KISSIMMEE, Fla. — On a blistering hot day when many thought youth would be served in duking it out from the back of the boat with the world's best bass fishermen for bites, three seasoned vets of the co-angler side showed the young bucks how it's done. One angler, in fact, showed everybody how it was done.
Harry Potts, a longtime member of the "Dirty Dozen", had a day he'll not soon forget, bagging a limit of five bass weighing a staggering 20-8 pounds. Potts, who along with eleven other co-anglers shuttles Elite Series Day Four boats to and from venues, caught over two pounds more than the closest professional angler.
"This was one of those days when you have everything go right for you," said Potts, who fished with Davy Hite. "I feel for Davy because one of those fish probably could have put him in the Classic. I guess it was just my day."
Hite sits squarely on the Bassmaster Classic bubble and put himself in a precarious situation with 4-6 pounds and a 71st place showing. Potts said one of the keys to his success was delicately bringing his Carolina rigged, Junebug-colored Zoom trick worm through the grass — instead of snatching it like Hite and several other notable anglers in the vicinity were doing.
"I wasn't in a hurry, just fishing slow. I was just easing it through the grass. Once it cleared the grass, it just tightened up," said Potts, adding that he stopped fishing at around 10:00 a.m. in hopes that Hite would catch a few of the fish that had taken up residence in the spot.
"It just wasn't meant to be for him, I guess," said Potts.
Frank Mealer, a retiree and fellow member of the "Dirty Dozen", secured second place on Day Two by similarly fishing very methodically with a plastic worm. Fishing with Jason Quinn, Mealer bagged a limit of bass by 11:00 a.m. and bested his pro angler by over eight and a half pounds.
"It's just so hot out there. I think these fish are feeding mainly at night. There's not a cloud in the sky, there's no air, gnats, it was really tough," said Mealer, who secured most of his fish before 10 a.m. on a six-inch black and blue Zoom curly tail worm with a 3/16 ounce weight. "The fish just wanted the bait really slow, almost dead-sticking it through scattered milfoil."
Allen Burkhalter, a co-angler veteran and 2005 Bassmaster Open champion at West Point Lake, is a roofing contractor by trade, so he should be used to working in heat such as this, as his hometown is Columbus, Ga. But he indicated that this was nothing compared to the heat at the weigh-in on Day One.
"Believe it or not, I thought it was a pretty nice day out there. It got really bad at the weigh-in," said Burkhalter, who fished with Scott Campbell and, like Potts and Mealer, bested the pro by a substantial margin. "We junk-fished a good bit this morning, and I caught my good one on a topwater early."
Burkhalter caught only four fish for the day, putting together 10 pounds even. Like many successful co-anglers, he went against the rules in putting fish in the boat while his pro angler struggled.
"We were in this cove, and Scott was throwing towards the grassline. I decided to throw it out in the boat lane," said Burkhalter. "I figured as hot as it was, the little baitfish were staying deep, and would get stirred up every once in a while by the boats running over them. You had to really let it soak, but I got my four, lost a keeper, and got a half dozen smaller fish."