BUFFALO, N.Y. — So a bunch of pro bass fishermen were playing Texas hold 'em in a Buffalo hotel room and, lo and behold, a fishing tournament broke out.
Or, at least, the tournament should resume soon. Since Day Two of the Empire Chase presented by Mahindra Tractors was canceled Friday morning because of high winds and dangerous waves, the Bassmaster Elite Series pros enjoyed a surprise respite.
Of course, they used the time off to do what they claim to do best on the water: gamble. On their unexpected day off, Kevin VanDam, Scott Rook, Davy Hite, Jeff Kriet, Kelly Jordon, Mike McClelland, Paul Elias and Guy Eaker joined some co-anglers Friday at the Econolodge where several of the Elite Series pros were bunking.
Hey, it was either that or take another nap.
"When I left, Guy Eaker was the heavy chip leader, but Kriet was doing pretty well, too," VanDam said. "We left to do the 'Hooked Up' show and those guys were still playing."
With the chip leader still wielding his power back at the hotel, VanDam, Rook and Hite joined Timmy Horton, Empire Chase leader Paul Hirosky, and Angler of the Year points leader Skeet Reese at the weigh-in venue to shoot a special airing of ESPNOutdoors.com's live show "Hooked Up" with hosts Mark Zona and Keith Alan.
While the hosts prodded and pried the anglers for specific fishing information on the tournament, the jovial and now-rested anglers often referred to the different ways they passed the time. As nice as it was to catch their breath, do some laundry and sling some cards, these anglers knew Day Three would come early and that any friendly competition would soon turn serious yet again.
For many of the anglers, last week's long drive up to New York's Lake Champlain took a heavy toll. After lapping the field in that tournament, Horton didn't reach Buffalo until late on Monday night. Needless to say, given a day off on Friday, Horton didn't partake in any fun and games. "Nope," he said, "I slept."
Leaving only two compressed days to practice in Lake Erie or the Niagara River, Day One seemed to come very soon. Coupled with the shortened practice days were some of the largest waves some these Elite series pros had ever witnessed, let alone fought for nine hours on the first day of the tournament.
The six pros lauded the decision to scrap the second day of fishing, and not just because they were tired.
"It was bad out there yesterday," Hite said. "If they thought it was worse this morning, it was definitely the right call to make today. Who knows? They may have been holding the option to fish the river if things really turned really bad."
The forecast in the area called for conditions and surf easing up and settling down for the remainder of the tournament.
"I agreed with the decision today, absolutely," Rook said. "I would guess 95 percent of these anglers hadn't even practiced in the river."
"I'm glad they didn't make us fish the lake today," Hirosky said, "because I had actually rigged up to fish the river."
Still, Hirosky wasn't too keen on missing a day of fishing, period.
"Right now, I just want to get back at it," he said. "I don't want to lose this momentum I've got going."
The Pennsylvanian native spent his morning eating breakfast and catching a few winks before returning to the marina.
For the remainder of this unusual day off, plans differed for the road-weary anglers. Reese knew exactly what he had on tap for the evening.
"Absolutely nothing," he said. "Man, I'm going home and relaxing."
He hadn't napped during the day but came close several times as he watched the British Open golf tournament.
Hirosky, too, would return to the hotel to rig up, gear up and study up on the charts for Saturday's return to the water.
Hite joked that he was just as well off sticking to cards.
"I did better playing Texas hold 'em than I did at fishing," Hite said.
But VanDam was raring to go. The Michigan angler was heading up a contingent of anglers, ESPNOutdoors.com staff and whoever else wanted to experience those tasty chicken morsels that have made Buffalo so proud. Yes, it was off to the Anchor Bar, rumored to be the birthplace of the fabled Buffalo wing, for some good times and good eats before the tournament resumed.
"Let's go get some wings," VanDam shouted, as he walked to his truck.
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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