Coble and the Purolator Big Trout

*Editor's note: This is the first of a series of columns by Jerry McKinnis on five of the Bassmaster Classic competitors

Recently I've had the opportunity to fish with five anglers who will be competing in this year's CITGO Bassmaster Classic. I'm not name-dropping. I was just lucky enough to be with them either as a guest on my show, The Fishin' Hole, or fishing in my home state.

Those anglers: Davey Hite, Rick Clunn, Jeff Coble, Skeet Reese and ole what's-his-name, the kid from Michigan, you know who I'm talking about. Yeah, KVD.

Normally when those anglers come to mind, especially with the Classic looming right around the corner, there are certain things that everyone thinks about. This column and the four to follow will be about those trips, but they won't have anything to do with Clunn's 28 trips to the Classic, or Kevin VanDam's spinnerbait technique. I get so tired of those stories don't you? No, these will be a little different.

Instead I would like to tell you the first thing that comes to my mind when I think of each trip with each individual angler

I will start with Jeff Coble. I read recently that Jeff could possibly be the best weekend angler of all time. My definition of a weekend angler is a guy whose job will not allow him to fish against the big boys year around. So, he fishes smaller one- and two-day events. Yep, that's Coble.

In truth, Jeff Coble, is one of the smartest, hardest working, most talented bass anglers I know. He qualified for the Classic by out fishing thousands of bass fishermen in the BASS Weekend Series. Only one spot was available to these guys and it's Coble's.

My home in north Arkansas is on the White River, which is famous for its trout fishing. At least once a week, and this has gone on for years, The World's Greatest Weekend Angler calls me and starts the conversation like this. "McKinnis, when are you going to take me trout fishing?" (You are always going to lose a great deal of the effect here, simply because I can't write with a North Carolina accent. Believe me, no one can say "McKinnis" like Coble.) Guess what, this past holiday season I responded to his question with, "How about the day after Christmas?" And the game was on.

Jeff Coble and his fishing partner, possibly the Number Two best weekend angler, David Wright, showed up with neither having ever caught a trout. Now this is not waders, Orvis vest, fly rod, trout fishing. This is redneck trout fishing. Jump in your river boat, get out your 4-pound test line and start throwing a Rapala as far as you can. As you can imagine, they caught on in about three casts. Of course they had the "World's Greatest Weekend Guide," me, but that's another story.

You have never seen two more competitive anglers in your life. You could quickly see why they are such good tournament bass fishermen. They were happy when the other got hung up. They were happy when the other lost his lure and had to re-tie. They were even happy when the poor guide lost a fish. These types of problems gave someone an edge.

By noon, the score which they kept close tabs on, was something like Wright 35 and Coble 32. At the end of the day, David Wright was declared the winner with 56 rainbow and brown trout. However, Coble claimed, in his words, "The Purolator Big Trout" award. This, of course, was a much more prestigious honor than any number of fish.

So one month later, Jeff Coble wins the BASS Weekend Championship and latches onto the one Classic spot. About 15 minutes after the final weigh-in, my phone rings. "McKinnis", (Oh if you could only hear him saying that in his North Carolina-ish way)

"McKinnis," he said, "I came up to your place, won the Purolator Big Trout Division, and the momentum just carried over into the Weekend Championship. Now, I've won that as well, and I'm on my way to the Classic!"

Only Jeff Coble could think of it that way.