For some pros, the gamble paid off. They moved up in the rankings to earn a bigger paycheck or a spot in the Bassmaster Classic. But, the chances taken were not without some cost. Long runs, strategic gas stops, and shorter fishing time had to be part of the plan.
In the Forest L. Wood Cup, some competitors decided to lock through to lower pools on the Red River. Time spent in the lock shortened their fishing time. While they were bobbing around waiting on the lockmaster other competitors were flinging baits. FLW Cup winner Randal Tharp decided not to lock through to lower pools to have more fishing time. He pocketed $500,000 for his efforts.
During the B.A.S.S. Elite event on the St. Lawrence River, Brandon Palaniuk made the 107-mile one-way run to Lake Ontario over four straight days to claim a $100,000 payday and a Classic berth. The final Elite event saw anglers on a boat drive from Lake St. Clair to either Lake Huron or Lake Erie.
Both lakes required anglers to maneuver 21 feet long bass boats through the Detroit River. Waves ranged from 3 to 7 feet, mostly from larger cruisers and barges. One angler described the run down the river like being in a washing machine.
Mark Davis finished second in the St. Clair event running around 80 miles one way each day to Lake Erie for some giant smallmouth bass. Winner Chris Lane opted for a 50-mile run to Lake Huron for quality smallmouth. Lane won $100,000 and a coveted slot for the Classic.
After capturing the B.A.S.S. Angler of the Year on Day 3, Aaron Martens elected to return to Erie for a shot at a tournament victory. He was attempting a run into a marina for gas when he hit a monster wave and broke two bolts on his jack plate. Martens missed the weigh-in.
In some cases anglers risked life, limb and equipment in an effort to win or for needed points in the Classic race. Where does the tournament directors draw the line on boundaries for tournament waters? How far is too far to run for a limit of bass?
Granted anglers follow the rules and there was basically no limits on distance from the launch site. As long as the anglers make it back in time for check-in, no problem. However, is risking an injury to angler, marshal or camera person worth it? Long boat rides are not a friend to TV or spectators.
Also, are the major events sending a wrong message to weekend anglers, you have to run far on these waters to catch fish? And what about the fish? Some have been relocated not just from another time zone, but from another country. Can five bass survive a 100 mile plus boat ride sloshing around in a live well? While the fish appeared alive, obviously they were stressed.
Do major bass events need boundaries? How far is too far to fish?
Charles Johnson is the Star’s outdoor editor. You can reach Charles at ChrJohn7@aol.com.