After a bone-chilling ride downlake, the first angler we've found is KVD. He's easily identifiable by his flotilla of spectators. They're six boats strong, not many for him, but a lot for a brutally cold February morning.
Jonathan Carter dedicates his second keeper to his mom.
The Weather Channel rolls footage of Grand Lake O' the Cherokees after the launch. They always go where the action is!
After a bone-chilling 20-minute run, my boat driver Steve Meador and I are settled in on Mike McClelland. He's working a jerkbait - presumably a Spro McStick, one of his own device - s-l-o-w-l-y around docks and rocky outcroppings. He's using 10-pound fluorocarbon, which as it drags line back through the guides is freezing up, which necessitates him dipping hid rod into the water every 60 secondds or so. No bites yet for the Arkansas pro.
Well, we'd like to be on our way to find some anglers, but right now we're trying to thaw the ice that has the trolling motor frozen to its mount. Aaron Stanphill, our boat driver, poured hot coffee on it, so now we're idling away from the dock. This kind of weather-related equipment issue is a small inconvenience for our crew, but if it's happening to competitors, it will cost them precious time.
The first keeper of the day falls to Jonathan Carter.
Former Elite Series pro Travis Manson regrets that he didn't bring a pair of shorts. These temps in the low 20s are downright tropical compared to the 6 degrees he left behind in Wisconsin. His pick to win the tournament? "Edwin Evers. He deserves it."
Matt Lee has certainly never seen anything like this. The Carhartt College Series Classic qualifier from Cullman, Ala., had 15 people, three video cameras, eight and one dog surrounding his boat this morning as he tried to prepare for the biggest day of his life. You could feel his nervous energy from the dock.