Lake Decatur in review

With four of the best bass fishermen in the world weighing a total of 11 bass from Lake Decatur yesterday, let's just say the reviews haven't been glowing. Gerald Swindle, who caught only a 1-pound, 12-ounce keeper, performed one of his all-time best monologues on the weigh-in stage Saturday, and that's quite a statement.

Some samples from Swindle:

- "The real good news is I don't have to fish out here again tomorrow"
- "The water looks like a pooper at Talladega (Raceway)."
- "My trolling motor shaft is more crooked than any politician I've ever seen."
- "I've caught one fish on (video) tape all week, and that tape blew out of the boat. So when this show comes out on TV, you won't even know I was in this tournament."

Most of these Toyota Trucks Bassmaster All-Star Week qualifiers thought Lake Decatur would provide better fishing than Lake Shelbyville, site of the tournament's first two days of competition. But that didn't prove to be the case. Shelbyville was tough; Decatur has been tougher.

This 3,072-acre lake, located on the Sangamon River, sits smack in the middle of town. It has an average depth of 8 feet and a maximum depth of 20, maybe. According to some local anglers we visited with Saturday, the lake has a major siltation problem and very little bass spawning habitat.

And the thunderstorm Friday night that ushered in a cold front didn't help the fishing. Water surface temperatures were consistently in the low 70s on Shelbyville; yesterday in Decatur 64 degrees was the norm. Edwin Evers, who is running way up the Sangamon River, mentioned that the water was 10 degrees cooler there than what he'd found in practice.

But at least Evers found some clearer water there. With my redneck Secchi disk set up yesterday, I lowered a jig in the water in Lake Decatur; it disappeared only 3.5 inches under the surface.

Martens caught a five-bass limit yesterday; Evers caught four keepers. Ott DeFoe and Swindle managed to boat a single keeper each. So it's fitting that Martens and Evers are battling for the Evan Williams Bourbon Championship today. They were practically miracle-workers yesterday.

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