Truly Snake-Bitten

DEL RIO, Texas — Glenn Delong was one of only two Bassmaster Elite Series pros who didn't catch a five-bass limit on Day One of the Battle on the Border presented by Mahindra Tractors. He finished the day in 109th place — dead last — with 6 pounds, 4 ounces.

 Delong noted it has been that kind of year so far for him. The bad luck started in the season opener on the Harris Chain of Lakes at Leesburg, Fla., when Delong's boat was cleaned of all its tackle in an overnight burglary before the tournament started.

 Delong said then that he got sick to his stomach, literally, when he saw what had been stolen the next morning. With the help of several Elites Series pros, who donated rods, reels and tackle, and his sponsors, who overnight-shipped tackle too, Delong was able to fish the next day.

 His luck, however, hasn't changed. Delong entered Lake Amistad's Battle on the Border in 95th place in the Toyota Tundra Angler of the Year points standings.

 When the pro weighing in before Delong noted Friday that he had "a gorilla on my back, and I can't shake him off," Delong said, "I've got an elephant on my back."

 But co-angler Charles Bonner put all that fishing anguish in perspective when he followed Delong to the weigh-in stage and said, "I'll take getting my boat cleaned out over getting snake-bit any day."

 Backstage the Williamsburg, N.M., resident explained exactly what he meant, saying, "I got bit on June 16th (last year), my heart stopped on June 18th, and $45,000 later, I feel like I'm brand new."

 Bonner was walking his bird dog in the front yard of his home when a five-foot-long rattlesnake "about as thick as my arm" stuck one fang in his foot. The other fang hit the strap on one of his sandals.

 "I wear knee-high snake boots everywhere I go now," Bonner said.

 Prankster gets pranked

 The fake snake prank pulled on Britt Myers has been well-documented here this week. Myers' roommate, Grant Goldbeck, instigated the practical joke and had photographers in place when Myers opened a boat storage locker lid and a small rubber snake raised with the lid, right into Myers face. 

 Myers got a scare, but took the joke like a good sport. When you realize the extent of some of the pranks Myers has pulled, you understand why Goldbeck would do something like that to his roomie.

 On April Fool's Day, Myers and Goldbeck had their alarm clock set for 5:30 a.m. in preparation for a practice day at Falcon Lake. At 5 a.m., Myers was already wide awake when he made a knocking sound on his bed's headboard and got out of bed as if he were answering a knock at their motel room door.

 "He goes to the door in his skivvies, opens it and says, 'Can I help you, sir?'" Goldbeck recalled. "Britt's great at disguising his voice. He makes it sound like someone's talking to him, and he says, 'I'm just trying to find out whose black truck this is that's been broken into.'

 Then he looks out the door and says, 'Grant, your truck has been broken into. The front door is wide open!'

 "I jump up with only my boxers on, and I'm halfway into the parking lot before I realize what he'd done to me.

 "And the thing is, I'd just had him put a new alarm system in my truck about two weeks before that."

 So, yeah, Myers probably had it coming when the fake snake trick got pulled on him Thursday.

 The mayor of Del Rio

 A year ago when the Elite Series stopped at Lake Amistad, Byron Velvick was described as the "unofficial mayor of Del Rio," because of all the attention he'd brought to this city of about 50,000 people, located on the Texas-Mexico border.

 Velvick fell in love with this place over two years ago, during practice for the 2006 Elite Series season opener on Lake Amistad. He and his longtime friend, Michael Bonnee, have since become partners in Amistad Lake Resort and have purchased other property in the area.  

But being an unofficial host and an official competitor in this week's Battle on the Border does have its drawbacks.

 "I haven't gotten much sleep this week," the 43-year-old Velvick said. "Last night we were in the restaurant shaking hands until 9:30, 10 o'clock. Mary (Delgado) and I spent a lot of time talking to well-wishers.

 "But I didn't have any rods done (for Saturday) yet. I was up until after 11 last night, doing my rods up."

 He's had no regrets since leaving the Las Vegas, N.V./Lake Mead area and moving to Del Rio, other than the initial hurdle of refurbishing a rundown resort.

 "I fell in love with this place," Velvick said. "It's beautiful. The crystal clear water, the bluffs, the rocks, the caves — what you've got here is magical. This is just a beautiful place."

 Less fish, more size

 Jami Fralick's practice days on Lake Amistad gave him no indication he would be in fourth place at the end of Day One, tied with Ish Monroe at 27-12.

 "I really thought I'd catch 16 or 17 pounds a day," said the 32-year-old Martin, S.D., resident. "But every place I caught fish in practice, I caught bigger fish (Friday)."

 Fralick didn't use different lures or go to different areas when the tournament started Friday.

 "I just slowed down and fished the same areas," he said. "I caught only about 15. In practice I was catching 30 to 40 a day."

 More fish, no size

 Matt Reed hasn't had any trouble catching fish at Lake Amistad this week. He just can't catch any big ones.

 "I can catch 100 fish a day if I want to, but they'll all be 1- and 2-pounders," said Reed, who experienced the best fishing day of his life during the Monday practice at Falcon Lake, catching a best-five conservatively estimated at 48 pounds.

 Unlike the everyday angler, Elite Series pros know their game isn't about total numbers of fish. It's all about five big bites.

 "You never need to be getting that many bites in a tournament," said the Madisonville, Texas, pro. "I know that. But I don't know what else to do about it."

 Reed weighed an 11-2 limit Friday, which left him in 101st place. He has tried slowing down, throwing bigger lures and everything else he can think of to find some bigger fish, all with no success.


 "It's not that big, but it's as long as my leg, and its head is as big as mine."

 — Randy Howell on the 10-8 largemouth bass he caught to win Friday's Purolator Big Bass Award.

 "This lake has got my number. I've never made a check here." —

 Paul Elias on his 10-9 limit that left him in 104th place Friday, less than a week after he set a new BASS record of 132-8 over four days at Falcon Lake.

 "I was so shook up, I only caught 10 pounds, 13 ounces today." —

 Britt Myers, on the after effects from the scare he got in the "fake snake" practical joke played on him Thursday.

 "It was the biggest fish I've ever hooked on this lake. It was one of those (Texas Parks & Wildlife Department) ShareLunkers I'm sure. It was a freak." —

 Byron Velvick on the huge bass he lost Friday, which he estimated would have met the 13-pound minimum for the Budweister ShareLunker program administered by TPWD.

 "Thirty-five gallons." —

 Gary Klein, when asked to estimate how much gas he burned while running-and-gunning Friday.

 "I was clueless they were going to wreck them like this." —

 Gerald Swindle on the number of big bags weighed-in Friday.

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