DECATUR, Ala. — One's a fluke, two's a coincidence, and three's either a trend or a crowd, depending on how you're counting. Regardless, after Tommy Biffle took the lead in the Evan Williams Bourbon Dixie Duel on Day Two by fishing water he has all to himself, it's starting to look like a key to success on the Bassmaster Elite Series this season:Fish alone Sounds simple enough, right? Catch the fish that no one else is catching? Maybe, but before his victory last week on Lake Dardanelle, Mark Menendez said, "I don't remember a tournament that I've had a set of fish to myself, ever."
Granted, to reach those fish, he had to trudge through shallows in an aluminum boat.
In winning on Lake Amistad to begin the season, Jason Williamson blitzed a batch of fish on Saturday and Sunday, sacking close to 70 pounds on those final two days alone. He did see a couple of competitors on Day Two of that tournament, but mostly had his fish to himself.
Owning a patch of water is "the key, especially when it gets to be the weekend," Williamson said. On Day Three of the Dixie Duel, he said he fished around 30 spectator boats.Biffle said he's on water that likewise has seen only a couple of other competitors. "But I don't have any problem with them," he said. "I didn't know it would be as secluded as it is. There's not anybody bothering me."He went shopping for a hidden spot after fishing in a crowd on the second practice day. All three anglers pointed to good scouting in practice as the key to finding their water.
"These guys are good," Menendez said. "They're going to do their research, they're going to talk to people. They're going to find every nook and cranny. I was shocked to have that cranny all to myself."Nip/Tucker
As he did on Lake Amistad, Mark Tucker came roaring up the standings with an 18-7 sack that took him from 45th place to fourth place after Day Two.
Even before the Dixie Duel, the St. Louis angler was sitting 12th in the Toyota Tundra Bassmaster Angler of the Year points. Not bad for a guy who was on the verge of sitting this season out because of off-season surgery to repair his rotator cuff and a torn bicep in his left arm."I almost bailed out this year because of my arm and financial problems," he said. Without insurance, his medical bills reached $35,000, he said. Finally he and his wife decided that the Elite Series wouldn't be a prohibitive risk. "I gotta make the money back to pay for that arm," he said.He's on the verge of doing just that. After making three top-50 cuts in three tournaments, his earnings this season already are $30,000. If he maintains his fourth-place position on Lake Wheeler, he will have made exactly $35,000 on the Elite Series to start the season.
Whitecaps? So What?At least two of the 50 finalists Sunday didn't want Friday's round called off due to high seas: current leader Tommy Biffle, and Kevin VanDam, who's tied with Jared Lintner for 49th place.
More than two inches of rain fell Thursday evening and overnight, and Biffle knew that it would improve his chances on the shoreline cover where he hoped to catch bigger fish Friday. VanDam, a veteran of rough-water boat running on the Great Lakes, opposed the cancellation on general principle.He opined that the boating conditions weren't nearly as rough as during a few other big-water tournaments, including the infamous 1995 New York Invitational on the St. Lawrence River out of Clayton. Several photos of VanDam fishing heavy seas for smallmouths, and with his trolling motor propeller out of the water, made the magazine rounds after that event. Incidentally, VanDam won the tournament.
Not Too Bad for Bad LuckTakahiro Omori, currently in second place with 33-9 led the field Saturday before Tommy Biffle weighed in his 19-14 stringer.
Omori went back to his Day One fish and picked up where he left off. He caught all of his keepers by 1 p.m., which is when his outboard went on the fritz. Luckily for Omori, Jared Lintner was close by and gave Omori a ride back to Ingalls Harbor in plenty of time to make the weigh-in.