Home sweet home
Loads of pressure didn't turn into loads of fish for five out of the six Arkansans that fired up their engines to take off with high hopes and hometown secrets. But then there was that one.
Scott Rook, of Little Rock, proved that he really did own the river, bringing in one of only two full loads caught all day (five keepers) and weighing in at 12 pounds, 13 ounces.
"The fish really aren't holding a structure, so they're kind of all over the place," said Rook, who had only three keepers in three days of practice. "I took a gamble and it paid off. I feel like I can catch anything right now. I know a lot about this river."
Rook is in second place, which is 6-7 in front of Shaw Grigsby Jr. in 12th. The field will be knocked down to 12 after tomorrow and to six for the final day of fishing on Sunday.
Mike McClelland, of Bella Vista, was the next best Arkansan, pulling in three fish worth 5-3 in weight, which puts him in 21st.
Hot Springs didn't do so hot, with both Mike Wurm and Stephen Browning only weighing one keeper.
"The fishing wasn't too good," Wurm said. "River fishing for me is better when the sun is really shining."
Browning depicted things as slightly more hectic, but remained optimistic about his position in 39th.
"It was one of those days," Browning said. "I was kind of running around like a chicken with my head cut off. I'm not out of it though. If I can catch five tomorrow, maybe I'll be able to make the cut. It's not that hard out there, it was just hard on me."
Rounding out the Arkansas six were Kevin Short, of Mayflower, who caught two fish and sits in 26th, and Jimmy Mize, of Ben Lomond, who caught one fish that weighed 3-1 and is tied for 30th.
A river story worth remembering
Rick Clunn, who is in third with 10-15, recounted a story from when he fished the Arkansas River in the 1984 Bassmasters Classic.
Before the Classic began, he found out that his father was in a coma, and that he might have to rush off at any time. He fished with his dads health heavy on his heart, and at the end of the tournament, he went to be by his side.
"I stayed with him all day, and would sleep beside him at night," Clunn said. "One morning at about 1 a.m., a nurse came in and told us to turn him over, which we had to do periodically. As I was turning him over, he came out of his coma, and his first words were, 'Where in the hell, did you find all those fish?'"
Three namesakes in the sport of bass fishing shared a birthday on August 24, 2006. BASS legend, Ray Scott, who founded the sport more than three decades ago turned 73 years young today.
Aaron Martens, who won the 2005 Angler of the Year award, blossomed into a 34-year-old on the first day of the Bassmaster Legends. And Arizona angler John Murray, was born 42 year ago Thursday.
When Ray Scott contrived the first Bassmaster Classic on Lake Mead 35 years ago, Martens was still a distant thought of his parents and Murray was a little boy with a rod in his hand at seven years old.
Kennedy Feels Good
Steve Kennedy sits in 6th place after one day of competition in the CITGO Bassmaster Legends tournament and the Alabama angler may have inadvertently gained a few fans today. While spectators were not out in huge numbers on the Arkansas River local favorites like Scott Rook and Kevin Short did have several boats following them today.
Kennedy said Short came through where he was fishing today and two of the spectator boats who were following him ran aground. At that point they decided to watch Kennedy for a while. And while he only weighed in four keeper fish today, Kennedy had quite a few on the line.
"I caught more than 20 fish today," Kennedy said. "But only four kept. I only caught one keeper out of my first 10 fish this morning, so I was getting a little worried. Then at around 11:30 a kind of haze came over for a few minutes and I caught a four pounder and two more keepers. Then it was over."
Kennedy said he was disappointed to break off a fish on the hookset while using 65-pound braid. "I never saw the fish, but it had some weigh to it."
Although Kennedy didn't weigh in a limit, he is firmly in the hunt for the Top 12 cut Friday.
"Considering I don't think I had a keeper bite the first two days of practice, I think I had a pretty good day."
"I just couldn't figure out how to get anything to bite. I guess I'll just go back to the same area and try some different stuff."
"I haven't zeroed in a long time. This is a humbling sport and a tough river."
"This fishing is tough mentally. I have to find some way to believe that I am going to catch fish tomorrow, but it's hard after a day like today."
"I'm not even going to pump fake like I'm pulling something out. I have nothing. It was that bad."
"I didn't catch any fish, but I will get back at them by eating sushi tonight. The river is tough in this hot weather."
"I had a good day. I caught like 50 fish but their noses were too close to their tails. Do you think Trip (Weldon) will let me go ask some local guides where I might find some fish?"
Florida angler Terry Scroggins after zeroing during the first day of the Major in Little Rock, Ark.
