By Todd Ceisner
Alton Jones, Sr. has seen plenty of day-to-day fluctuations in tournaments over the years. Never before had he witnessed the precipitous drop-off that he experienced today on day 2 of the Bassmaster Classic.
The 2008 Classic champion was in good shape after catching 19-13 Friday. He failed to catch a keeper today and zeroed, dropping him to 27th, less than 2 pounds shy of the day-3 cut.
“I don’t think I’ve seen it go from pretty strong to can’t get a bite like it did,” Jones said. “That’s pretty rare.”
He caught a number of short fish in an area where shad were spawning, but as soon as the sun got up, those opportunities dried up.
“I figured, ‘Okay, because I was fishing for spawners anyway,’” he said. “I don’t know if that storm last night affected them or what.”
That was Bill Lowen’s theory. Lowen had 12-03 on day 1 and caught a couple dozen shorts way up north, but couldn’t muster a bite from a legal fish Saturday.
“In my main key area, I didn’t think we got that much rain, but it flushed them out,” he said. “I had no idea it had rained that hard. It wrecked that area I was in. It was frustrating.
“The only mistake I made is I didn’t go far enough up the river. Why I didn’t, I don’t know. I know it’ll never happen again.”
The power at the campground where Justin Lucas is staying went out about 1 a.m. Friday night. Luckily, the RV in which his in-laws are staying had a generator and he was able to continue charging his boat batteries.
What was a tough night weather-wise turned into a tough day of fishing, but he enters day 3 in the top 10.
“I knew it was going to be tougher,” he said. “I didn’t think (the weights) would drop as much as they did. I struggled all day. There was nothing pretty about today. I lost the fifth one twice.”
He knew something was askew this morning when he failed to connect on the first four fish that bit.
“I didn’t miss any on day 1,” he said. “That tells you something when they bite funny, plus I caught more shorts today by double than what I caught Friday.”
Luke Dunkin has been growing his beard since last fall.
Last fall, amid the rehab process he had to endure following knee surgery and the resulting complications, Gerald Swindle stopped shaving. He vowed not to shave until the 2017 Bassmaster Classic.
Before long, FLW Tour competitor Luke Dunkin, who also works as sales manager at T-H Marine Products, started needling Swindle on social media about his thick facial hair. Dunkin began growing his beard out as well and it became a humorous game of pogonotrophy between the two on their various social media channels.
Neither were willing to cave during the offseason and pick up a razor, so they decided to build a charitable aspect into their beard war.
“We decided the first guy to shave has to donate $2,017 to the other guy’s charity,” Dunkin said. “We started messing with each other on social media in the comments. Then, it turned into Gerald’s fans coming at me like I’m the heel in pro wrestling. That got going. Then we started hashtagging ‘beardwar’ just to be silly. Then I made a post about his beard and how bad it was and that’s what got the ball rolling. Then it was a back and forth and got so much fan interaction that we decided to make it something for a good cause.”
When Dunkin’s mom was diagnosed with breast cancer in December, that good cause became breast cancer awareness. Since then, several companies tied to the two anglers have thrown their support behind the facial hair faceoff. When it finally comes to an end, those companies will match the $2,017 contribution.
“We’re up over $12,000 now,” Dunkin said.
He said it has devolved into what amounts to a staring contest at this point, but he's not willing to be the first to blink.
“There’s no end game," Dunkin added. "The end game is one of us has to shave. We’re both very stubborn, but we’ll see. I think the end is near for one of us, but it’s not the guy you’re talking to.”
CJ Reeder is a fan of Edwin Evers, Brent Ehrler and Kevin VanDam while CJ’s wife, Krystal, likes to follow Ott DeFoe.
They had front-row seats Saturday to see their favorites and the rest of the Bassmaster Classic field weigh in at Minute Maid Park.
The Reeders got up at 5:40 this morning and made the 3-hour drive from Temple, Texas, to soak in their first Classic experience in Houston. They attended the Expo for a couple hours, but by 1:30 p.m., they were first in line at the home plate entrance to Minute Maid Park.
Krystal and CJ Reeder got up at 5:40 a.m. today and were first in line to get into Minute Maid Park this afternoon.
“I’ve been fishing my whole life and following half of these guys and watching them day to day,” said CJ Reeder, who is a police officer in Temple. “I think my wife might be more excited for this.”
Work commitments prevented them from attending Friday, but they didn’t want to pass up the opportunity to see the Classic up close.
“It’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” said CJ. “We’re probably not going to travel across all the states to see it again."
Reeder has never fished at Lake Conroe, but fishes Belton Lake, a highly-pressured reservoir near Austin, about four times per week. About an hour before the ballpark doors opened, there were a couple hundred people already waiting in line, but the Reeders would be the first ones through the doors.
“After all these years to have (the Classic) come back, it’s a thrill,” CJ said. “It’s a blast. It’s one of those deals that everyone always says everything is bigger in Texas, so we have to step up and prove it.”
Bad Eye Big One
Skylar Hamilton will never forget the only fish he caught on day 2 of his first Classic.
“It was the weirdest thing ever,” he said of the 9-01 brute that took trails only Brent Ehrler’s 9-12 from day 1 for big-bass honors.
Hamilton's one fish Saturday was bigger than 25 other competitors' day-2 stringers.
“Sometimes we catch ‘em after they’re done spawning and guarding fry and this one must’ve had a bad eye because you can get them to bite once out of 100 tries. I messed with this one for two or three casts before it sucked in my dropshot and that was it.”
The ensuing battle took a bit longer than Hamilton anticipated, but he was happy to be able to show off a 9-pounder in a Classic despite it being his only fish.
“It was definitely a learning experience and time management experience,” he said when reflecting back on the week. “Classic practice is a lot different. I don’t like practice as it is, but here you go out for 3 days and then have days off to think about it and you pump yourself up about stuff you probably shouldn’t.”