KISSIMMEE, Fla. — Glen DeLong hasn't necessarily had a dream year.
He started the season with two top-50s in the first three tournaments, including a top 12 on Clear Lake, but then he hit a drought. He finished five of the next seven tournaments at 95th or worse, and he was coming into the Sunshine Showdown presented by Allstate Boat Insurance sitting 92nd in Angler of the Year points.
"I knew when I came here that I had to have a good tournament," DeLong said after weighing in 15 pounds, 7 ounces, which is good enough for fourth place. "This is only one day, but I'm in a good area."
DeLong said he is fishing lily pads, and that he was by himself for the entire day.
"Those guys are all fishing schools, catching smaller fish, and that's not going to do anything for me," he said.
Although he lists home as Bellville, Ohio, DeLong said he has spent significant time in Florida over the past two years, learning how to catch fish in the fall and winter.
"From September to December, I spent 90 days in a row on the water here on this chain and the Harris Chains last year," he said. "I knew that it was going to come down to this tournament."
But not everything was working for the rookie when he first pulled up into his spot. After catching his biggest bass of the day on Senko a few casts in, DeLong said he lost five in a row. Frustrated and looking for an answer, DeLong pulled what in some circles is called a switcheroo.
"I switched rods, I switched hooks and I switched bait, and from that point on, I hooked every single fish the rest of the day," DeLong said.
As for his future in the tournament, he seems to think the bite will have no trouble holding up.
"Even if I catch half the ones I lost today, I'd be good," he said. "And I have one other area I didn't go to, so I feel great about tomorrow."
One fish, two fish, big fish, small fish
There was one thing missing out of just about every bag that came across the stage on Thursday: a two-and-a-half to three-pound bass. Everything was either 15 ounces or six pounds, which could be seen in a leaderboard that had no 12- to 14-pound bags.
Bernie Schultz, who lives in Gainesville, Fla., said anglers must have missed the "Welcome to Florida" sign on their trip to Kissimmee.
"That's pretty typical of Florida," Schultz said. "Until you get into the springtime when they're schooling, you won't see that mid-grade fish."
Bill Lowen, who is apparently an optimist, put it this way:
"If you can't catch big ones, you might as well catch little ones," he said after weighing in 5-11.
Schultz said it's worse this time of year, but Florida is never really a hot spot for 13-pound bags.
"That kind of speaks for Florida on a whole," Schultz said. "You either catch a small bass or they are really good."
Swindle being Swindle
It took 10 tournaments and multiple failed attempts to figure it out, but we have finally realized that there is no real good way to lead into a rant from Gerald Swindle. It stands pretty well on its own. The question posed by Keith Alan was, "What was today like in comparison to your practice?"
"It was a lot like waking up and crawling into an oven that was preheated at 350 and sticking an ice pick in (my) head all day. Other that that, it was pretty good fishing — a lot like fishing, just without the fish.
"I was just throwing a lot, drinking water, running over here, running back over there, drinking some more water, and sitting down to think about it. I know I've got to have a top 12 in this deal to make the Classic and it's not over. I just never got the big bite.
"I am trying to catch one or two big fish and today just wasn't the day they were biting. But if I can it together tomorrow and have a big day, maybe I can make the top 12. But I've got a lot of work to do, so let's go rest."