The weights coming out of the Marine Formula STA-BIL Southern Challenge on Lake Guntersville were frightening to the average recreational angler. Four men broke the 100 pound mark; it took 73 pounds just to fish on Sunday; 20 pounds a day for the first two days didn't make a check.
"I'd say I missed the weights," said Greg Vinson, laughing good naturedly. "There's not much I can say. The reservoir filled with water, they started pumping to get it down, and the fishing exploded. I weighed 63 pounds, 2 ounces and finished in 35th place. When's the last time you heard of that? Something like that could happen in Texas or California, but I didn't expect it here.
"I've never seen anything like it. Late on Thursday morning I went to a spot where I'd been catching 2- and 3-pounders in practice. It filled up with 4- and 5-pounders overnight!
"My biggest problem was unhooking the little ones so I could cast again and try to catch a big one. At the same time, I was catching catfish, stripers, white bass and darn near everything else that lives in that lake. Guntersville was on fire."
The explosion and fire to which he refers destroyed his weight estimates. Vinson believed 16 pounds a day would make the Top 50 and earn a check. In fact, 20 pounds a day fell short of his predictions.
His estimate of 18 pounds a day to make Sunday's Top 12 cut was even further from the mark. That spot was claimed by Kevin Wirth with 73 pounds, just a little short of 25 pounds a day.
Add to that his belief that the big bass would go 8 pounds (it actually went 9-2) along with his prediction that Kevin VanDam and Tim Horton were the anglers to watch (they finished 20th and 57th, respectively) and you start to get the picture.
But the winning weight is what really says it all 107-8 as opposed to Vinson's estimate of 84. That's an error of more than a pound per fish weighed in during the tournament.
"I'm not making excuses. I said that the bass would probably hold halfway between the beds and their summer haunts. That was true. And I said that standard post-spawn lures would rule. They did.
"But, I didn't see the turn-on coming. I just didn't. I know some of the guys said they knew what was going to happen during practice. I'm not in that group. I thought the weights would be high, but not like they were. More power to the guys who saw it coming."
Vinson clearly missed the weights. But, then again, he did have the patterns and lure choices pretty much right. And he finished near the top third of the best group of anglers on the planet. He earned a grade of C-.