With the diversity of waterways visited during the Elite Series season, it’s crucial that anglers be well-stocked with a wide range of lures and baits for any location or condition.
But even the best bass anglers in the world sometimes find themselves in need of something else. So they go shopping.
After the first day of the recent Empire Chase presented by Mahindra Tractors, the eighth Elite Series stop on New York’s Oneida Lake, the fishing department at the local Gander Mountain outdoor store looked like a weigh-in line at a tournament.
A steady stream of Elite anglers filed through the aisles, picking up last-minute additions for their tackle boxes.
In one aisle, Oklahoma pro Jeff Reynolds picked through bags of soft plastic lures. In the next row was Texas pro Gary Klein, perusing the store’s selection of hard baits. Florida pro Preston Clark, who earlier this year set the record for the heaviest four-day total weight in BASS history, scanned the shelves for jigs.
“Sometimes you just don’t have exactly what you need,” Reynolds said.
So what was in Reynolds’ shopping bag?
“I picked up some Senkos and Hula Grubs,” he said. “I hear they’ve been wearing out the smallmouth on those.”
Horton’s hassles The Elite Series stop at Lake Champlain in Plattsburgh, N.Y., was a tournament the anglers looked forward to all season. BASS called it the Champion’s Choice for a reason, and that’s because it’s an excellent smallmouth bass fishery with a healthy largemouth population to boot, and the fish are typically eager to bite.
Alabama pro Timmy Horton went into the tournament as excited as anyone, but he left Lake Champlain with different emotions after a run of bad luck that just wouldn’t stop.
Horton lost valuable fishing time on the first day of the tournament when the bilge pump – used to pump water out of the lowest part of the boat - stopped working.
Because wind and rough water washed waves over the bow and sides of Horton’s boat, the bilge pump became a critical piece of safety equipment. “The bilge going out doesn’t sound like that big of a deal,” Horton said, “but in rough water, it is.”
Fellow Elite Series pro Chad Brauer stopped and assisted Horton, who called BASS officials to bring him a loaner boat and tow in his disabled rig. Still, Horton said he lost about four hours of fishing time.
If that wasn’t bad enough, on Day 2 Horton arrived back at the dock in fellow pro Todd Faircloth’s boat after his own suffered an engine problem.
At least it happened on the way to check in and only a mile from the dock, Horton said, and didn’t cost any fishing time. “It was trivial compared to what happened the first day. But it’s still a little frustrating when things go wrong. I haven’t had an issue in three or four years, and then this happens,” he added. ”When it rains, it pours.”
Early bird Elite Series pro Jeff Reynolds still had an hour to fish on Day 2 of last week’s Champion’s Choice on Lake Champlain, but the Oklahoma pro showed up early for the weigh-in.
“I had to come in early because my fish started looking like they weren’t doing too well,” Reynolds explained. “I wanted to get here as soon as I could so I wouldn’t have any penalties.” Anglers are assessed weight penalties for expired fish.
Reynolds had boated a limit of smallmouth bass in the morning, but later went to fish for largemouth in warmer, shallower water, which he attributed to causing the smallmouth to swim lethargically in his livewell.
Coming in early apparently was the right choice. Reynolds weighed five live fish for a Day 2 total of 16 pounds, 4 ounces, enough to propel him into Saturday’s cut to 50 anglers. He caught another 16-15 to finish 21st in the event.
Weight loss Denny Brauer of Camdenton, Mo., won the Champion’s Choice on Lake Champlain by nearly 8 pounds, but his victory could have been by an even greater margin.
“I lost at least a pound of weight the first two days when my fish regurgitated big perch in the livewell,” Brauer said. “A couple of those perch were at least 7 or 8 inches long.”
Perch or not, Brauer took the tournament and also regained his lead on the BASS all-time money winners list. He now has earned $2,077,751, or about $17,000 more than second-place Kevin VanDam of Michigan.
Plattsburgh Pride On the Day 4 launch of the Champion’s Choice, the Elite 12 anglers received a surprise send off.
Members of the Clinton County Sheriff’s Department and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security – on boats and jet skis - escorted the anglers past the no-wake zone, where they sped off for the final day of fishing.
Then, during weigh-in, Plattsburgh Interim Mayor Jack Stewart and several city council members joined together on stage to thank BASS for coming to Champlain.
“This tournament was the best thing to happen to Plattsburgh,” said Stewart. “We’ve got a beautiful waterfront and BASS has done a real service for us.”
BASS is the worldwide authority on bass fishing, sanctioning more than 20,000 events through the BASS Federation Nation annually. Guided by its mission to serve all fishing fans, BASS sets the standard for credibility, professionalism, sportsmanship and conservation, as it has for nearly 40 years.
BASS stages bass fishing tournaments for every skill level and culminates with the CITGO Bassmaster Classic. Through its clubs, youth programs, aquatic resource advocacy, magazine publishing and multimedia platforms, BASS offers the industry's widest array of services and support to its nearly 550,000 members. The organization is headquartered in Celebration, Fla.
For more information, contact BASS Communications at (407) 566-2208. To join BASS, call 1-877-BASS-USA or visit http://www.bassmaster.com.