MONETA, Va. — Gerald Swindle usually entertains weigh-in crowds with his rapid ramblings, but on Day Two of the Advance Auto Parts Blue Ridge Brawl he had a real humdinger to tell fans at Smith Mountain Lake.
"The whole thing was humiliating," Swindle said. "I had the trolling motor on high and the boat was swinging around while I was fishing a dock on my tip toes from the front of the boat, looking for fish. The boat hit the dock and I did a front flip, X-Games style off the front deck into the water."
If being soaking wet in upper-50 degree water wasn't bad enough, the boat had continued to move away and Swindle, disoriented, had to try to swim back and regain control of his ship.
"I had rain pants, rain jacket, my Vans, and I had to make like an Olympic swimmer just to get back to my boat," said Swindle. "I stripped down to my underwear and made my Marshal give me his rain pants. Needless to say, I had to skin that Mercury back and creep around for awhile after that because it was so cold."
While Dean Rojas, like most of the field of Elite Series anglers, is focused primarily on fish he can see this week, his good friend Kermit is never far from his mind. When BASS last visited Smith Mountain Lake in 2007, Rojas and his SPRO Bronzeye frog traveled way up the Roanoke River where few had likely thrown a frog before, and proceeded to notch a top finish.
Every fish he weighed in today came off a bed, but the frog was prominently displayed on the deck at all times. "I threw it a bit today," he reported. "I had one big one come up on it and stick her nose next to it, but she wouldn't bite."
Reehm shaken but not hurt
Sophomore Elite Series pro Clark Reehm suffered a freak accident this afternoon within sight of the weigh-in venue. As he headed into the creek at what he estimated to be 55 miles per hour, a dipping dye pen got lodged in his foot throttle and prevented him from reducing his speed.
Reehm tried to pull back on the throttle but couldn't get it to budge. Left with the two equally unpalatable options of hitting a dock or running his boat up onto the bank, he decided to make a sharp turn in order to avoid otherwise certain injury. Unfortunately, the sharp turn threw both Reehm and his Marshall from the boat. Fortunately neither of them required medical attention, although Reehm now sports a sizeable knot on his forehead. He effusively thanked the local anglers and water patrol officers who came to his aide, and proudly noted that once he was certain that his Marshall was unharmed he spent the rest of the day looking for bass to add to his two-fish bag.
On Day Two, smallmouth bass made more of an appearance at the weigh-in than the previous day of competition. The warming temperatures made more of the largemouth's brown cousins flock to the bank and anglers such as leader Kevin VanDam, Kevin Short and Takahiro Omori.
Short currently sits in 19th place, just over 1 pound out from the top-12 cut and benefited greatly from finding a wealth of smallies that moved up overnight.
"I tell you what is really weird," Short said. "One pocket, all the smallmouth were on the right side and all the largemouth were at the back of the bus. I hope more move up tomorrow because they weren't there yesterday. I actually caught a limit of them and culled once before catching one largemouth that made it into my livewell."
Omori also was surprised to find smallmouth in his bag at the end of the day. Despite not intentionally fishing for them, the two biggest bass in his livewell at the end of the day were of the brown variety.
"I didn't even know how that happened because I wasn't fishing for them," Omori said. "They fight so good, at first, I thought I had a big largemouth on. I caught those at the end of the day, so I ran out of time, but I'll think about it tonight and I might try to target them tomorrow."
Putting on a show
Spectators at this morning's launch who didn't hurry home were treated to an ESPY-worthy performance by Kentucky pro Kevin Wirth, who started on a fish bedding right along the bank of Parkway Marina.
Wirth said that he knew the bass was catchable but that he had trouble seeing it. According to one observer, it took him an hour and five minutes to land the two-pounder. Why set up shop on a fairly average bass? Wirth said that after a while the chess game between man and fish became personal.
Did the presence of the crowd spur him on?
"I didn't even know they were there," he replied. "I was paying attention to what I was doing."
"I got stupid today and decided I would go up the river and fish some dirty water." — Denny Brauer
"I would advise anybody against going up in the Roanoke River, because I stunk that place up today." — Bill Lowen
Bass fishing's a whole lot harder than dating, I spent four hours on one female today and never caught her." — Ish Monroe
"I feel like I been rolling down a hill full of cockleburs." — Gerald Swindle
"Sight fishing will make a sober man a drunk." — Marty Stone
"I think I covered about eighty percent of the lake where fish were not." — Edwin Evers
"I sat on a 5-pounder for about an hour and a half, and just got denied and denied." — James Niggemeyer
"I just went hog hunting today. I yelled like Iaconelli does when I caught one, it was pretty cool." — Aaron Martens
"We're only halfway through it and if they're sight-fishing they could bomb. Sunday is going to be a crucial day." — A confident Dean Rojas, explaining why he thinks he'll be able to prevail despite his reduced catch on Friday.
"We don't get crowds like this on Friday on other lakes. I'm just super-proud to call this my home lake." — John Crews
"I don't discriminate. Brown, green, I don't care." — Kevin Short, who weighed in a mixed bag of largemouths and smallmouths.
"Tomorrow is a new day. I'm going to sit in my boat and revamp my tackle and change things up." — Ish Monroe, who failed to catch a six-plus pounder that he caught and failed to make the cut for the second time this year.
"It sucks." — Byron Velvick, explaining the pain of having to leave a five pounder on the bed to head to weigh-in.