You've heard from the winner and all the anglers who made an obvious run at the 2006 Bassmaster Classic title. Those stories have been told and re-told. But what about the anglers not-so-close to the top of the standings?
Understanding how a Classic plays out doesn't completely center on those who were obviously in contention to savor the thrill of victory. There are equally good stories centered around those who made decisions that created the agony of defeat.
Bassmaster.com is asking a series of questions to some of those anglers scattered throughout the final standings to get a glimpse of the whole picture of Classic competition. Here's our first angler:
St. Louis, Mo.
2006 Bassmaster Classic finish: 18th
Three-day weight: 34-pounds, 12-ounces
Heaviest stringer: 16-pounds, 12-ounces on day one.
Bassmaster.com: After the conclusion of the 2006 CITGO Bassmaster Classic, describe your overall feeling about your performance?
Mark Tucker: I lost two major fish the last day that cost me dearly, but the overall performance was good because I never lost a fish until the last day. I lost a 7-pounder the last morning and then a 4-pounder later in the afternoon because of the wind.
Because of the extreme wind you literally couldn't feel anything, you didn't know if you were hung in the grass or had a fish on. I caught several fish the last day in the storm, and I had a great time. It was a wonderful location to have the Classic, and I knew going into the Classic that 15 or 16 pounds a day would probably win it and it basically turned out that way.
Bassmaster.com: Trace back through each day of competition on Lake Toho - what areas were you fishing, what baits were you using, what game plans and strategies had you formulated?
Tucker: I had been getting 20 to 30 bites a day pre-fishing. On the first practice day we had, Wednesday, I probably had anywhere from 20 to 25 bites. By the time the tournament started though, with the weather being in the high 80s, most of the fish had spawned out and the fry had hatched and already moved out to the cover.
The first day of the tournament I was fishing a Team Supreme Spinnerbait, a Peter T Classic Spinnerbait, a Horny Toad, and also a Green Pumpkin Viper Tail Zoom Worm. I threw the Horny Toad for 4 1/2 or 5 hours until 1:00 p.m. in the afternoon and only had one 12-inch fish to show for it.
I put it (Horny Toad) down finally and picked up the Zoom Worm and I caught seven keepers. The wind picked up right before weigh-in and I caught the 9 pound 12 ounce bass on my last cast of the first day. I was fishing the north end of Lake Toho. I got most of my bites on the first day from the Viper Tail Worm, except the big fish came on the spinnerbait, so that kind of clued me on what I needed to do the second day.
On the second day of competition I started with the worm and caught a limit and then picked up the spinnerbait and culled a few times, but I never got a big bite.
The third morning I go out and on my third flip I catch a 3-pounder and I was on the board. Well, about the fifth cast I had a 7-pounder come up to the boat and it came off. Then the 50 mile-per-hour wind started blowing and I was planning on going to Lake Kissimmee, but with the high winds the area I was already in was protected so I just decided to stay there. I then picked up the 1/2-ounce Team Supreme Spinnerbait, on a 20-pound Gamma Flourocarbon Line.
I ended up culling probably six times on the final day, with close to 20 bites. With the wind blowing so hard, you couldn't tell if it was grass or a fish, and you couldn't feel the bait because the wind was blowing so hard against your rod. So I ended up going to a lighter action American Rodsmith Spinnerbait Rod and that helped a bunch. If you had too stiff of a rod you couldn't feel anything, you had to go to a medium or lighter action rod.
Ultimately, I've been fishing 17-pound regular Monofilament Gamma Fishing Line, but I pulled all of that off and put on the 20-pound Flourocarbon Gamma and you could feel the blade a little better due to the sensitivity. The mono has more stretch to it and you couldn't feel as well with that line and when I put the flourocarbon on it helped substantially.
I was dipping the Green Pumpkin Viper Tail Zoom Worm in chartreuse dye, with an 1/8-ounce Tungsten weight on it so I could fish it a lot slower, because if you put too heavy a sinker on the worm it would get balled up down in the grass. You had to use as light a sinker as possible or they wouldn't bite it. I was using 16-pound Flourocarbon Gamma with that (the Zoom Worm). I wished I could've been able to throw the worm a little more on the last day if conditions would have let me.
Bassmaster.com: What kind of fishing techniques were you using with each of your baits?
Tucker: I was flipping the Viper Tail Zoom Worm to Gator Grass and shaking it really hard next to arrowhead leaves. I was throwing the Team Supreme Spinnerbait and letting it hit and just stopping it and reeling it in. And with the Horny Toad, I was running it next to the arrowhead.
Bassmaster.com: Looking back at the tournament; was there something you wish you would have done differently that might have changed the outcome of the event?
Tucker: The first day I wish I wouldn't have had as much confidence in the Horny Toad as I did, and I should have laid it down earlier. There is no telling what kind of weight I would've caught had I picked up the Team Supreme Spinnerbait or Zoom Worm a little earlier. Those two baits could have really busted a big bag for me because the last cast I made, after I figured it out, was a big one.
Bassmaster.com: What is your most memorable Classic moment from this year?
Tucker: Probably catching the 9 pound, 12 ounce bass and hoping that would hold up to be the Classic record until Rick (Clunn) and Preston (Clark) came to the weigh-in with theirs. That fish was caught on my last cast of the first day.
Bassmaster.com: Was there ever a moment at the Classic where you felt like you were on the verge of winning the tournament?
Tucker: To be honest, the first day I lost the event. I stuck with the pattern that I thought would do real well too long, and the fish just got off biting anything on top. I know some guys caught fish on a frog, but I think they did more of that on Lake Kissimmee.
I think what happened is the fish had spawned first on Lake Toho after the warm spell came in after the three days of practice. On the last day the north wind blew the water out where I was fishing at least 6 or 8 inches, and it blew a lot of the water toward the south end of Lake Toho. I think the bigger fish had moved out deeper, but you couldn't fish deeper because it wasn't protected from the wind.
Bassmaster.com: What lessons did you learn from your experience on Lake Toho?
Tucker: I learned more in those three days of fishing the Classic in Florida than I've learned in all the other events that I've been there. The lesson is that when I get into shallow water and it's windy, you need to either anchor or trim your big engine down in the sand and hold your position.
There are so many targets to flip and cast to with that grass you have to be slow. I have always wondered why I never did well there because my forte is flipping, but now I realize I was fishing too fast.
You have to fish slow and when you're fishing a worm or any type of slow bait you have to leave it there. The more you move it and the more you get it into the grass and foul the lure up, the more the fish will not bite. The best thing I could tell someone is to throw your bait out there and leave it set. If you get out there and don't get a bite you ultimately want to start fishing faster and that is the kiss of death in Florida.