It was one of the closest Angler of the Year battles in BASS history.
That dramatic finish must be a distant memory these days for Stone, who has not been a factor in the Angler of the Year race this season. Just the opposite; he has endured the rockiest season in his career.
Entering the final four CITGO Bassmaster Elite Series events, Stone is mired in 86th place and a long shot at even qualifying for the 2007 CITGO Bassmaster Classic after a stream of finishes that reads 86th, 21st, 63rd, 79th, 86th, 97th and 54th.
What happened? The 40-year-old angler has struggled to answer that query all season.
“That’s a good question,” Stone said during a break in the Bassmaster Elite Series schedule. “It’s been funny the way it’s happened. It shows the way things can swing in this very humbling sport.”
After much analyzing, Stone and Elite Series roommate and friend Gerald Swindle have come up with a reasonable explanation for the North Carolina angler’s dismal performance – one that has been dominated by losing bass and breaking off fish.
“I’ve got a bad excuse and that’s all it is,” Stone said. “A lot of people won’t realize this, but I changed some things equipment-wise this season. I changed my line and my rods. And I didn’t do my research, which is what killed me.
“The line I was using was very good line and the line I’m using now is very good line. But it’s not one in the same. I didn’t realize that until about two tournaments ago. There is nothing wrong with either of the products, and it’s nobody’s fault but my own.”
Basically, Stone did not realize that there was a significant difference in the diameter of the same line tests of the two different brands of monofilament. In other words, the diameter of the 12-pound test he utilized last season is larger than his current brand of 12-pound test. That has led to problems, as Stone handled hook-sets and landings with the same force he used last season with the larger-diameter line.
“I didn’t discover this until the Grand Lake tournament,” he said. “So all year long when I’m using 17-pound test on a spinnerbait, I’m really using 12-pound test compared to what I was used to using. Just because it says 17 on both packages doesn’t mean that they are equal.” With four tournaments remaining, Stone seems like the longest of long shots to qualify for the Bassmaster Classic.
Stone joked that he has put himself in prime position to compete for the 2007 Toyota Horizon Award, which honors the Bassmaster Elite Series pro who makes the greatest comeback from one season to the next.
PRESTON CLARK DAY. In case you missed it last week, the Beef O’Brady’s restaurant chain – Elite Series angler Preston Clark’s title sponsor - held an appreciation day for him in its Palatka, Fla., store.
“We wanted everyone in Palatka to know how we feel about Preston,” said Nicholas S. Vojnovic, president of Beef O’Brady’s. “Preston and the sport of fishing is all about family, and he is the kind of sports figure we want decorating our walls in Beef O’Brady’s.”
Photos of Clark and fellow Bassmaster Elite Series pro Terry Scroggins, also of Palatka, adorn the walls of the restaurant, along with the jerseys of Palatka athletes and former NFL players John L. Williams, Jarvis Williams and Darryl Oliver. Incidentally, Clark played on Palatka High School’s 1981 state-championship team with those three players.
“I’m really humbled and honored by this,” Clark said. “I can’t believe how fast everything has happened for me and I’m honored that Beef O’Brady’s wanted me to represent them.”
CHARITY WORK. Alabama pros on several BASS levels recently contributed their time and talent for a good cause — the 7th Annual Kickin’ Bass Coaches Charitable Tournament, spearheaded by the Orthopedic Center in Huntsville. Proceeds from the event went to the Rise Foundation and Camp Ascca, which benefit handicapped children.
Mercury Marine Women’s Bassmaster Tour presented by Triton Boats pros Kimberlee Striker and Betty Stahl were joined by CITGO Bassmaster Tour anglers Jimmy Mason and Mark Rizk.
They served as guides for celebrity anglers, including 2004 AP College Coach of the Year Tommy Tuberville of Auburn and a variety of pro and former college players.
WRAP RAP. One of the most attractive wrapped boats on the Bassmaster Elite Series circuit belongs to Florida’s Bernie Schultz. “It’s bold and very graphic,” said Schultz, a trained artist and illustrator who designed his wrap. The Rapala boat features a giant X-Rap jerkbait slashing through a stream of puddles with the Rapala logo superimposed.
Also, in Hottest Rig Running contest news from http://www.Bassmaster.com, Kentucky angler Kevin Wirth was the winner of round 11 of the series and will advance to the final round of fan voting July 10-16. Wirth's design - featuring the Early Times logo - received nearly 25 percent of all votes, while Dave Wolak finished second with 13 percent of the votes.
WEIRDEST CATCH. Florida Bassmaster Elite Series pro Shaw Grigsby’s weirdest catch occurred while fishing crystal-clear spring waters with a fly rod and popping bug. The entire episode was caught on tape for his television show.
“I hooked this little guy — maybe 10 inches long — and it jumps out of the water,” he remembered. “Then I saw this big one right behind him. All of a sudden my little one got heavier and heavier. The big one had eaten my little one and gotten hooked, and I landed the 4-pounder. There was no sign of the little one. That was really wild.”
DID YOU KNOW? Georgia’s Roger Farmer won the first BASS MegaBucks Tournament – in 1986 on Florida’s Harris Chain – and earned $100,000.
PRO BIRTHDAYS. Kansas Bassmaster Elite Series pro Brent Chapman will be 34 on July 6. Texan Randy Dearman turns 59 on July 16.
IF I HADN’T BECOME A BASS PRO … Women’s Bassmaster Tour competitor Michelle Armstrong would be able to devote more time to her nail salon in Denver, N.C.
THEY SAID IT. “That’s where I want to be. Kevin’s a hero of mine ever since I was coming up through the ranks and just to have my name next to his is truly an honor. The thing about Kevin and Mike is I know I can’t beat all those guys. I love fishing against them every week because it brings out the best in me. I have to be at my very best to beat them. And I love fishing against them every week. I’m glad that Kevin is in the sport and I’m in the sport at the same time. It’s like playing basketball against Michael Jordan or playing golf against Tiger Woods. You know you have to be at your best to beat them because they are the best.” — Bassmaster Elite Series pro Dean Rojas told the Augusta Chronicle newspaper he was proud to be competing against the likes of fellow Elite Series pros Kevin VanDam and Michael Iaconelli.
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