MONETA, Va. — Expert sight-fisherman Byron Velvick, currently in eighth place, just about six and a half pounds behind tournament leader Kevin VanDam headed into the final day of the Advance Auto Parts Blue Ridge Brawl, believes that sight fishing is going to get tougher today for the 12 remaining competitors.
Boat traffic and the resulting wave action will mess things up for some of the field, but even in the calm coves anglers may have trouble seeing their prey as a result of the pollen infestation that started to settle down on the water yesterday.
"Pollen is going to be the story of the day," he said. "That little breeze that came up yesterday kicked the pollen down into a lot of the best sight fishing water."
But you can rest assured that an angler of Velvick's experience and pedigree has some tricks up his sleeve to deal with that problem. Earlier this week fishing fans saw pictures of anglers including Matt Reed and Kelly Jordon using squirt guns filled with various substances to clear an area above the bed of any remaining pollen. Some reportedly use lure scents, others use Dawn dish washing liquid. When Velvick was told about that, he frowned as if someone had just shot his dog.
"They're doing that?" he asked incredulously. "I thought I was the only one. I actually use vegetable oil. I figured it out on my own years and years ago when I was in my twenties. My mom's a school teacher and I was over there and I had to go to the bathroom. The only thing to read there was a stupid science book and it had an experiment for kids in it to show that a little bit of oil cuts the ripple on the water. I've been using it ever since."
To show just how furtive he's been in his attempts to keep this tactic under wraps, Velvick explained that he keeps the squirt gun wrapped in a plastic bag inside one of his boat's storage compartments until it's needed. Even when he gets it out, he typically tells his Marshall that he's using it to disperse fish scent to get the resident fish in a feeding mood. To date, none of them has ever questioned that explanation.
It could not be ascertained whether tournament leader Kevin VanDam uses any sort of apparatus — whether it be a child's toy or something else — to better view his quarry when sight fishing. But it was determined that VanDam tries to keep secrets just like the rest of the Elite Series field. As the world's best power fisherman prepared to take off this morning, he had five spinning rod and reel combos strapped to the deck. Not a flipping stick or cranking rod anywhere in sight.
Asked if it was unusual for him to fish a tournament entirely with spinning gear, VanDam took a look around, adopted a soft tone, and said "the meat is in the box," referring to his casting rods. "I'll be using them all today."