BOSSIER CITY, La. — As endorsement dollars become scarce, few things are as valuable to an angler as making an appearance on bass fishing's biggest stage.
Simply making the cut at the Bassmaster Classic's final day, then, is a prize in itself — to say nothing of having a chance — fleeting as it may be — at the championship. No surprise, then, that most of the anglers living on the edge of fishing Day Three were stressed, anxious, fidgety and downright nervous.
Scott Rook, Fred Roumbanis, Randy Howell, Shaw Grigsby (qualifying in 25th place with 25 pounds, 2 ounces), Terry Scroggins and Montana native Federation qualifier Jay Evans all found themselves in the eye of the storm with weights between 23-11 (Roumbanis) and 25-5 (Howell).
Their initial foray into the media room at the CenturyTel Center after the weigh-in almost always sends anglers to the buffet line, including the "bubble boys." Nerves are put on hold as the stomach, neglected on a long day on the water, is sated with chips, sandwiches, cookies.
Consumption kills time as minutes and anglers tick off during the weigh-in. Dinner and conversation, including Chapman's chasing off the day's chill by dunking a chocolate chip cookie into hot coffee, inevitably turns to weight, second-guessed strategy and lost opportunities and well-meaning encouragement, though, as anglers share their day.
"Aww, you'll fish tomorrow," Roumbanis told Chapman, who at 24-6 had bested him by 10 ounces. "I dumped a 5-pounder in the back there."
The pros were free to discuss a shared spot privately; the media swarmed Day Two heavy-hitters Brian Snowden and Aaron Martens.
Rook alternately chatted with fellow competitors in front of the big screen feed of the weigh-in. Anglers' body language was tense and guarded, arms folded, eyes never far from focus on the TV as weights were announced and Day Three reservations were secured.
Roumbanis, Howell and Chapman soon took leave of the boiler room, having weighed early and choosing to rely on pocket-sized digital technology to give them the news. Rook soon followed, perhaps doing the rough math of remaining anglers that pre-destined his fate. Neither he nor Chapman stuck around to tie for 27th.
Federation Nation qualifier Evans, the edges of his hair growing grayer by the minute, watched the screen, fidgeted and compared notes with Ken Baumgardner and Bryan Schmidt as they worked out his odds of surviving with 25-5, anchored by his 15-9 Day Two bag.
The immunology research specialist watched weights come across, but didn't much watch the discussion on how they did or didn't catch fish. He put on some chapstick.
"...and Kevin's got a bag," said Baumgardner, clicking off likely spots. After some figuring, Baumgardner declared Evans in with a hearty handshake.
The gregarious Scroggins hung around, having weighed in halfway through the proceedings, and chatted up high finishers Dave Wolak and Kelly Jordon. He disappeared for 20 minutes, then returned as the final places were put in place.
In the end, Scroggins' 24-14 total proved four ounces out of 25th place, knocking "Big Show" from the biggest of stages.
As he walked to an exit, he was overheard saying into his cell phone, "Hey, I think I need a ride."