HENDERSONVILLE, Tenn. — There can only be 12 anglers in the Sunday finale of a Bassmaster Elite Series tournament. So when Brent Chapman and Denny Brauer were tied for 12th place after Saturday's weigh-in, BASS tournament director Trip Weldon consulted the rule book in breaking the tie at the Tennessee Triumph presented by Longhorn.
The first tiebreaker is number of fish caught. Chapman and Brauer both caught five-bass limits all three days.
The second tiebreaker is number of fish weighed in alive. Both anglers brought 15 live bass to the weigh-in scales over three days.
The third tiebreaker is heaviest five-bass limit during the tournament. Brauer's best came Saturday and weighed 12 pounds, 9 ounces. Chapman caught 12-11 Friday, and therefore edged Brauer out of the top 12 — even though both anglers had total three-day weights of 33-5.
That chance to fish on Sunday was especially pleasing to Chapman, who accomplished it despite fighting a sinus infection all week. Even if he doesn't catch a fish Sunday, Chapman is assured of 12th place, which will be his best finish this season.
"I get to fish (Sunday), and I'm very thankful for that," said the 35-year-old Lake Quivira, Kan., resident. "I really don't know what I'm going to do (to catch fish), but it's a good problem to have."
With other tournaments on Old Hickory Lake, Elite series anglers were expecting local traffic this weekend. Kevin Langill ran into both local anglers and folks out to have a good time on his favorite spots.
"I had a shallow pocket and it had already been hit pretty hard by tournament boats," he said. "I still fished it and caught a few."
Catching only 7-1, his performance suffered, dropping him from 10th to 17th place.
"I probably wouldn't have done anything different," he said. "There was just a lot of boat traffic."
Besides the occasional boat filled with people drinking too much, most anglers were happy to share the water.
"I gave a lot of good spots to locals today. I hope they caught some," said Randy Howell.
The goodwill paid off, as his third-place position remained unchanged.
The shallow end
Old Hickory provided plenty of chances to drag propellers through the mud. Many anglers found the deep bite a struggle on Day Three. Chris Lane found out the hard way, dropping to 42nd place.
"I stayed out deep and really thought that is where the tournament could be won," he said after weighing in a 4-9, three-fish stringer. "I don't know if they moved shallow, but the schools of fish weren't there today."
Todd Faircloth agreed. After struggling for the first two days, Faircloth jumped from 32nd to 11th place with a Day Three bag of 13-5.
"I felt like I could have caught them like that the last few days," he said. "But today I executed a little better. I was fishing both shallow and deep, but I was catching the majority of my fish shallow."
Still, the shallow water was not a sure bet, and a familiar culprit may have been to blame.
"The problem today was the traffic," said Mike Iaconelli, a spectator favorite who brought only 9-12 to the scales. "When there are a lot of boats up in that narrow water, it gets crowded."
Friday's launch foreshadowed the problem with mud in the shallows, as two boats got stuck while waiting to take off. Anglers treated spectators to a show as their props shot rooster tails trying to dislodge the boats from the lake bottom.
Steve Daniel showed concern when he only brought four fish to the stage on Saturday.
"I don't see how you can not catch five and get to fish Sunday," he told the weigh-in crowd. "I don't think it's ever been done."
It turned out quality mattered more than quantity, as he moved up to ninth place — and he wasn't the only one to ride four fish to Day Four. Marty Stone also stayed in the cut with only four fish on Day Three.
"With 10 minutes to go, I only had two fish," Stone said. "Then, with back-to-back flips, I caught two more. I hope that's enough to stay in it."
It was, with his total of 33-15 good for 10th place. Large fish were hard to come by and provided a bigger-than-usual bonus when you did catch one: Thirteen pros caught a limit each of the first three days, yet did not make the 12-cut.
Kiss of death
Co-angler Mary Delgado is usually good luck to her fiancé Byron Velvick. Unfortunately, her well-wishing did not work out on Saturday.
"I love you. Catch 20 pounds today," she told Velvick after kissing him just before launch.
"Yeah, I need it," he responded.
Velvick ended up zeroing and finishing where he began the day, in 50th, while Delgado weighed in a 1-8 fish to finish in 39th place.
"I had a problem with jumping fish off. I was cranking deep and I couldn't keep 'em on. Gary Klein taught me a little technique that is supposed to keep 'em on, but it didn't work."
— Mark Davis
"The fish were biting really weird. And you have days like that — you have to just shrug it off."
— Bill Lowen, who fished Day Three with 8 pounds, 9 ounces
"The main goal is to make it to the (Bassmaster) Classic. So if I could make it to the top 10 I'd be tickled to death."
— Brent Chapman
"I was able to quit dipping and chewing after 28 years. I thought it'd be the hardest thing I ever did, if I could do it, and I did."
— Skeet Reese
"I'd be nice to have a sponsor, other than my wife."
— co-angler champ Jim McDevitt