Saturday, March 19, 2011
By Deb Johnson, David Hunter Jones and Melissa J. Dixon Bassmaster.com
PALATKA, Fla. -- After leading the Power-Pole Citrus Slam for two days, can Alton Jones be caught on Day Three? The expected and received answer from the pros trying to overtake him in the St. Johns River event was "yes."
Alton Jones bags up his big bass.
Jones had 49 pounds, 6 ounces going into Saturday, Day Three of four competition days. Here's what some had to say on the docks before morning take-off:
J. Todd Tucker (2nd place, 7-9 back, and sharing water with Jones): "Oh, absolutely. This place is full of big fish. You catch a limit of bucks, it will weigh only about 8 pounds. But you're looking for that 6- to 7-pound fish, and if you catch two of them, then you're in good shape. If you catch four of them, there's no doubt anybody can be caught on this lake."
Terry Scoggins (3rd place, 9-6 back, and fishing home water): "Yeah, oh yeah. It's a four-day event."
Billy McCaghren (5th, 13-0 back, shooting for his first Top 12 cut): "I think he can. It all depends on if a guy comes across the right fish or two. I've seen a fish this week bigger than the 13 I'm behind Alton. One fish could turn this thing around."
Keith Combs (7th, 15-5 back, a rookie): "Oh, absolutely. Anybody can have a bad day. I'm 15 pounds behind him and the fish I'm going to start on today is 11 pounds. I saw it yesterday, and couldn't get it to bite. If I can catch that one today, and one more big one, and he doesn't find a big one today, he's smoked."
Reehm now on one foot
Clark Reehm tripped over his trolling motor cable and broke his right ankle about 8:30 a.m. Friday. He toughed it out all day, and brought in three fish. A tournament official carried his bag up the stage steps to the scales, and Reehm took off for the hospital.
The weight was only 5-8, but enough to keep him in the hunt in 24th place for Saturday.
Staying in the game is exactly why he kept fishing Friday, Reehm said on the docks Saturday morning. He was in eighth place after Day One, and he wasn't going to give up any advantage.
Reehm told the story of the accident: "There was another boat in the isolated area I was in yesterday, and I was trying to get past him to a couple fish I had marked. It got real shallow, and I reached to raise my trolling motor up and I lost my footing. My leg got wrapped on the trolling motor cable and torqued it around funny as I went in (overboard)."
He said he stood up all day Friday, foot on the trolling motor, his weight shifted to his left leg.
"So I've got new push poles," he said, laughing as he pointed to a pair of crutches.
Friday night, his foot in a soft cast until the swelling goes down, Reehm took his Skeeter to the service yard and had the boat's hot foot replaced with a hand throttle. He planned to fish Saturday by perching on the front pedestal seat; he can't put any weight on the wrapped foot. After the Citrus Slam is over, he'll go home to Texas and have a hard cast put on.
Healing should take four to six weeks, he said.
"I'm not going to go down, take a medical hardship," Reehm said. "I've got too much time and money invested in this." Watch an interview with Reehm from the Day Three Launch.
Kevin VanDam, in sixth place after two days, landed a 9-5 Friday, the biggest of the day brought to the scale.
Kevin VanDam shows off the big bass of Day Two, a 9-5.
"I stumbled into that one," he said. "I was just kind of sneaking along, saw a bed and pitched in there. The fish wasn't even on the bed; it just stuck its head out of the grass. I pitched a couple more times and it moved out of the bed. It took me about 20 throws to get her to bite, and I caught her."
He already had a limit, so he traded a 1 1/2-pounder.
"It was critical, without a doubt. I didn't have a whole lot else on top of that."
Crack the books
Qualifying through the Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Northern Opens last year, Ben Parker is excited to be fishing in the Elite Series and is approaching it like a dedicated student.
"I have very little experience in Florida, very little experience in sight fishing, and after the first two tournaments I can tell I know that I need to do some homework," he said. "At the Harris Chain last week, I chose not to do the sight fishing deal, and I came in 27th. But I cut a check in my first tournament, so I was happy about that."
He finished 95th at the Citrus Slam. "Once I get it figured out I'll be a lot stronger next time, I promise," he said.
This is the next level for Walker
Elite rookie David Walker has fished other circuits, so he has a good basis for comparison.
"I really enjoy the format. Getting to fish by yourself, especially in a tough tournament, man, that makes a world of difference right there. To make yourself better, you need to fish against people better than you, and that will improve your game. Fishing around VanDam, probably the best tournament bass fisherman ever known, and watching him fish, really presses you to do better. That's why I'm here. I want to be better at what I do and enjoy it at the same time."
Now you see them, now you don't
Kelly Jordon lost an 8-pounder Friday. It's a common story this week, but the miss might turn out to be his "what if" fish. He made the Top 50 cut at 13th place, but the spread is tight, and just another pound would have jumped him four places.
"It bit it real quick and spit it out," he said. "Then she just decided she was going to swim to the next county. She just swam off real slow. I never saw her again all day. I hate it when that happens."
Dave Wolak, in 42nd place going into Saturday, made a call on Day One that turned out to be a gamble he lost, but that doesn't mean he wouldn't make the same call again.
Dave Wolak (42nd, 22-3)
"People say, 'What makes a good sight fisherman?'" he said. "Usually it's the mental game of determining which fish are going to bite and which ones aren't, and leaving the ones that aren't going to bite instead of sitting on them.
"I made that mistake the first day, but I took a risk that I'd probably take again, considering that the two fish were 10 pounds apiece."
Odd man out
Jeff Kriet, in 30th after two days, has avoided sight fishing all week.
"Maybe I'll come across a big'un," he said. "He's going to have to be dumb for me to stop and catch him because I'd rather get a root canal than sight fish. I don't like it."
Bassmaster.com goes running wide open
Early Saturday morning, live blogs from B.A.S.S.Trakk technology watchers and on-the-water reporters geared up along with live hourly updates from the Hooked Up! Toyota Trucks stage. These supplement BASSCam video shown minutes after it is shot photo galleries and frequent new posts of analysis and reports.
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