COLUMBIA, S.C. — Kelly Jordon was driving down the freeway on his way to North Carolina's Lake Wylie in July 2004 when a policeman pulled up beside him and motioned for him to pull over. That's when Jordon first met Saturday's co-angler champion of the Bassmaster Elite Series Carolina Clash presented by Evan Williams.
"I was running radar on the northbound side when I saw his boat go by," said Jeff Freeman, a deputy sheriff in Max Meadows, Va. "I ran about 5 miles and stopped him. He was going to pre-fish for the Classic
"He was like, 'Dude, what did I do wrong?' I said, 'Nothing.'
"I really liked to fish then, but I really hadn't fished anything big. I was still star-struck then."
Freeman just wanted to talk to one of his heroes about bass fishing.
"He and I get a kick out of that story," Freeman said. "We've become real good friends since then."
Saturday's co-angler trophy marks the second one the 36-year-old Freeman has earned. He also took home the trophy at the Elite Series event on Smith Mountain Lake in 2007. Since then, Freeman won the BASS Federation Mid-Atlantic title on Florida's Lake Toho and qualified for the 2008 Bassmaster Classic, where he finished 28th in February on South Carolina's Lake Hartwell.
Freeman is trying to decide whether to change careers and join Jordon on the Bassmaster Elite Series.
"The guy is a heckuva fisherman," Jordon said. "He's pretty amazing. He's been kicking butt."
So what does Jordon think about Freeman's possible career change?
"Man, that's between him and his family," Jordon said. "Obviously, he's a very talented angler. I'd like to see him get the chance to get out there and try it for a couple of years."
Then there were six
The number of Elite Series anglers who have made the top 50 cut and thus earned at least a $10,000 check in every tournament this season dropped from eight to six at Lake Murray. It marked the sixth stop on the 11-event trail.
Derek Remitz (78th) and Scott Rook (82nd) saw their streaks end this week. The remaining six are Todd Faircloth, Bryan Hudgins, Alton Jones, Mike McClelland, Skeet Reese and Dean Rojas.
The magic blueback number
Alton Jones got a Clarks Hill Lake fishing report this week from one of his co-anglers who had been there two weeks ago. The week after the Elite Series pros were at Clarks Hill, where Jones finished 11th, this angler had fished in a local tournament on the lake.
"I'd taken him to a spot where they weren't really schooling, but we could see (the bass holding off a point)," Jones said. "He said, 'I had a club tournament there the next week, and I had 18 pounds in five casts. They were schooling everywhere. When the water temperature got right, the fish went nuts.'"
Jones said 72 degrees seems to be the magic number that starts the furious topwater, blueback-busting action on these lakes. And it wasn't quite that warm when the Elite Series stopped at Clarks Hill.
A further examination into the behavior of blueback herring proved just how right Jones was. According to fisheries biologists, blueback herrings spawn in water temperatures of 70 to 75 degrees. Incubation of their eggs requires 50 hours at water temperatures of 72 degrees.
Who wants it?
Half of the anglers who started Saturday in the top 12 fell out of the final cut, including Mike McClelland.
"Today had bright, slick conditions and I just couldn't talk myself into doing what I knew I needed to do, which was pick up a spinning rod and go to the docks," McClelland said. "I probably could have caught a decent limit that way."
McClelland started the Carolina Clash 27 points behind Todd Faircloth in the Toyota Tundra Bassmaster Angler of the Year standings, but he said positioning himself in the TTBAOY standings wasn't on his mind Saturday.
"When you're in a position to win, you don't want to back up, so I just kept swinging for the fences," he said. "It hurts to be outside the top 12, but I can honestly say that this is the worst day of fishing I've had all year."
Skeet Reese was another angler that dropped out of the top 12 Saturday, only catching 10-5 and finishing in 22nd place. He started the tournament third in the TTBAOY standings, and could have possibly taken over the lead had he moved into one of the top three spots in this event.
Faircloth was able to rebound from a 7-5 start with a 17-12 Day Two, but finished in 38th after only catching 10-7 on Saturday.
Hite wards off bad luck
Davy Hite would like nothing more than to win this Bassmaster Elite Series tournament in his home state of South Carolina. He said only a Bassmaster Classic win would top that on his wish list.
But Hite thought any chance of him doing that went out the window Friday when he weighed only 10-10, leaving him in 34th place with 25-13.
"This morning I was coming to the ramp and a black cat ran right across in front of me," Hite said Saturday. "I thought, 'Oh my God!'
"So I turned my hat on backwards. My granddaddy taught me to do that to not give you bad luck.
"My second cast I hooked a 4-pounder and got it right to the boat and it came off. I said, 'If I could get my hands on that black cat right now…'
"Then two casts later I caught a 5-pounder and I said, 'The cat's out of the boat.' I caught 20 pounds probably before 10 o'clock."
Actually, Hite caught 19-4, but that was enough to jump him all the way to a sixth-place tie with Bradley Hallman at 45-1 over three days.
"It's so fast and furious in the morning, and I think I was too amped up on coffee or something."
— Chris Lane, on missing a lot of topwater bites early on Saturday
"The thing about fishing on Saturday is they have to pay you to leave."
— Kenyon Hill, who finished 41st, but earned a $10,000 paycheck for making the top 50 cut
"When I get home, I'm going to play my wife in a game of checkers. Every time she moves, I'm going to jump her."
— Guy Eaker, 68, on stage, after failing to make the top 50 cut
"I'm hoping everybody goes to church tomorrow and lays off those (main lake) points a little bit for us."
— Kevin VanDam, on all the recreational boat traffic on Lake Murray Saturday