When the scales stopped spinning yesterday, weights were stuck together like bubblegum on the bottom of a work boot. So, Bassmaster Elite Series anglers enter day two on the Mississippi River in La Crosse trying to figure out how to separate themselves from the pack.
“It’s always been a game of ounces, and this tournament exemplifies that big time,” said 29-time Bassmaster Classic qualifier Gary Klein, who sat sipping coffee and his thoughts prior to morning blast-off.
Klein is classy. Klein is a thinker. And here’s the sticky part: he’s in a four-way tie for 35th place which is only 3 pounds out of first place. Rarely ever, almost never, do four anglers weigh-in the exact same pounds and ounces.
“Do I leave fish to find fish? Can I make a lure change to catch a bigger fish? What if I change my casting angles, will that spur a bigger bite?” Klein asked himself aloud in an effort to find answers to somehow free himself from the leaderboard log jam.
“I flipped one stretch for an hour yesterday and never had a bite, did a U-turn and started casting a spinnerbait, and immediately caught two keepers that upgraded my weight,” explained Klein. “These northern bass seem to winter-up and group in schools. So you can fish a long stretch and not get a bite, and then all the sudden, bam, you’re in ‘em big time.”
“I just haven’t found the sweet spot in the area I’m fishing,” added Klein. “It’s really about one or two key bites. I got one key bite yesterday, and caught my heaviest bass of the day, but it wasn’t until 2:15 and I was due to weigh-in at 3:00.”
Just down the dock from Klein stood Team Toyota’s Terry “Big Show” Scroggins chewing watermelon flavored bubblegum like I imagine he did on the dirt mound 26 years ago as a high school baseball pitcher in Palatka, Fla.
Unlike Klein, Scroggins is about as naturally carefree as they come. The only thing “Big Show” typically smokes thoughts over is what he’s going to eat for dinner at night. And so far, carefree has carried him to a ninth place position on the leaderboard.
Perhaps it’s the fact that Wisconsin feels like Florida to Scroggins that has pushed him so high in the standings.
“It’s a 23-hour drive in that Tundra from here to my hometown, but the thing is, the backwaters here off the Mississippi look just like the water I grew up fishing,” said Scroggins.
“In fact, I’m fishing here exactly like I would Okeechobee. I‘m using a frog, and I’m flipping a Texas-rigged 1 1/2-ounce weight with a YUM Big Show Craw on a 6/0 straight shank hook,” grinned Scroggins, as he stood erasing emails from his smartphone while others stressed over what lures to tie on.
“I don’t get any cell service in my hotel room, but down here on the dock I do. So as soon as I get here in the morning my phone blows-up with all the incoming messages I missed at the room,” explained Scroggins. “I’m deleting most of them right now, cause they aren’t worth worrying about.”
Of course not, worry just isn’t something Scroggins does. Not even in a tournament as sticky as the watermelon gum being smashed between his molars before blast-off.
By Alan McGuckin