MAUMELLE, Ark. — The start of the 2008 Under Armour College Bass National Championship proved challenging as a mid-day rain storm sent many boats scrambling for cover.
Kyle Tindol and Michael Eubanks from Faulkner University dealt with some additional bad luck on Day One, wasting over an hour with spark plug issues.
"Something in the fuel kept fouling up our spark plugs," Tindol said. "We got to the marina and finally got the plugs cleaned up, but then the rain started."
They still managed to weigh in 9.79 pounds, good enough for fourth place and a solid chance to make the final cut to five after fishing concludes on Thursday.
Chip Porche and Mark Johnson did not fare as well with their boat problems. Representing the University of Oklahoma, they were disqualified after returning to the dock 45 minutes late.
"We had four fish by 8:30 a.m. and a limit by 10," said Porche. "Unfortunately, about five minutes before the weigh-in, our boat wouldn't start."
No strangers to problems at College Bass, the Sooners were looking forward to making up for a disappointing result in last year's Championship. Porche remembered the "unfortunate events" of 2007, when on the final tournament day the team found a man and his daughter on their sweet spot. The pair never left, instead hauling in huge bass right in front of the Sooners' eyes.
And all that was only after they had ran their first boat up on a rock while traversing the Arkansas River during practice, forcing Porche's father to drive overnight from Tulsa with a replacement.
"After last year, we wanted to come in here and make an impression," Porche said. "But after today, I don't even know what to think. It's just those things that happen with fishing."
Teams that managed to avoid mechanical problems found a good bite difficult to come by. Some anglers caught all their fish early, while others remained empty-handed until the afternoon rain moved the fish to shallower water.
"We quit catching them at 8 a.m.," said Zack Gagnard, of Northwestern State University.
He and teammate Paul Rini weighed in 7.65 pounds on Day One, putting them within striking distance of the leaders and just over 1 pound out of the 5-cut.
"They were still biting when we left," he said. "We think we can go back and catch some more."
Andrew Shafer and Scott Edmonds, from Texas A&M University, had a similar experience, catching a limit early in the day.
"We figured the rain would start to help to bite, but we already had a good limit," Shafer said. "I wanted the sun to come back out."
Shafer said he worried that the other teams would catch up to them, but the Aggie's 10.20-pound bag held, finishing as the second largest of the day.
Other teams weren't going to wait for the sun, opting to stay on the water throughout the rain.
"We fished right through the rain," said Tim Waits of the University of Alabama-Birmingham. "The bite picked up after it, too."
Waits, along with teammate Braxton Setzer, sit in sixth, with 8.28 pounds.
Jeremy Reese and Trent Gephardt from the University of Arkansas-Little Rock are looking to capitalize on their local knowledge with Lake Maumelle just an hour from their university. However, they admit it has been a while since either of them have fished there.
"It's a tough lake any time of year," Gephardt said. "Catching numbers isn't a problem, just catching the big ones …"
In 11th place with 6.84 pounds, Reese knows it will be a battle to move up in the standings. "We'll need double digits," he said.
During practice, anglers figured it would be difficult coaxing a double-digit stringer out of Lake Maumelle, and only two were brought in on Wednesday. Still, many are optimistic they can move up on Day Two.
"We have a couple options," Gephardt added. "Jeremy has a couple things up his sleeve."