2009 Elite Series Blue Ridge Brawl

MONETA, Va. — In a tournament where sight fishing is the dominant technique, the critical decision is often not what lure to tie on, but rather how long to spend on a reluctant fish. In a timed sport, where minutes on the water often translate directly into dollars in the bank, valuable time spent on a fish that ultimately doesn't find its way to the weigh-in is the worst type of sunk cost.

On Day One of the Advance Auto Parts Blue Ridge Brawl, the number one bed fishing tale of woe was what Byron Velvick called "milk carton fish" — the type that were here yesterday but have gone missing. But today there was a new excuse — fish that looked ready to bite but wouldn't, no matter how long or how many different tricks an angler tried.

Eventually an angler's hand may be forced by an impending weigh-in time, but when that's not the case sometimes the angler has to make the decision to cut his losses and push on.

"Leaving them is the hardest thing," Velvick said. "Any guy who says he can catch everything he sees hasn't been sight fishing long."

Kelly Jordon, who slipped from first place to third today, was able to make the decision today to leave a fish that he estimated at nearly four pounds.

"She must've bit five times," he noted, but despite working her over for an hour and a half he could never get her to fully commit. "Finally I said 'See you tomorrow.'"

Knowing that he was all but certain to get the opportunity to fish a third day, he felt comfortable leaving the fish out there and as far as he knows it's still swimming around in Smith Mountain Lake's clear waters. Additionally, he also passed up the opportunity to catch a few easier fish that would have culled him up by ounces, simply because he feels he might need them tomorrow ... or possibly Sunday.

Marty Stone said that he spent fully half of his time on the water concentrating on three fish. "I sat on one for two hours and two more for an hour each," he said. "A sight fishing tournament will turn a sober man into a drunk."

Indeed, for the anglers who consider themselves less than expert at the sight fishing game, the decision is particularly difficult. Matt Sphar located a fish that would have helped him substantially, but while the fish wouldn't leave the bed, he couldn't agitate it enough to strike. "I guess since I'm not sight fishing for most of my fish I just wasn't fine-tuned about what would make her bite," Sphar lamented.

Ish Monroe may be the poster child for over-commitment. He only weighed in three fish for less than six pounds today, largely due to the fact that he spent the lion's share of his time trying to coax one fish in the four-pound class and another that he conservatively estimated at six-plus. For Monroe, the decision to camp on the two big girls was an easy one.

"Two for eleven pounds would've pushed me to fishing tomorrow," he said. While fishing for the bigger of the two, he caught the male first, then watched the big one swim away and return with another mate, which he likewise caught. The female did bite his lure once, but he couldn't hook up. But that little bit of a tease kept Monroe interested and convinced that he'd catch it before day's end.

In keeping with the spawning there, Monroe compared the decision to commit to a particular fish to "trying to date a girl. It's just tough. But bass fishing is a lot harder than dating."

To add insult to injury, Monroe managed to catch the four pounder, but it was hooked outside the mouth and he had to release her. He never managed to capture her again.

But for every heartbreak, there's a success story. Kenyon Hill bolstered his sack with a 6-7 largemouth that seemingly came up overnight. "She showed herself, but it was kind of a weird deal," he said. "It took about 15 to 20 minutes to know how to position the fish, but I finally learned where the sweet spot was."

That was all she wrote and she took an air-conditioned ride in Hill's livewell back to the launch.

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