Greg DiPalma was the only angler in the 50-man Toyota Bassmaster Angler of the Year Championship who didn't weigh-in a bass yesterday. So when DiPalma landed a 3-pound, 12-ounce bass at 7:42 today, it not only gave him a tremendous sense of relief, it added 51 points to his AOY-points total.
If you don't weigh-in a legal keeper - 14 inches at Lake St. Clair - you don't receive any AOY points, in any Elite Series tournament, not just this one. On the sliding scale of one point for each place in the standings, beginning with 100 points for first place, last place here this week is worth 51 points.
DiPalma, a 37-year-old Elite Series rookie from Millville, N.J., thought he'd pretty much clinched a Bassmaster Classic berth coming into this event. He was 35th in the AOY standings, 37 points above the 42nd-place cutline. But when he got zero points for no keepers yesterday, the revised AOY standings had DiPalma dropping all the way down to 49th place.
As long as DiPalma makes it back to the weigh-in today, even if it's just with that one single bass, he'll have earned 51 points and be back inside the Classic cut.
So why didn't DiPalma catch a fish yesterday? The short version of the story is that he fished for about 15 minutes after making the long, bumpy run south to Belle River Hump when he realized his bilge pumps weren't working. It took DiPalma from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m., using all his considerable big-water boating skills, to navigate his sinking ship back to Metro Park.
"It was a non-stop butt-whipping," DiPalma said. "I had to marshal all my boating experience to keep that boat afloat."
DiPalma has a Captain's License and hours of big-water experience on the East Coast. Once a boat starts filling with water and waves continue crashing over the gunnels, it takes some skills to escape disaster.
So, yeah, DiPalma feels like a new man today - with a dry boat, a 3-pound, 12-ounce bass in the livewell and 51 additional points, at least, in his AOY total, provided he makes it back to Metro Park at check-in time this afternoon. And it's doubtful DiPalma will be pushing his luck today.