Harder to find than a wife?

BISMARCK, Ark. — Josh Moore was simply answering a question about how long he had been fishing with his teammate, Keith Butler. The Tennessee anglers are amazingly confident after finishing in 19th place on Day 1 of the Toyota Bonus Bucks Bassmaster Team Championship at DeGray Lake.

In answering the question, Moore humorously revealed the essence of why two-angler teams are such a popular format for bass tournaments.

"It's harder to find a good fishing partner than it is a wife," Moore said with a laugh. "I'm just being honest with you."

Moore explained that he'd had a regular tournament partner for 20 years, "But he had kids and started coaching t-ball and got interested in other things. Keith and I hooked up two years ago, and we've been going hard at it ever since."

You simply can't over-estimate the importance of a good fishing buddy, whether it be friends, like Moore and Butler, a father-and-son, as in the example of Jerry and Shane Lineberger, or spouses, like Penny and Terry McCraw — all of whom are competing here this week.

When two people can share a sport as time-consuming as tournament bass fishing, it forms a special bond. Plus, it's simply makes the highs and lows of competition more memorable.

For Shane Lineberger, who finished sixth in the Bassmaster Southern Open on North Carolina's Lake Norman in October, it was more of a low than a high Wednesday. He and his father are in 47th place with a five-bass limit of spotted bass that weighed 6 pounds, 4 ounces.

That didn't keep a smile off Shane's face as he crossed the weigh-in stage bare-footed.

"I've got one pair of dry shoes, and I can't afford to get these wet," Lineberger later explained, with sneakers in hand.

For one of the better anglers, year-in and year-out, on Lake Norman, fishing here at DeGray Lake couldn't have thrown him a tougher curveball. DeGray has only two marinas and not a single private boat dock on it's approximately 11,000 acres at present, 10 feet below normal level. Lake Norman is practically overflowing with private boat docks.

"I've never been anywhere like this," Lineberger said. "It's totally different than any place I've ever fished. I'm primarily a dock fisherman.

"The fish relate to the deep stuff here more than they do the bank. That's not really my deal. We caught fish today from 20 to 30 feet deep, and that's not what we're accustomed to doing.

"But that's what separates people. If you're going to do this for a living, you've got to be able to do it all."

He might have sounded downcast, but standing next to his dad, a smile never left his face.

"We scratched out five (bass)," he said. "We'll go out and try it again tomorrow."

Back to Moore and Brewer, the Tennessee anglers who live near Tellico Lake. Even though they're in 19th place, 5 pounds behind the leaders, they are pumped about fishing again Thursday.

"Our largemouth didn't bite today," Moore said. "We had been on some big largemouth. We caught some (in practice) yesterday that were about four pounds. We had a limit of spots today at 10 minutes after eight (a.m.). We culled up tenths of ounces all day.

"If we can get the largemouth to bite tomorrow, we can win this thing."

Moore and Brewer initially planned to fish the stained water up the Caddo River, where most of the anglers were concentrated on Day 1. They caught some good fish there during the first hours of practice on Monday.

"But after seeing about two hours of boat caravans coming up there, I said scratch this," Moore said.

They are fishing deep in the main lake.

"I've caught fish this week in 70-plus feet of water," Moore said.

The two fishing buddies have a plan, and they're sticking with it.

"The fishing pressure helps us," Butler said. "The more pressure the fish get, the more they're coming to us."

That's "us," not "me." And that makes all the difference in team tournament fishing.