist from McClelland, he managed to get a decent limit.
"Mike had caught 17 pounds and I couldn't catch squat," Klein said. "Mike told me to get over here and fish where he was and I caught a few, so it worked out."
"We worked together a little," McClelland said. "The last thing I wanted to do was shut down when he was catching a fish and I went on about my business. I came back and he was still sitting in the same spot and I knew he wasn't' exactly where I wanted to be, so I slipped in about 200 yards behind where he was fishing and ended up catching a decent sack."
Thursday event the two discussed a stragety for Day Two.
"I was not going to encroach on Gary, but I was going to fish the area where I wanted to be," McClelland said. "He said it was fine and there was no problem."
On Friday morning, most of the fish apparently had migrated down the ledge from Klein while McClelland was catching his share of two- and three-pounders. Then the sportsmanship of the Bassmaster Elites came to fruition when McClelland moved off his hot spot and let Klein sink his hook where the fish were.
"He did catch a few there, but it's great to have that kind of relationships with other anglers," McClelland said. "When you encroach on an angler the wrong way, it creates problems, but when you talk about it and you're not casting over each other, there's nothing there. We were where there were the sweet spots and were hop-scotching back and forth around each other."
Bubble boy makes a move.
In the middle of last year, Chris Lane made a big move, literally, from his hometown of Winter Haven, Fla., all the way to Guntersville, Ala. He fits in right at home on the plentiful matted grass in the fall, but now that the fish are on offshore structure, it has been a learning curve.
"I haven't gotten to fish this lake this time of year yet," Lane said. "I already know the shallow bite, but now I'm really having to learn the deep bite. These fish are pushing out away from the bank and they didn't pull much current today, so it looks like it was tougher on a lot of guys."
After only catching 14 pounds, 6 ounces the first day, Lane rebounded in a big way and landed 23-4, enough to squeak into the final cut spot in 47th place. Despite a huge Day Two, it was actually a fish from the first day that got him into Saturday.
"Kevin Wirth 20 minutes before the weigh-in, told me I needed to come over there and catch some fish," Lane said. "At the time, I was still one fish short of a limit and went over there and caught one. Even with my good bag today, I thought I needed 25 pounds to make the cut.
"I'm going out tomorrow and I'm going to hammer them out. I'm looking forward to it."
Redemption for Jordon
Catching a limit is something Kelly Jordon is used to. Aside from the brutal conditions at the California Delta in the first event of the season, Jordon has caught a limit every day of every other tournament ... until Thursday.
On a storied lake that gave up 90 limits on Day One, Jordon was one of the three anglers who only caught four keepers. What happened?
"I thought I could catch them sight fishing," Jordon said. "In practice, I saw 5- to 7-pounders everywhere, so I looked most of the time. I thought I could catch 30 pounds yesterday."
Unfortunately for Jordon, things changed overnight and he failed to change with the fish.
"I kept chasing the rabbit hole and they were all gone except for one 5-pounder that I caught," Jordon said. "Being too hard-headed killed me, but I've never seen anything like that. The only thing I can think happened is that the hot day warmed the water up from 68 to 75 back in the pockets and they decided it was time to move out to where the bait was offshore."
Jordon made the adjustment on Day Two and went offshore, fishing like he does back home on Lake Fork, but it was too late to make the 47-cut. His 23-pound, 4-ounce bag jumped him all the way up into 58th place and he finished only 2 pounds away from fishing Saturday, about the size of one Guntersville keeper.
Young Fisher lands lunker
Before launching for the second of fishing, Mark Davis gave his son Fisher some worms to go try his luck fishing from the banks of Lake Guntersville, renowned for good-sized bass.
After Davis weighed in with a 23-pound, 10-ounce sack on Friday afternoon to boost him to third place in the tournament standings, Fisher and Davis' other son Hunter had some big fish news of their own.
Fisher had landed a 6-pounder.
