When the Bassmaster Tour visited the Potomac River 30 years ago, everyone knew that Jay Yelas was likely going to spend some time on an abandoned wharf called Fox’s Ferry. Why wouldn’t he? It contributed to a win in 1993 along with several other top five and top ten finishes. I’m sure that other anglers fished it during practice and competition, but on some level everyone knew it as “Jay’s spot.”
Those sorts of turf-claiming exercises have existed as long as people have fished competitively and at the top levels they’re amplified. Go to a TVA lake in the summer, and everyone has had their reservations in for a particular stretch of ledge since the schedule was announced. If they head to a spawning derby in Florida, you get your chance in line at the known hotspots. At St. Clair, the community rockpiles are known commodities with waiting lists a mile long
That’s what’s been so nice about the Elite Series “reset” this year. I don’t know whether the field is better or worse, top to bottom, than last year’s group. I don’t know if they’re more diverse, either. I do know, however, that one of things that has made the events so compelling is that we’re seeing familiar waters through new eyes — and with new interangler dynamics. A Chad Morgenthaler or Matt Herren may think they have a solid game plan for an old haunt like the St. Johns, knowing where KVD, Alton Jones and Skeet were likely to fish, but add in a new group of competitors and the dance becomes a little different. The BASS Live team has done a tremendous job of telling us not just the day-to-day stories, but also the bigger picture items, weaving drama and intrigue and bass fishing knowledge into what could otherwise be just another tournament.
The lakes have helped, too. At Fork, the fish were in all different stages so we saw anglers sight fishing as well as heading offshore. We might’ve known that Dean Rojas (who at the same time was winning a BPT event on Smith) would’ve thrown a frog at Fork, or KVD would’ve relied on a square bill and a spinnerbait, but I know that I had no idea whatsoever how Garette Paquette, Drew Cook and Brandon Cobb would attack it. Again, I’m not saying that any particular circuit or any one angler could kick the tar out of another, but at Fork the numbers spoke for themselves. Meanwhile, I got to see Chad Pipkens throwing a crankbait I’d never heard of (now out of stock at just about every major online retailer) and Jeff Gustafson wielding a spinning rod much of the time. Yes, old Keith Combs was still out there with his trusty 6XD, but the variety and the different approaches to one of the country’s preeminent “destination” lakes, made a 30 year old story feel new again.