MONETA, Va. — After two days of 100 Elite Series anglers picking over the bedding bass on Smith Mountain Lake, many experienced disappointment when few remained on Day Three of the Advance Auto Parts Blue Ridge Brawl.
"I just ran out of fish," Terry Scroggins (38th, 34-11) said. "I went and ran new water, but never really found anything. The pollen is so bad, it is very tough to see. When you are moving fast and trying to find more fish, the pollen makes it really hard."
Mike Iaconelli echoed Scroggins' sentiments exactly. After being in contention after the first day, Ike slowly fell out of the cut, finishing the day in 42nd place after only weighing in four fish for 6 pounds, 4 ounces. Going out in the morning, Ike thought his fish were all gone and planned to run new water.
"I tried some different things and actually saw 20 to 25 pounds of fish, but none of them would stay locked," Iaconelli said. "At 12:00 I just picked up the shaky head and got those four bites. I picked the wrong new water to go fish. In hindsight, I should have moved to a different section of the lake instead of fishing new areas in the same section I spent the first two days."
Hindsight also haunted Randy Howell after he weighed in a three-day total of 37 pounds, 12 ounces good enough for 23rd place. After boating a solid 5-pound fish early in the morning, Howell expected to have a great day on the water and spent too much time searching for another big fish.
"After catching that big fish, I thought I could run new water and catch fish, but I never could find one," Howell said. "The fish just wouldn't stay on a bed. I spent the last three hours looking, looking and looking. If I could do it over again, I would have went out and caught some 2- to 2 ¼-pounders that I saw."
Howell would spend a little time on those smaller fish and they weren't locked down very well, so he moved on, thinking he needed another big fish to propel him into the cut.
"I was swinging for the fences and I went looking for another 5 pounder."
Another angler that had to scrap his sight-fishing pattern was Fred Roumbanis. He was targetting big bass on the main lake, but pollen and boat traffic messed up that bite. Roumbanis had a real shot at winning the tournament, but Day Three saw him weigh in one fish shy of his limit and only 6 pounds, 11 ounces and he fell to 20th.
"I had a big one eat a frog and it broke my heart," Roumbanis said. "It was in the back of a pocket sunning itself and I threw the frog over there. She sucked it in but when I set the hook, I missed her. My frog shot behind me and got tangled in a tree so I didn't get another shot at her. I was so sick after that I almost threw up."
Scott Campbell was the one angler that managed to adjust to the conditions after his fish changed on him. The wind and pleasure boaters actually helped him and he improved from 50th place all the way to 28th with his 13-pound, 5-ounce catch.
"I had nowhere to go but up, literally," Campbell said. "Today I went out to the main lake looking for bigger bites. The boat traffic and wind definitely helped. It's been awesome between the last time we were here and now — it is so cool to see how many fish are in the lake now that they have all moved up shallow."
Campbell entered the tournament in 84th place in the Toyota Tundra Bassmaster Angler of the Year race, so even though he came up shy of the top-12 cut, his main-lake move still paid off big.