PLATTSBURGH, N.Y. Kelly Jordon has seen enough big-time bass tournaments to know not to get into a terrible hurry when bad weather works its way into the proceedings.
Or maybe the mood struck him to stay dry to start the day as a thunderstorm passed over the blast-off early this morning. Whatever it was paid off at least on the comfort scale as the Texan slid comfortably into the cut in 25th place with 29 pounds, 12 ounces after Day Two.
"I didn't feel like being a lightning rod today so I just pulled over and waited for it to pass," Jordon said. "It didn't take but about 15 minutes or so and I got down there just fine. I didn't even get wet."
The weather Jordon avoided was like something out of a trippy sci-fi movie, a sunrise befitting this Friday the 13th. A few minutes before launch, grey clouds swirled in from the west, low enough to blot out nearly all light but for a strip of blank sky that burned a brilliant orange as the sun peeked over the hills.
A distinct, full double rainbow unfolded to the west as rain moved in. On the final notes of the national anthem, as if on cue, thunder pealed. The heavens opened, and as fast as the sun had turned the lake's surface that bloody-orange color, it rose above the cloud cover, and left the morning in near darkness.
The 10-minute sequence was borderline surreal. Someone running a camera under the sound tent said, twice, "I'll always remember this moment."
Enough (actual) electricity filled the air that Jordon wasn't the only angler to wait out part of the storm. Aaron Martens pulled over for about 20 minutes when he could feel his hair curling and a buzzing sensation when he lifted high his rod amid criss-crossing lightning.
"I felt like I was going to die," he said. "Any moment, lights out."
John Murray said he was going to throw some baits with a little more size in order to tempt bigger fish. It worked to a degree with more than enough weight to make the cut, but it also served to secure a limit in near record time.
"I got a limit this morning in about eight minutes," he said. "I think my partner and I both had two fish on the same lure this morning."
For the trouble of literally fighting over the anglers' baits, both bass got a trip to Murray's livewell.
Murray also caught quite a fright with the intense squall line that passed through his area midday.
"Y'all have got some storms around here," the Arizonan said. "I don't think I've ever been so scared as I was today. I just put my boat on the rocks and waited."
Rick Clunn is among the only anglers who actually relish those sorts of hair-curling, boat-breaking conditions. He said he selected his area expecting the hour-plus round-trips up and down the lake each day to swallow other competitors in bad weather. "That's the only way I can win," he said, "if they can't make it down there."
Ideally for Clunn, some nasty storm would come up and toss the lake around over the next couple of days. But he worries that the BASS of today would call off a day if conditions got too dicey, as it did at the April event on Lake Guntersville.
"In the old days, that's my chance to win a tournament like this," he said. Ideal conditions, then? "Let's put it this way: Thirty minutes after we all get out, rough seas hit. And it's not in the forecast."
One of the recurring themes of this tournament has been the premise that you can't afford to be subpar on any day, that Lake Champlain and the Elite Series field is just too good to make up lost ground.
But Brent Chapman, at least, made some serious inroads with a 19-0 bag after weighing less than 15 pounds on Day One. He went from 48th place to eighth on a generally tougher Day Two.
"Yesterday I knew there were some big fish where I was. I just couldn't get them to bite," Chapman said. "We had a really bad storm and when I got there today the current was really moving, the grass was really moving back and forth. It really made a difference and I was able to capitalize on the big bites today."
The face of relief
Jason Williamson had to wait until the final pro weighed in to learn whether he'd fish Saturday. He sat in 50th place when Matt Amedo brought his limit to the scale needing 13-12 to tie Williamson.
When emcee Keith Alan was heard to yell "Come on! Thirteen-eleven!" Williamson sighed and immediately high-fived Terry Scroggins, Kelly Jordon and Timmy Horton in succession. With that 1-ounce difference, Williamson was assured a $10,000 payday. Without it, he would have left Plattsburgh empty-handed.
No friend of coal
Jeremy Starks pinned some of the blame for his 9-5 outing on an altercation he had with another angler on the water. He didn't elaborate on the incident, but said he affected his fishing.
"It got into my head a little bit," he said. "I made bad decisions the rest of the day."
Co-angler Michael Hammer miscounted his fish and brought six to the scales. Under BASS rules, he has to forfeit the largest of them.
He said his pro, Kevin Short, "was nagging him the whole time" to count the fish. When they did, the men said, they overlooked a tiny fish in the corner of the livewell. The mistake might have cost Hammer a shot at sneaking into the top-50 cut, which he missed by 2-2.
Editor's note: Check in daily during the tournament for live video of the weigh-ins and a realtime leaderboard at 3 p.m. ET Thursday through Saturday. ESPNOutdoors.com will air Hooked Up, the live Internet shows, on Sunday at 8 a.m., 10 a.m. and noon ET on Sunday. The 45-minute Hooked Up show begins at 3 p.m. ET on Sunday, leading into the final live weigh-in and a realtime leaderboard at 3:45 p.m. ET.
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