Robinson, who is about 10 yards away, facing the same way, has caught one, while John Crews just put his third in the livewell to go along with the two keepers Chris has. Though the anglers are all competing for the same prize, they continue to make the best of what many would consider crowded conditions.
7:32 a.m. I ask Chris if he thinks the fish are on beds in the area. He responds by saying, “I’m not really sure, they need to bed soon though and I’m just happy they’re biting. If I can catch 12lbs out of here and then catch a couple 4lbers, it’d be a pretty good day.”
7:40 a.m. Chris lifts the Power Poles and slowly moves about 15 yards further into the backwater, picking up an olive/ brown jig and slowly swimming it around the submerged cover and dead vegetation.
7:42 a.m. A bass rolls on the jig as it bumps past some wood, Chris thinks it was a good fish from the size of the swirl, but it doesn’t hook up.
7:44 a.m. Another fish boils on the jig but can’t seem to get it in its mouth. Chris doesn’t seem too perturbed by the misses, dropping his Power Poles and saturating the area with the jig.
7:50 a.m. Chris puts down the jig and starts casting the tube to the area where the big fish boiled on his jig. On his sec- ond cast, he feels a tap and tightens up on a big fish. The fish comes to the surface and boils, after about 10 cranks, the fish comes unbuttoned causing him to groan, “That was a good one!”
7:52 a.m. After losing the big fish, Chris takes a little break to shed some layers and settle down. He grabs a bottle of water out of the Legend’s cooler and hops up on the deck to get back at it.
7:55 a.m. Chris recovers from the lost fish and exclaims, “I’ve already accomplished my first goal, which is besting my previous Classic weight,” referring to his dismal 3lb total at the 2008 Classic on Lake Hartwell. He is still pitching the tube to the isolated cover in front of the boat.
7:58 a.m. It’s unbelievable how slow the anglers continue to fish. Chris and Robinson are still less than a long cast from the entry point of the slough, and Crews hasn’t traveled more than 30 yards down the other side. Lane could easily flip a bait into Marty’s boat. There is also a lot more activity revving up in the slough. Gar have started splashing around in the shallows and bait is starting to move.
8:00 a.m. He still hasn’t lifted his Power Poles from where he lost the big fish. Chris sets the hook on keeper number three, about 1.5 lbs. The fish ate the tube as he brought it past a piece of wood.
8:07 a.m. Chris sees a large swirl next to the bank and pitches the tube to it a couple times with- out a response. He mutters “that’s a big one” un- der his breath as he digs in his
rod locker to pull out a baitcaster rigged with a topwater pop- per. He sets it on the front deck, picks up the Ugly Otter and makes a couple casts to the spot.
8:09 a.m. On his second flip with the Otter, the line jumps and Chris hauls back. The fish looks big as it surges away from the bank. After about 2 seconds, the line goes limp and Chris reels his creature bait back to the boat. His shoulders slump, but he quickly recovers and pulls out a rod rigged with a small Gambler swimbait, makes a couple casts to the point and puts it back down.
8:13 a.m. Chris works the popper slowly over the spot where he lost that last big one, saying “Sometimes they will just destroy a popper this time of year. It’s not a numbers deal, but I have caught some huge ones on top when the water’s cold.”
8:20 a.m. A good fish swipes at the tube just as Chris brings it out of the water. That is three good fish he’s missed but despite the misses he remains cool.
8:21 a.m. The same fish swipes at the tube as he pulls it out of the water. He immediately pitches back to the spot, this time just swimming it back to the boat. Five cranks back and the fish eats it. He sets the hook with about 8 feet of line out and swings keeper number 4 into the boat. It is a pretty good one too, going about 2.5 lbs.
8:28 a.m. He still hasn’t lifted his Power Poles. Both Marty Robinson and Chris have been working the same spot, about the size of a tennis court, for almost an hour. Chris is leading with four keepers, though Marty has one close to 4lbs and has also caught several dinks.
8:35 a.m. Pitching the tube to another submerged piece of wood, Chris’ line moves off and he sets the hook on keeper number five. His limit fish is another decent keeper, around 2 lbs. I ask him what weight he thinks he has and he estimates “around 8 or 9lbs.”
8:40 a.m. Chris switches to a black jig with a bulky trailer and works over the areas where hooked and lost the two big ones earlier. He is alternating a hopping retrieve with a slow, almost deadsticking action. He still has not moved.
8:42 a.m. It’s easy to understand why many Elite Series pros tell fans that they often fish too fast, Chris, Marty and John still haven’t gotten more than 100 yards from each other and both Chris and John have limits and Marty has caught several including that good one. Lesson learned? When it’s cold, S-L-O- W D-O-W-N.
8:50 a.m. Chris hangs the tube in a stump at the extreme back end of the spot he and Robinson are sharing. He elects to go and get it, but is not happy. “I really don’t want to disturb the fish in here. I’m afraid the water is so shallow that they may turn off if we kick up too much mud.”
8:55 a.m. I ask Chris if having a limit before 9:00am af- fects his strategy at all. He responds by saying “not really, be- cause I don’t have the size that I need. If anything, it does allow me to fish a little slower and I don’t have to press, but I still need some bigger bites.”
9:00 a.m. Chris pulls up the Power Poles and turns the boat around, leaving the spot he and Robinson have share for the first two hours of the tournament. He begins to work his way toward the arm where John Crews has been slowly fish- ing. He continues to pitch the tube to visible cover along the edges of the channel as he moves down the ditch.