Last year's victory celebration on Pickwick Lake was somewhat of a disappointment for Kevin Short.
"It was almost kind of a letdown," he said, comparing it to his first Elite Series victory a year earlier on the Mississippi River out of Fort Madison, Iowa. "Catching the fish and doing everything right, that part of it was actually better."
It was his celebration that was cut short, kind of like here's the trophy, raise it and run.
B.A.S.S. had good reason. A line of storms producing tornadoes forced tournament officials to truncate the day and quickly vacate the area.
So, with the difficulty of just getting to the podium, Short felt a little short-changed on the celebration end. He said he left Florence, Ala., with nothing more than an abbreviated trophy presentation and a wet weigh-in slip.
"They literally ran us out of the park," he said, lamenting the normal hoopla, interviews and congratulatory visits went by the wayside as everyone scrambled to pack up and vamoose.
Before the 6:10 a.m. launch, tournament director Trip Weldon and Chuck Harbin told the final 12 the day would be trimmed to five hours. Check-in time was moved up four hours to 11:15 a.m.
"Trip and Chuck took a lot of heat that morning, but they made the right call," Short said. "About 2:30,3 o'clock, all hell broke loose. There were tornadoes and it wound up flooding there after we left.
"We were gone. They made the right call. It was a call that nobody wanted him to make, obviously, to cut the day short, but it was a good call."
At launch, Skeet Reese led Cliff Pace by a mere 2 ounces, while Aaron Martens and Short, who led the first two days, were only 7 ounces back. The top 11 were 5 pounds apart.
"Heading out Sunday morning, there was probably four or five of us who had a legitimate shot at wininng ... Maybe even more than that," Short said. "There was a wad of us within striking distance."
Reese, in the middle of his spectacular run at the Toyota Tundra Bassmaster Angler of the Year title, perhaps took the limited fishing harder since he was the only angler who had been going to Lake Wilson.
"Skeet was just besides himself, because he was locking up to Wilson," Short said. "You're going to kill and hour and half minimum, so he only had three hours to fish."
Reese, who walked away from the angler gathering upset, later called Weldon to tell him shortening the day was the right call.
It might not have mattered anyway because Short found quality fish that Sunday morning. A magical 50-square-yard area among Cypress trees produced his winning stringer. He felt his timing was off on Day Three when he weighed 12-15, the worst bag of anyone in the top five.
"I knew the fish were in that area," he said. "The day before I had not been in it at the right time. I had been working my way back to it, catching fish along the way, but that one area had everything going on. The last day I went straight to it and bingo bango."
Short reached his spot by 6:25 and had his limit by 7. Another hour and he had more than 20 pounds. At 8:35 after Short caught his second 6-pounder, cameraman Brian Mason was changing tapes and as he put the reel away wrote "Game Over," on it.
"I'm like, 'Dude, I got to have that,' "Short said. "Billy (Chapman, Bassmaster TV producer) gave me the tape and case. I got it sitting right beside the trophy."
Reese, who had won the previous event on Smith Mountain Lake and followed up his fifth place on Pickwick with a victory at Guntersville, had only 12-11 on Day Four. Short caught 23-5 for a 75-1 total, 10-3 ahead of Reese. Short doesn't think a full day would have helped Reese mark off three in a row.
"The second day, I had one fish die. It ate a crankbait all the way down, so if not for that penalty, Skeet would not have been leading the final day," Short said. "I had caught 20 pounds, but it had been taking me all day. I wish I had had a full day, because I'm not going to say I couldn't have caught more."
When the Elites head back to Pickwick this week for the 2011 version of the Alabama Charge, Short said he will visit that area but doesn't think it will produce like last year.
"I would be absolutely shocked if it did," he said. "I don't figure the same place, the same pattern would work out. This is three weeks earlier. Instead of a postspawn deal like it was last year, I think it's going to be all prespawn. With the cool weather that we've had, I'm thinking it's going to just be completely, completely different."
Water fluctuations will be key, he said. The water level is up but he expects some to be drawn before practice starts Sunday for the Wednesday through Saturday event.
"At normal level, it could be a really, really good event," he said. "If they suck it out any further than that, it might not be. Last year, everybody caught a limit every single day. We've never gone anywhere else and done that.
"There's just that many fish here. There were guys last year catching 60, 80, 100 fish a day, every day. A lot of that had to do with the water level, which was high but fell and stabilized. If it sets up in the the same scenario, we'll catch the snot out of them."
Short said it could take 20 pounds a day to win, and he'd love to defend his title and get one of those fancy 2011 Elite trophies in his collection.
"I don't think anybody has ever done that," he said, mentioning Kevin VanDam and Kentucky Lake as the only possibility he could think of. "I don't know of anybody who has ever done it. It's just hard to win one, much less go back to the same lake and win again."
VanDam does have two Elite titles from Kentucky Lake, the first from the 2008 Bluegrass Brawl out of Gilbertsville, Ky., and the last year's Tennessee Triumph out of Paris, Tenn.
"Other than that, I'd like to be the only one who did that," he said. "How cool would that be?"
If he does, Short might even get a full celebration.