"This was a backwards tournament for me," said a bewildered Josh Guess. "Everything I thought I knew was going to happen didn't. My fish disappeared — at least the big ones — on the first day. Little keepers were the best I could do except for late on Friday afternoon when I boated a 4- and a 7-pounder."
He blamed the weather — or more accurately his misreading of it — for his performance. Heavy cloud cover and a strong wind moved in overnight and had a dramatic effect on the fishing.
"I think the clouds insulated the water during the night. That kept the temperature higher than I expected. In turn, that pushed fish to the beds quicker than I expected. Most of the guys with heavy sacks reported bass moving onto their beds during the day while they were fishing. I didn't see that coming."
Not seeing what was coming was the kiss of death for guys like Guess who were fishing grasslines and shell beds.
"We just couldn't get the weights we needed. I can't say I lost fish or that I made a lot of mental errors. I just targeted the wrong areas, didn't see what was happening and as a consequence wasn't able to regroup when my big fish disappeared.
"I did everything that I could to find them but never did figure out where they went. Some of them may have moved up on the beds. But some of the ones I caught in practice were postspawn bass. They didn't move onto a bed, that's for sure. Like I said, I have no idea."
Regardless of his confusion, however, Guess climbed 56 places from Thursday to Friday and nearly qualified to fish on Saturday. The final angler to survive Friday's weigh-in, Luke Estel of Murphysboro, Ill., weighed in 22 pounds, 9 ounces. Guess had 19 pounds, 5 ounces. That's 2 pounds, 4 ounces off the mark. One or two more fish — he weighed four each day — would have had him staying over another night.
Guess' weight predictions badly missed the mark. He predicted a 30-pound cut weight for Friday and a 45-50 pound sack to win. Thirty pounds is a long way from 22 pounds, 9 ounces. (A cut weight of 30 pounds would have had 10 anglers fishing on Saturday.) And 50 pounds is an even longer way from the winning weight of 68 pounds, 6 ounces. (His 50 pound prediction would have been good for sixth place.)
His big bass forecast was better. He said she'd weigh around 9 pounds. In fact she weighed 10 pounds, 5 ounces.
And he was close with his anglers-to-watch analysis. One of the Lane brothers (Bobby) finished third, and Peter T survived Friday's cut to fish on Saturday.
Taking everything into consideration, Josh Guess did a reasonable, if not spectacular, job with his predictions. He earned a Gentleman's C.