By Alan Clemons
February 19, 2011
NEW ORLEANS – With time ticking away Friday morning and the 50 Bassmaster Classic competitors delayed at the launch due to heavy fog in the Louisiana Delta, Yamamoto pro Todd Faircloth of Texas pondered his game plan.
A two-hour run to Venice with less fishing time or stick around somewhere closer to the launch area in a last-ditch Plan B attack?
Minutes ticked. Faircloth and the others went over everything in their heads. Time to run … time to fish … time to re-fuel and get back on time for check-in. By the time Bassmaster Tournament Director Trip Weldon turned the field loose a little after 8 a.m. – after a delay of slightly more than an hour – Faircloth had his mind made up.
“If it had been after 9 a.m., I wouldn’t have made the run,” he said. “After getting there and seeing what I caught, I probably would have waited until 9:30 or 10 a.m. It’s that good. I made one pass through the area and caught 15 keepers. They were biting pretty well.”
Faircloth caught five keepers weighing 15 pounds, 2 ounces, and is in eighth place. That’s well within striking distance of the leaders, despite the apparent sizable disparity in weight. Aaron Martens of Alabama leads with 20-7, followed by Scott Rook of Arkansas (19-6) and defending champ Kevin Van Dam of Michigan (19-3).
Martens, Rook and Van Dam are fishing in the same area about 15-20 minutes from the launch ramp. They obviously have more fishing time and, as Van Dam said, the pre-spawn bass are moving into the area and feeding as water temperatures rise.
But the bass already are in the ponds southeast in Venice, which is where Faircloth and many of the other Classic anglers are fishing. The gamble for the Venice crew is the chance to catch bigger fish but with a shorter window of time to fish.
“The day went OK,” he said. “I just didn’t have as much time to do it.”
Derek Remitz of Alabama stayed close and is in the same area with Van Dam, Rook and Martens. He’s in 22nd place with 12-15. That’s not great, but he’s still in contention to make the final day cut and have a shot.
“When the fog lifted I looked up and saw Kevin, Rook and Aaron,” he said, laughing. “I though “This must be a pretty good place.” It went a little better than I thought it would after practice in there. I didn’t do much in practice but decided that would be where I fished.”
He said the fog delay helped him make the decision to stay close, which obviously was a good one.
“I just hope I can catch them better Saturday,” Remitz said. “But I don’t feel like I hurt myself at all.”
Kinami pro Steve Kennedy of Alabama had one of the weirdest days, admittedly all on his shoulders. He started at the edge of a canal he thought was good, heard other boats coming in and said he idled back into the canal to a different area.
“When the fog lifted and I came out, Kevin and the other guys were all out there,” Kennedy said, chuckling at his fate. “It’s a (water) diversion deal but the water was coming back into it, so it was a little different. I decided to make a run to Venice and took off.”
That was about 10:30 a.m. and, again, Kennedy said the decision was a gut instinct deal. He hadn’t made the run to Venice from that area and wasn’t concerned about how much fishing time he’d have. He just knew he had to get on down there.
“After about 30 minutes of running, I hit some wind and started doing some math in my head,” he said. “I knew it would take longer and it was a little rough, so I spun around and went back to some canals that had some good-looking grass. I stayed there but only got two good bites. It was just a crazy day.”