ORANGE, Texas – Rick Clunn is leaving the Sabine River after only two tournament days in a four-day event, but he's happy about the site. The four-time Bassmaster Classic champion, who has won over $2 million on the B.A.S.S. tour, wishes there were more events in locations like this.
"If nobody caught anything, you could blame it on the fishery," Clunn said. "But when you see the weights that were caught the last two days, it's not about the fishery. Some of these guys figured it out; I just didn't."
Clunn thinks the Elite Series anglers tend to get spoiled by all the exceptional lakes and rivers where they compete each season. He has no quarrel with a tournament site where 40 of the 100 anglers didn't weigh in a single 14-inch largemouth bass Thursday and 37 zeroed Friday.
"We go to so many places like Falcon and Guntersville and the St. Lawrence River that are just incredible bass fisheries," said Clunn, who has now fished 385 B.A.S.S. events. "Then I hear all the crying when we come to a place like this.
"I applaud B.A.S.S. for choosing places like this, where it's a challenge."
Clunn simply failed the challenge, and he's fine with that. The Ava, Mo., resident was one of the zeroes on Day One; it appeared he'd started to figure out the success formula on Day Two when he weighed three bass totaling 5 pounds, 12 ounces, which left him in 71st place.
That put him one solid fish – a 4-4 – from tying for 50th place, drawing a check and living to fish another day on the Sabine River. And he left satisfied anyway.
It doesn't take a 62-year-old veteran like Clunn to appreciate a place where almost half the field weighed in one fish or less over the last two days.
The Lane brothers – Bobby, 39, and Chris, 37 – grew up in Florida, where every bass angler used to go when they wanted to catch a 10-pounder during their lifetime, and many still do. After being among the first across the weigh-in stage Friday and knowing they'd both all-but-qualified to fish among the top 50 Saturday, the Lanes bee-lined for a food booth set up at the Riverfront Festival here.
Between bites of boiled crawfish, the Lane brothers sounded like identical twins in echoing Clunn's sentiments.
"I like it when it's tough," they agreed.