BULL SHOALS, Ark. — Strong storms heading straight toward Bull Shoals Lake, Ark., early Thursday morning forced B.A.S.S. officials to postpone the start of the Bassmaster Elite Series Ramada Quest.
Instead of beginning on Thursday at 6:15 a.m., the Ramada Quest will begin Friday at the same time. A full four days of competition will extend the tournament to Monday. The entire field of 100 Elite Series pros will compete Friday and Saturday, and the Top 50 who make the cut will continue on to Sunday. Only the Top 12 will advance to the final round, now set for Monday.
“Severe storms west of Bull Shoals are going to train through here this morning,” said B.A.S.S. Tournament Director Trip Weldon, onsite at Bull Shoals Lake Docks.
Weldon said he’d been watching the weather closely Wednesday and was awake and tracking conditions since 2:30 a.m. Thursday.
“Oklahoma (directly to the west of Bull Shoals) got hit. Here on the docks we’re already having gusts of wind close to 30 mph. The safety of anglers, staff and fans is of paramount importance. Lightning, rough boating conditions and heavy rains are conditions we take seriously,” Weldon said as lightning flickered in the still-dark skies.
Elite Series pro Charlie Hartley, waiting on the docks for his turn to pull his boat out of the water, said he was disappointed.
“We’re missing a great bite today. And we didn’t fish in practice for the bluebird skies we’ll get tomorrow. Today would have been a power fishing day. Tomorrow will be like a practice day as we turn to different techniques,” said Hartley, who is from Grove City, Ohio.
Reigning Toyota Bassmaster Angler of the Year Brent Chapman of Lake Quivira, Kan., described his feelings in one word: “Frustrating.”
“It is what it is,” he said, “but this lake doesn’t get rough. The safety concern is there, I realize that. But they’ll bite today. I guess I’ll go get started re-rigging for postfrontal conditions. Under bluebird skies, the bite gets tough.”
For 12 of the Elite pros, the postponement was a familiar experience. On March 24, the Top 12 finalists in the Rigid Industries Falcon Slam on Falcon Lake had a forced day of rest when a wind storm hit Zapata, Texas, the tournament’s host city. The championship round was postponed until the next day.
Looking on the bright side, Hartley said that once the weather system passes through, he could pursue his new fishing love.
“I’ll go trout fishing,” he said, excited about the rainbows he’d been pulling from the White River on lightweight spinning gear. Although the pros were banned from Bull Shoals Lake Thursday, other waters are open to them.
The third event of the Bassmaster Elite Series season, the Ramada Quest offers a first prize of $100,000 and an instant qualification for the 2014 Bassmaster Classic. All participating anglers earn points toward securing a Bassmaster Classic berth. The top points earner will win the prestigious Toyota Bassmaster Angler of the Year title at season’s end.