RUSSELLVILLE, Ark. — With the takeoff for the Toyota Trucks Diamond Drive on Lake Dardanelle delayed three hours because of fog, many anglers struggled to find five keeper bites. None were quite as forthcoming as Gerald Swindle in pinpointing where the day went wrong.
"Never go to sleep during a fog delay," Swindle said. "If you go to sleep, you get all lazy out on the water. Also, I ate all my Moon Pies during the time we were waiting, so I didn't have any out on the water. That is a big problem."
Jokes aside, Swindle didn't expect to see many limits weighed in, especially with the shortened fishing time. By weigh-in's end, just 41 five-fish limits crossed the scales, and Swindle's 10-pound, 10-ounce bag had him sitting in 39th.
Battle for smallest bass
When Jason Quinn dropped his two-fish bag onto the scales, he was headed for a quick exit from the limelight. So he decided to pull out a fish and excite the crowd. His undersized traveling companion weighed a paltry 14 ounces. Weigh-in emcee Keith Alan didn't hesitate to weigh the fish and pronounce it the smallest of the day.
Dardanelle has largemouth, smallmouth and spotted bass. On a shortened day, small spotted bass were scattered through the weigh-in, adding critical ounces where they were needed. Quinn said he wasn't even targeting spots when that one bit a Luhr Jensen Speed Trap.
"As you can see, I zigged when I should have zagged," Quinn said.
His small-fish-of-the-day consolation lasted only until Grant Goldbeck hoisted a 12-ounce spotted bass onto the scale.
"I'm glad to even bring in a fish," Goldbeck said. "I wasn't even fishing for spotted bass, but that one ate a Senko off of some wood. I lost a couple of big fish, and when you start doing that the day just gets worse and worse."
Despite some "technical difficulties," Chris Lane still managed to fill the eighth-place spot on the leaderboard after weighing in 15-14 on Day One.
His trouble started on the long run to his first spot not long after takeoff. Lane could feel something amiss with his engine. After boating a decent limit, he made the decision to head back.
"I left those fish biting in my primary spot," Lane said. "I had to leave because I didn't know how much trouble I would get in on my way back. It was windy and I had a long run, so I had to take precautions with the sack I had."
Lane made it back. Technicians tinkered on his engine, and he made it back to the water and was able to cull a fish.
He did manage to let one interesting tidbit slip about the type of water he is fishing: "I'm trying to balance the amount of gas I need to get to my spot and still keep the boat light enough to actually get into the spot."
The passing Lane
Chris' brother, Bobby, could have used a bit of Chris' foresight. He arrived at the dock four minutes late. The pound-a-minute penalty bumped his would-be 35th-place 11-0 limit down to 7 pounds and 62nd place.
His error was overestimating how fast he could race down the lake. He said he failed to take into account the 3-foot swells when he left himself 21 minutes for an 18-mile run.
We were surfing out there," he said. In rushing through the waves, a rod flew off his deck; Lane snagged it out of the air, and handed it to his Marshall, who like him was taking a right pounding. "Thank God he was a young guy," Lane said. "He was enjoying it."
The penalty, though, hurt. All Lane could do, he said, is return to the spot that produced for him on Day Two and make it back in a more timely fashion.
"You take this one and you never forget it," he said. "You never let it happen again."
A champion's reflections
At the 2005 Elite 50 event on Lake Dardanelle, Davy Hite pulled up to a bridge inside of Illinois Bayou with no fish in his livewell. Twenty minutes later he had piled on almost 20 pounds and created what would prove to be an insurmountable lead.
"Every time I ride over that bridge, the I-40 bridge over Dardanelle, it makes me smile — it means a lot to me," Hite said. "It is great to come back here where I caught that big bag. That's something I will always remember. Every win is special, but other than the Classic, to win that one on my 40th birthday, was right up there."
Hite didn't find a magic stretch of bank on Thursday, but his 12-1 limit on Day One had him in 29th place.
What happened with that winning area in Illinois Bayou?
"I didn't fish there today because I cut it too close out there at the end and it was really windy," Hite said. "I will definitely fish there tomorrow. You gotta fish there just for the memories."
"They put a cork back in this place and the lake came up about a foot." — Skeet Reese
"When people said it was slow during their practice, I had to bite my lip." — Alton Jones
"I didn't know if I could catch five fish in a full day, as bad as my practice was." — Mike McClelland, weighing only three fish after the fog delay
"I've just got to start over, nothing I did worked today." — Mike Iaconelli
"If I can't put something else together tomorrow, the most exciting thing my Marshall will get to see is lunch." — Kenyon Hill
"I love to fish here, but the fish don't like me back." — Ken Cook
"I thought I had figured something out, but I was wrong." — Matt Reed
"I lost one on a rock, a stump, a log, and another on a piece of barbed wire." — Terry Scroggins
"That smallmouth is actually the biggest fish caught of that species." — Clark Reehm after weighing only one fish, a smallmouth weighing 1 pound, 1 ounce