It happened far away from the adoring crowds at the Orange County Convention Center and completely out of view of the ESPN cameras. Yet, it was one of the most compelling moments during CITGO Bassmaster Classic Week in Kissimmee, Fla., in late February.
After spending the morning indoors participating in such mundane chores as registration, an orientation on the Triton TR-21X Classic boat and a rules meeting, the Bassmaster Classic pros were bused back to their accommodations at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Resort. As they approached the hotel, they spotted a pond on the property.
“We’re all tired because we’ve been at the tournament briefing and registration all morning,” BASS Elite Series pro Michael Iaconelli recalled. “As the bus is pulling up, we see this pond across the street. One guy says, ‘Man, we need to go fishing over there.’ Another guy says, ‘Yeah, let’s have a tournament.” Then one says, ‘Let’s make it spinning-rod only.’
“All of a sudden you’ve got 10 or 12 of the world’s best fishermen wading around a bank. I think that really shows how passionate we are about the sport. It brings us back to how we all started, which is wading the banks. It was fun.”
Fellow pro Gerald Swindle agreed.
“We ran out there like a bunch of kids throwing at that pond,” he said. “We were thrashing them down. (Chad) Morgenthaler was trying to wade across it and cut somebody off. Everybody was out there just thrashing around. Everybody caught something; there are a lot of little peanuts in there. And I took a little spanking in the pond tournament.”
Mike Wurm was the big winner, thanks to a 9-pound pond bass that fell victim to a Strike King crankbait.
Had you stumbled on to this impromptu competition — with no stakes, other than bragging and ragging rights — you would have witnessed the real joy of fishing that still lives inside these hardened tournament veterans.
Judging by the pros’ enthusiasm, the uninitiated might have thought that the big Bassmaster Classic tournament already had started that day.
“It was great,” Iaconelli said. “That was one of those deals where you wished there were television cameras out there. The deal with this mini-tournament really proves how passionate and hard core we are about fishing. We were going through sticker bushes; nothing’s too hard core for us when it comes to fishing.”
CHAPMAN’S NEW RIDE. CITGO Bassmaster Elite Series pro Brent Chapman began sporting a new ride in the Santee Cooper Showdown presented by MotorGuide in South Carolina — a Triton boat powered by a Mercury outboard.
“I’m very happy to join Triton and Mercury,” the Kansas pro said. “It’s a great opportunity, and I’m really looking forward to a long relationship with them.
“It was a little unexpected; not really how you want to start out the year (switching boats during the season). But it’s all worked out great. Triton and Mercury have been great to work with.”
Chapman’s Triton is wrapped with a scheme promoting GE Silicone II, part of the company’s line of caulks, sealants and adhesives.
SUPER ANGLER. The significance of setting two of the most important marks in the BASS record book in the first few months of the 2006 season isn’t lost on Preston Clark’s title sponsor — Beef O’Brady’s restaurant chain.
After his heroics in the recent Bassmaster Elite Series event on Santee Cooper Reservoir, during which he set the new standard for a four-day tournament tally, the Florida pro received an exuberant phone message from the company’s marketing director, Ken Hall, who anointed him “the world’s best fisherman.” WEIRDEST CATCH. Bassmaster Elite Series pro Bink Desaro scratches his head when asked to name the strangest item he has ever reeled in.
“Shucks, I’ve never caught much of anything too crazy,” the Idaho angler said. “I caught a boot once on a Rat-L-Trap. You drum up all kinds of stuff off the bottom with a Trap. Even rocks.” DID YOU KNOW? Michigan’s Art Ferguson III is the only angler to qualify for the CITGO Bassmaster Classic two or more times from both the BASS Federation Nation (1990 and 1999) and the pro ranks (2000 and 2004).
PRO BIRTHDAYS. Bassmaster Elite Series pro Matt Reed of Texas will be 44 on April 12. Georgia pro Danny Kirk turns 49 on April 23. A day later will find Florida’s Mark Rogers turning 34. Former Bassmaster Classic champion Woo Daves of Virginia will be 60 years young on April 25. Arkansas’ Stephen Browning blows out 40 candles April 28. Japanese pro Yusuke Miyazaki rounds out the April birthdays when he celebrates his 36th on April 30.
IF I HADN’T BECOME A BASS PRO … “I love to build stuff, so I’d either be a home contractor or in the air-conditioning-filter business, which was the business my dad was in,” said Bassmaster Elite Series pro Zell Rowland. “My dad designed the first air-conditioner filter, and it was a good business; it was the reason we were able to live the way we did. I worked in the business a little bit when I wasn’t fishing a tournament, but it wasn’t in my heart to do that.”
THEY SAID IT. “We gave over 100 polygraphs in my years. At least 85 percent of those polygraphs did not prove a man’s guilt, but proved his innocence in a situation where he was accused of something when he didn’t do it. That’s the beauty of the polygraph.” — BASS founder Ray Scott is a big fan of the availability of polygraphs in fishing tournaments
News exclusives, audio and video clips of bass fishing's biggest stars, loads of discounts and more are all part of BASS Insider, an exclusive membership, now available at www.bassmaster.com.
BASS is the worldwide authority on bass fishing, sanctioning more than 20,000 events through the BASS Federation 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 www.bassmaster.com.