One of the new features of the Elite Series this year is employing marshals to accompany pros as non-fishing observers. At the Ethan Williams Dixie Duel on Lake Wheeler, Ala., we asked two marshals, Dave Shadwick of Nashville and Jason Ashley of Graysville, Ala., to keep journals of their day on the water. In the championship round, they rode with Mark Menendez and Shaw Grigsby, respectively. Here's what
Shadwick had to say, as it happened:
After a long ride to a small cove just off the main lake, Mark shuts down and starts cranking a places where he got four bass on Saturday. Between the crankbait and a swimming jig, he manages a five-fish limit of 7 pounds, 6 ounces by 8:41 a.m. He caught three of the five on a Strike King Space Monkey creature bait that's Texas-rigged. Mostly, he's just pitching the bait around flooded bushes and wood cover. He works the area over thoroughly and catches more bass, but nothing that's going to help him.
At 11 a.m., he decides to let the place rest and we move to another cove where the shoreline is similar. It's the same story, as Mark starts whacking rooster bass from the get-go on the Space Monkey. He improves his stringer with a 4-pound bass and minutes later another contestant shows up, but doesn't crowd us. Mark catches a 2-pound bass with a lamprey attached to it and pulls it off. There are a lot of lampreys on fish in this lake; I wonder if it is hurting the bass population.
Mark finishes at a wind-blown point where there is a tree in the water. He catches a small bass on a jig and remarks that it can't be the only bass holding there. A few casts later and he nails a 2 1/2-pounder. It improves a good stringer caught by a guy who is one of the most observant and persistent fishermen I've ever shared a boat with.
And, Ashley's journal:
What a fisherman Shaw is. He makes fishing seem as easy as riding a bike, though it's pretty obvious that he is also all business and is very careful about his presentations and his lure selections. He starts fishing at 7:44 and his first fish is a non-keeper that hit a Red Eye Shad. A couple of casts later, it's another non-keeper, but then Shaw gets down to business and starts getting little bank-runners that wind up being culled later in the day.
A 3-pounder pulls off right at 9 a.m., but Shaw adds his third keeper about 20 minutes later. These are all fish in the 1 1/2- to 1 3/4-pound range, though, and Shaw is still looking for that good bite. At 9: 30 a.m, his fourth keeper comes aboard, and then smokes a bunch of dinks before getting his fifth keeper at around 1 p.m. The Red Eye Shad is a killer on Wheeler. More small keepers come into the boat, and Shaw keeps culling, but he's not finding the fish that will move him way up. His best fish in a 2 1/2-pounder. I guess a lot of other guys could have said the same thing, but if Shaw could have got on some good fish at any point in the tournament, he would have been in the running. He's a great fisherman and as friendly as your best buddy.
This whole deal with the Elite Series Marshal Program reminds me of something that another marshal, Frank Gizzo of Florida, told me earlier in the week: "Fishing with these pros is like riding beside Jeff Gordon or being in a huddle with Tom Brady." You can't help but learn some good fishing pointers, and I thoroughly enjoyed the opportunity to share a boat with guys like Shaw this week.