Déjà vu All Over Again

It should have surprised no one when North Carolina's Jeff Coble claimed his second championship in three years at the Toyota Tundra Bassmaster Weekend Series Championship operated by American Bass Anglers at Clarks Hill Lake on the Georgia-South Carolina border.

 Coble is a "weekend" fisherman, of sorts, but he's also one of the best tournament fishermen at any level on any circuit in the entire country. In addition to winning $205,000 at the Weekend Series Championship last week, Coble is a two-time Wal-Mart All-American champion and a regular winner on plenty of other tournament trails.

 Since 1996, Coble and his tournament partner, David Wright of Lexington, N.C., have won more than $1.2 million in prize money, which they split right down the middle — 50-50. And although Coble has won the lion's share of that fortune, Wright's no slouch, either. He recently won $69,000 in a tournament.

 Coble even admits that if Wright had made the cut at Clarks Hill, he (Coble) probably would not have been able to win the tournament.

 "Four of my bass on the final day came from an area that David had been fishing. If he had been out there that day, I wouldn't have fished that spot or caught those fish. Our arrangement works well for both of us."

 With so much success, why doesn't Coble turn pro?

 "Well, 20 years ago, when I had the desire," says Coble, "I didn't have the means. Now that I'm 45 and have the means, I just don't have the desire."

 Instead, he's content to fish what tournaments he can — frequently within an easy drive of his Beaufort, N.C., home. The Triton Boats sales representative is an angler to be reckoned with on any body of water at any time of year, but especially in the multi-day events that his competitors rarely fish.

 "It's definitely an advantage to be familiar with the multiple day formats," he says. "A lot of guys out there only fish one- and two-day tournaments. When the event goes to a third or fourth day, they can get into trouble.

 "The key is that you have to fish more than just the areas you found in practice. You have to keep expanding your fishing water. At the Weekend Series Championship, I fished lots of good, new water every day."

 And the Classic, with its three-day format? You can bet he's looking forward to that.

 "When you fish the kinds of tournaments I do," he says of the Weekend Series and other monetarily modest events, "you know that every time you qualify for the Classic could be your last. That means I really plan to enjoy it."

 He'll fish hard to win it, too. It'll be Coble's third Bassmaster Classic, and, thanks to the Weekend Series, his second in just three years. He qualified for the 2002 Classic from the BASS Federation Nation, finishing 48th.

 In 2006, on Florida's Kissimmee Chain of Lakes, Coble fared much better, finishing 13th. In 2008, he hopes to improve on that.

 "After winning the Weekend Series Championship in 2006, I had no time to practice. By the time our tournament was over, the Classic waters were off limits. That's not true this time, and I plan to do as much practicing on Lake Hartwell as I can."

 Unlike most of the Classic qualifiers, Coble is familiar with Lake Hartwell, having fished several tournaments there in the past, even picking up a couple of checks. Unfortunately for the North Carolina angler, he's never been there in February, but don't expect that to slow him down.

 He has a very workmanlike attitude to the Super Bowl of fishing, saying, "I was going to work the Classic anyway. It's in my sales territory. But now I'll be fishing instead of working the floor of the Expo."

 For more on the 2008 Bassmaster Classic, visit Bassmaster.com/Classic.