ELLIJAY, Ga. — Scott Rook would love to compete in one more Bassmaster Classic before stepping away from the sport. However, Rook has some work to do in order to qualify for what would be his 10th Classic in 21 years of fishing B.A.S.S. tournaments.
“I hope this is not my last tournament,” said Rook on the eve of the Mossy Oak Fishing Bassmaster Classic Bracket at Carters Lake. Sixteen anglers qualified for this last chance event, which will award three Classic berths. However, only 15 practiced Monday. Apparently, Greg Hackney will not compete here this week.
“This is going to be my last year,” Rook said. “I’m going to take a break. I’m tired of all the traveling. Fishing is still fun. My hands still shake when I get a big one on. I’m just tired of the traveling, and I’m ready to be at home, spend some time with my family.”
The 57-year-old Little Rock, Ark., native has won $1.5 million in B.A.S.S. events, and finished as high as second in the Classic, in New Orleans in 2001.
The Classic Bracket event has expanded from a year ago, and the format has changed. Before the head-to-head matchups begin, there will be a regular tournament format Tuesday from 7:45 a.m. until 4 p.m. Only the top 12 anglers will advance to the three four-man brackets, which will begin Wednesday. The seeding for those brackets will be determined by the order of finish Tuesday.
Carters Lake is reportedly Georgia’s best spotted bass lake. It has largemouth bass too, but spots dominate. Right now, early in the transition from summer to fall patterns, it is fishing extremely tough.
“I haven’t got a clue,” said Rook. “They say this is the best spotted bass fishery in Georgia. That’s saying a lot when you look at (Lake) Lanier and some of those like that. I’m going to tie on a bunch of different baits than what I threw today and go out and practice again. That’s all I can do.”
Dustin Connell pre-practiced on Carters Lake before the Elite Series tournament at nearby Lake Chatuge last month.
“I caught a 3 1/2-pounder then, and there are 4- and 5-pound spots in here,” Connell said. “But it’s fishing super tough right now. The water is really, really clear. I threw baits today that I didn’t get bites on that I had 30 bites on a month ago.
“There will be some guys who don’t catch five (12-inch keepers). I caught only seven in practice today, not any big ones though. I don’t think the weights will be high at all. I think 12 pounds will be a really good bag.”
The man most excited to be here is Fred Roumbanis of Russellville, Ark. He wasn’t qualified for the Classic Bracket until Jared Lintner won the Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Opens Championship on Table Rock Lake Saturday. If Lintner hadn’t won, he would be here and not Roumbanis.
“I really didn’t think I had a chance, just because those kind of odds never seem to work in my favor,” Roumbanis said. “I was glued to ‘Bassmaster LIVE.’ It was awesome. I just didn’t think I had a chance. And now here I am. I’m refocused and ready to go. I would love to make the Classic again.”
Classic Bracket qualifiers were based on Angler of the Year points. Roumbanis finished 56th this season. But his season isn’t over yet. And neither is Rook’s B.A.S.S. career. Beginning Tuesday, we’ll begin to see how many days those two and the other 13 qualifiers will survive to fish at least one more day this season.