LAKE GUNTERSVILLE, Ala. — For the first two days of competition in the Marine Formula STA-BIL Southern Challenge on Lake Guntersville, Rick Clunn has been battling a sickness that has left him fatigued when the afternoon heat hits northern Alabama. Despite his condition, Clunn has taken advantage of a morning reprive from the symptoms and boated consistent limits of over 25 pounds to head into Day Three in sixth place.
"I'm usually pretty good until the afternoon heat kicks in," Clunn said. "The test is what happens later in the day — that's when it zaps me. By 12:00 yesterday I had to take a nap. It must have been pretty odd to the boats running by to see me just laying down on the front of the deck."
For Clunn, the easiest part of his week has been catching the fish. His bite has been on and each day Clunn has boated a limit of five fish in the first 30 minutes to an hour.
"The first morning I caught 19 to 20 pounds off my first spot and probably 30 fish total," Clunn said. "Yesterday, I boated a 3-pounder and a 6-pounder off that spot, but didn't catch as many fish. On the next spot, I caught two 4-pounders, so that made things a little easier for the rest of the day because I had a decent limit."
After finishing out his limit, Clunn would run around to other spots and spend the rest of his limited day trying to cull up.
"Every day I've had to come in early," Clunn said. "The first day I was back by 3:45 and then yesterday I was due in around 5:25, but I came in with the first flight. Even when you are feeling good, a four-day tournament is long and demanding. I don't even know what place I'm in right now — I had to leave right after I weighed in yesterday."
The key for Clunn's move up the leaderboard from 12th to sixth has been to manage his water from local traffic and run to new spots each day.
"From 10:00 on every day, I'm fishing new water," Clunn said. "I've been fortunate to find new schools of fish in areas where there aren't a lot of boats. If locals see you out there, you have to either get off your spot or sit on it all day. I've just been trying to find new fish each day."
Like many in the field have been reporting, numbers of fish caught have been high and there seems to be no rhyme or reason to catching bigger fish. That makes it important for Clunn to hit numerous spots and fish new water each day of competition.
"My spots have a real mixture of fish," Clunn said. "I will catch a non-keeper, then a 2-pounder, then a 4-pounder followed by a few more non-keepers. I don't have a spot where everything I'm catching is 4-plus pounds. Even when you are on that many fish, you have to be able to catch one to three 6-pound fish and you just can't predict if they are coming."
On the morning of Day Three, Clunn couldn't predict what his condition would be like and whether it would again affect his fishing. Considering how abbreviated his days have been thus far, he should only be able to improve upon his weight should he get a chance at a full 10 hours like the rest of the competitors.