Diminishing returns

GROVE, Okla. -- Competitive bass fishing can be a harsh mistress, but for some of the sport's top anglers, the first day of the Bassmaster Classic was downright  ruthless.

"This sport can humble you very quickly," said reigning Bassmaster Classic champion Chris Lane, "and it sure did that to me today."

In his bid to hoist another Classic trophy, Lane failed to catch a fish on the first day.

"I tried to stay focused all day, to concentrate on what I needed to do to put five fish in the boat," Lane said. "I really thought that I had that opportunity. I thought I had the areas. And when it came to the end of the day at 2:45, I didn't have a single bite."

It's hard to blame anyone for having a bad day. Environmental conditions were miserable, with temperatures starting in the mid 20s at takeoff and only climbing into the mid 30s. Several anglers had trouble opening livewells and storage compartments because they froze shut. Running down the lake at 70 mph or more created wind chills that would make an Inuit shiver.

But an even bigger problem for many anglers was a significant drop in water temperature. The cold front that swept through the region Wednesday and Thursday knocked Grand Lake's water temperature from the mid 40s into the 30s Friday morning.

"Having never fished 40- or 41-degree water temperatures before, the only thing I can think of is that I let it get to my head," Lane said. "I'll be the first to admit that, mentally, it got to me."

Lane had some pretty good company, including reigning Toyota Tundra Bassmaster Angler of the Year Brent Chapman, who couldn't muster much more than a limit that barely went into double-digit weight. Chapman said his day was nothing short of disappointing.

"I hate to say that, but it was," Chapman said. "I'd give anything to have it over. I wasted too much time."

Takahiro Omori, the 2004 Classic winner, had a limit that didn't push the scale past 10 pounds.

Skeet Reese, the 2008 Classic champion, was so upset about his performance -- he caught two fish that weighed 6 pounds, 9 ounces -- that he brushed off an interview request after trailering his boat on Friday afternoon. When pressed for a comment, Reese said, "I sucked."

Terry Scroggins, another perennial presence on Bassmaster leaderboards, caught four small keepers that hit the scale at 6-5.

"Not much to talk about today," Scroggins said. "It was just tough."

Anglers who struggled Friday will have a chance at redemption Saturday, when they'll try to make up enough weight to advance to Sunday's final, which will feature the anglers with the 25 heaviest cumulative weights from Friday and Saturday.

"Obviously, I'll completely change up," Lane said. "Not only mentally, but I'll probably hit some different areas. I'll hit some of the same areas and just try to go in with more confidence and fish a little slower and concentrate a little harder to get the five fish I need to redeem myself."

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