"I started the day off on a bad foot anyway. Yesterday, my boat broke down and I thought it was fixed. Well, I put it in the water this morning just to turn around and load it right back up on the trailer and borrow a boat. After that, the day just kept getting gradually worse."
Skeet Reese telling of his boat and fishing troubles after weighing in 2 pounds, 2 ounces.
"It was a great day! I caught one fish!"
Jason Quinn ecstatically screaming about the one fish he caught that weighed in at two pounds even.
"No matter how tough it is, somebody is going to figure out how to catch them and win $250,000. That's the cool thing about this tournament."
Peter Thliveros who won the first Major in Ft. Worth, Texas being optimistic that no matter how bad the fishing is, somebody is still going to win.
"I was still practicing today and I will still be practicing tomorrow. I was just fortunate enough to get one, and I had to pray really hard to the Lord for about two weeks just to get that one."
Paul Elias on how his fishing day went after his weight of 3 pounds, 1 ounce came across the scales.
Too small, too bad
Most anglers said that they were catching plenty of fish, but that they just weren't quite big enough. John Murray, David Wolak and Kevin Short all attested to catching nearly 40 fish throughout the day.
"The fishing is awesome out there, I just can't find enough big ones," said Murray, who finished with two keepers for a weight of 5-10. "I found a place with a relatively good current."
Wolak, who finished with one keeper that weighed 2-14, said he had the same problem.
"It's amazing how many fish I caught today," Wolak said. "It was taking too long to get them into the boat. There was action all day long. I even had two fish bite on the same cast at one point today."
Wirth is still optimistic
Kevin Wirth only had one fish that weighed 1 pound, 13 ounces Thursday, but he's not giving up on the Arkansas River.
"I still have all the confidence in the world in this place," he said. "All the signs tell us they are here. On practice Tuesday I caught more than 50 fish but only one keeper. But that tells me the fish live here."
Wirth said he caught his one and only keeper within five minutes of arriving at his spot. He hooked three more fish in the morning, but broke them off before landing them. When asked if it was challenging to stay focused on the competition when the bite was slow, Wirth was quick with his answer.
"I don't think it's tough at all. A pro is constantly trying to figure out what is going on, so your mind is buzzing until the very end. Constantly dissecting, constantly processing information, and then making adjustments."
He does admit that breaking fish off can tweak his focus.
"After I broke off a three pounder at the boat, I have to admit my brain was fried. I knew I had three opportunities and in these tournaments, with this level of competition, you have to capitalize on every opportunity. But I will catch them tomorrow."
Jones has a strategy for Day Two
Alton Jones made the run down river to the Pine Bluff pool Thursday, and although he landed the biggest fish of the day at 4 pounds, 12 ounces, it was his only fish of the day.
He caught that fish before he locked through and his strategy for Saturday will not include going back down river.
"I probably won't go back tomorrow," Jones said. "I only had three hours to fish down there and I need more time to execute my plan. Having more fishing time means more time to make adjustments throughout the day. I'll keep fishing big fish lures like worms and jigs. Fish like the one I caught today will keep me in the hunt. So I'll stay with big stuff tomorrow. I may even throw bigger stuff."
Browning not blowing smoke
Stephen Browning caught one fish today that weighed exactly two pounds, but the Arkansas angler says that was exactly what he needed. He said he is running four or five different areas and being in the right place with the right cast is key.
"If you're in the right place, and make the right cast, it will fire up the school," Browning said. "I'm in areas with a lot of fish in them. They weren't biting for me today, but you can fire them up by catching one. I caught one today and fish started coming up everywhere. Even though I only caught two pounds today, that's two pounds I don't have to catch tomorrow. And I will catch them tomorrow. I'm not blowing smoke. I know I'm around fish. I plan on catching them tomorrow."
Throughout the entire Bassmaster Elite Series season, monetary contributions have been made to local charities, fund-raising organizations, and hospitals. Carol Bailey, the wife of Lee Bailey, and other angler wives stop each angler at the end of every registration process and ask them to dig deep in their pockets for a good cause.
"Up until this event we have collected for local orphanages and children's homes," said Bailey. "We have raised almost $10,000 collectively and we've really helped out in a lot of places that need necessity items such as clothing and food."
Gerald Swindle and Marty Stone are also hitting up each of their fellow competitors to support a good cause. Tommy Quinn from the Dallas, Texas, area was paralyzed during a helicopter accident while serving in the Unites States military force. Swindle and Stone have vowed to raise enough money to buy him a couple of acres of land to build a home on.
"This is our chance to give back to the people that have served our country and preserved our freedom," stated Swindle. "We want to get enough land for Tommy to build a house so he and his family can live under the same roof again."