LEESBURG, Fla. — Kevin VanDam paused and raised his eyebrows in confused skepticism when he heard somebody say it might take 75 pounds to win.
"I don't think it will be near that much," VanDam said as he made the last-minute adjustments to his boat before Day One of the Sunshine Showdown. "It's hard out there."
Anglers seemed more optimistic before they launched on the Harris Chain of Lakes this week for practice. Skeet Reese said it might take 75 to 85 pounds in an early preview of the tournament, and Peter Thliveros said he thought everyone would be spread out.
Three days of practice has changed the tune.
"There are going to be some guys who hustle and pick a few fish off the beds this morning," said Marty Stone, who is hoping to rebound from a tough 2007 season. "There will be some big weights today, but then guys are going to have to find another way to catch them.
"It shouldn't take more than 13-15 pounds a day to keep you in the running."
Both Stone and VanDam said despite the 76,000 surface acres across nine lakes these guys have to choose from, there's going to be a lot of anglers fishing on top of each other.
"There is a ton of dead water out there," Van Dam said. "There are a few spots that have fish, and I think there's going to be a lot of guys fishing close."
Stone said there was no way to tell which water was dead without giving it a try and coming up empty handed, which made for a discouraging practice.
"There's no hydrilla in this lake, so it's hard to predict where the fish are going to be," Stone said. "These are the roamingest fish I have ever seen.
"It's going to be a matter of getting five bites and hoping one of them is a 6 pounder. If you get two 6 pounders, then you really look like you know what you're doing."
Glenn Delong, who finished fourth in the Sunshine Showdown on Lake Toho to end last season, said he expects weights to be slightly higher, but not necessarily from himself.
"I didn't have a good practice," said Delong, who had all his rods, reels and baits stolen from his boat earlier this week (check back for more on that story this evening). "But I think it's going to take 19-20 pounds a day to win. That might be a little high, but these guys usually figure it out."
In the short practice he was able to get in, Delong said he saw most of the best spots packed with anglers. Stone said this isn't anything new for the area.
"Florida is the world's worst about having all the fish in a small area," Stone said. "If you end up fishing by yourself, you should be concerned because there might not be anything there."
Visit Bassmaster.com for full coverage of the Elite Series Sunshine Showdown on the Harris Chain of Lakes, from Leesburg, Fla., March 6th–9th, 2008. Daily weigh-ins with live streaming video and real-time leaderboards start at 4 p.m. ET. "Hooked Up" will air Sunday at 10 a.m., noon and 3:30 p.m. ET. Daylight Savings Time starts Sunday, so remember to set your clocks.