Davis' face lit up when he heard the news and he chuckled, hugged both his boys and then talked about his day on the productive fishery.
"I caught all of my fish on the ledges of the river," Davis said. "The key was they did not run much water and it was tough.
Ponds left figuring it out
From back stage, Pete Ponds anxiously watched the leaderboard change and gave a sigh of relief when the cut came at 37 pounds, 10 ounces.
After being in the top five after the first day with 27-12, Ponds only weighed-in a 14-1 sack on the second day and made the cut with 40-1.
"Just when you think you have this place figured out ... it's just a humbling sport," Ponds said. "You can't change Mother Nature and no current makes the fish spread out. I don't know whether I panicked or fished to fast, but the wind was hitting pretty hard and that usually makes it good for a spinnerbait and commonly you can catch those types of fish in grass."
But the fish just weren't there for Ponds on the second day.
"It's an ever-adjusting deal," he said. "You have to adjust constantly. The guy who wins this thing is the one who adjusts the best and makes the right decisions, not necessarily the guy who can catch them the best. A lot of this is mental at this stage in my opinion."
However, Ponds is optimistic for the third day.Skeet Reese
"I'm going to think about it hard tonight and analyze it," he said. "I'm going to check the flow charts and see if they are planning to discharge water or not, or whether it's going to be overcast and windy and where the water is rising. There are so many variables. The more you learn, the more it's a puzzle and the more fun it is, that's why it's so challenging. When you think you've got it figured out, you don't."
Billy goes big
Mayflower, Ark., native Billy McCaghren had an "unbelievable day" fishing on Day Two.
"I got to my primary spot and fished it for 15 minutes without a bite," he said. "I changed up some things a little and caught four big ones 20 minutes later."
McCaghren ended up with a 28-1 sack that moved him to fourth place in the standings.
"I had been catching some of the biggest drum you ever laid eyes on, but when I saw green, I knew if I could get it in the boat I would be close enough," he said. "I'm a river-rat and fish back water."
McCaghren has become one of the top anglers in the Elite Series after beginning with a club in Mayflower and progressing to the Open tournaments.
"For me personally, it's a blessing from God," he said. "I fished most of my life is small bass clubs and the first year I was in Opens I won and got the money to fish these."
He's found success from the support of local business back home in Arkansas as his sponsors.
"I've forced myself to cash checks to survive and that makes a guy fish a little harder," he said. "Hopefully, I'll survive long enough and get the sponsors to do this full time."
It helps to know Skeet
John Murray and Skeet Reese have been roommates for 20 years. That relationship has proven beneficial to both anglers this week on Lake Guntersville.
Reese has been starting on a spot and catching a quick limit and then turning it over to Murray, who landed the bulk of his 23 pounds there today.
"Yesterday, I fished shallow and that didn't work out," Murray said. "I stayed down here and fished deeper today. Skeet started on that place today and caught 23 pounds and then let me move in on it and I ended up catching 20 pounds."
It was a spot both anglers found in practice, but because of their relationship, they have been able to share it amiably instead of fighting over it or pressuring the fish too much, a situation many other anglers have to deal with.
"We'll see what he wants to do tomorrow," Murray said. "He catches them real quick in there, but if he wants to stay on it, that's fine with me. I've got some other places where I can go."
"I've been married to the same woman for over 50 years, but only spent 25 of those years with her ... The rest I spent fishing."
"I've never had so much fun losing $10,000."
"There were fishermen on pretty much everything I fished yesterday, and that makes it tough."
"I've got two or three sweet spots out there, that only hold 4 and 5-pounders."
"I think the only way I can catch Skeet is to hit him in the knee with a baseball bat."
"Every way I went was wrong."
"If you're going to steal an angler's gas, at least leave him a note."
Cliff Pace on having the gas siphoned from his boat at this hotel.
"I lost a 5-pounder and a 6-pounder back to back today ... that pretty much crushes your hopes of making the cut."