COLUMBIA, S.C. – For a few tense moments Sunday afternoon, it looked like the Evan Williams Bourbon Carolina Clash was going into overtime.
Davy Hite sat in the “hot seat” on the left side of the weigh-in stage. He had the lead with a four-day total of 58 pounds, 1 ounce, but he had to wait for several anglers to cross the stage to learn his fate.
Jami Fralick was the first to challenge Hite’s standing, but he came up short. Then came Tommy Biffle and Kevin Wirth, neither having enough to knock Hite off his perch.
Then Mike Iaconelli took the stage with a good bag of fish, and that’s when things got interesting.
Emcee Dave Mercer announced that Iaconelli needed 14 pounds, 13 ounces, to take the lead. Iaconelli handed his fish to tournament director Trip Weldon. Based on on-the-water reports from cameramen and Bassmaster.com reporters, it figured to be close.
Then Mercer announced the weight: “14 pounds, 12 ounces!”
It didn’t immediately sink in that Hite and Iaconelli were tied for the lead. Iaconelli walked off the stage and Hite breathed a sigh of relief. Then Weldon called it to everyone’s attention that there was a tie. Iaconelli returned to the stage and stood next to Hite.
In the event of a first-place tie, Bassmaster rules call for a sudden-death fish-off. In the end, it was a moot point – Casey Ashley toppled Hite and Iaconelli, winning by more than three pounds.
So why is Hite second in the final standings? And Iaconelli third?
You have to dig a little deeper in the Bassmaster rulebook for an explanation. While ties for first are decided by a fish-off, all other ties are decided differently. The first tiebreaker is the number of fish weighed; the second is the number of live fish weighed; and the third is the heaviest single-day fish weight.
Since Hite and Iaconelli both weighed 20 live fish during the tournament, it went to the third tiebreaker, and Hite took second place based on his Day Four total of 16-14, half a pound better than Iaconelli’s 16-6 on Day Three.
But that doesn’t mean Hite and Iaconelli weren’t thinking about the possibility of a fish-off.
“As soon as I realized it was a tie, I started thinking how I could catch fish,” Iaconelli said.
“I was almost giddy,” Hite said. “Because I had such a strong afternoon, I would have loved to have a chance to go back out.”
Iaconelli said he immediately started thinking about duplicating a pattern he stumbled upon Sunday afternoon, when he caught a good keeper and several other fish around bridge pilings near the weigh-in site.
“I thought, ‘How do I catch fish?’ And I immediately started thinking about those bridge pilings,” Iaconelli said. “As they brought Casey up (on the stage), I was already thinking about going and running bridges all over the lake, wherever I could find them.”
Hite was thinking about a pattern, too.
“I would’ve gone right back to the herring pattern on the points,” he said, referring to the dominant pattern all week on Lake Murray, where anglers concentrated on main lake points to target bass feeding on the spawning baitfish. “I certainly liked my chances because I had a good afternoon for a change.”
But Ashley foiled their plans, and sparked a lesson in the Bassmaster tiebreaking rules in the process.