SYRACUSE, N.Y. — With the Olympic Games opening in Beijing, China, it was only fitting that BASS honor the greatest weightlifter in its history Friday night.
Trip Weldon's skinny body belies the fact he has the strength to lift 5 tons of bass. But the 18-year BASS Tournament Director did just that in Zapata, Texas, this year, in becoming the bass fishing equivalent of the Soviet Union's famed lifter, Vasily Alexeyev.
Weldon was unable to attend BASS's "End of the Year Party" Friday night at the Brewerton (N.Y.) Fire Hall, so his special version of the "Century Club Heavyweight Belt" was given to him prior to Saturday's weigh-in on Day Three of the Champion's Choice presented by Ramada Worldwide.
Bassmaster Elite Series emcee Keith Alan developed the idea of the heavyweight belts three years ago to honor anglers who joined the "Century Club" during an Elite Series event by catching at least 100 pounds of bass during a four-day tournament with a five-bass-per-day limit. The belts are similar to those awarded world champion boxers.
Texas' Falcon Lake was declared "the best bass fishing lake in the world" last April after all 12 Sunday finalists in the Lone Star Shootout broke the century mark — a first in BASS history — and Paul Elias set a new BASS total weight record of 132 pounds, 4 ounces.
As the BASS staff took a closer look at that record-setting event at Falcon Lake, it was decided that Weldon definitely deserved to be honored for his weightlifting skills that week. Weldon takes each weigh-in bag from the anglers, places it on the scales, then takes it off the scales.
The total weight caught by the anglers was 10,590 pounds, hence the "five-ton" belt. But a closer examination of Weldon's duties revealed that he lifted each bag twice, so, to get technical about it, Weldon lifted 10 tons at Falcon Lake.
Alexeyev, even on his best day, could only dream of such an accomplishment.
Besides Weldon and Elias, the other Elite Series pros and their total weights in the tournament at Falcon Lake were as follows: Rick Morris, 108- 7; Mike Iaconelli 112-6; Casey Ashley, 113-3.; Ben Matsubu, 114-13; Jason Williamson, 118-2; Scott Campbell, 120-1; Scott Rook, 125-10; Mark Davis, 128-15; Aaron Martens, 129-7; Byron Velvick, 131-15; and Terry Scroggins, 132-4.
Once the 2008 Toyota Tundra Bassmaster Angler of the Year race turned into a two-man event between Todd Faircloth and Kevin VanDam, after last week's Elite Series tournament on Lake Erie, Mike McClelland dropped off the media radar screen a bit. The Bella Vista, Ark., angler had led the TTBAOY race at times this season, but admitted last Saturday in Buffalo he realized he was fishing for third place.
Thanks to a big week on Oneida Lake, McClelland is now having one of the best seasons in Elite Series history. He's set at least one record that can only be tied and never broken: By making the top-50, two-day cut at Oneida, McClelland made it a perfect season in that category.
Coming into Oneida, only Todd Faircloth and McClelland had made all 10 two-day cuts this season. Then Faircloth missed the cut Friday. McClelland almost did too, rallying from 69th place on Day One.
"It's a neat accomplishment to get a check in every tournament," McClelland said. "It's a grueling schedule, and it's hard to keep your head up every tournament.
"This one was probably the biggest hole I had put myself in all year. I had to pull out all the stops (Friday)."
Which he did with a 17-pound, 14-ounce limit. That also assured McClelland of holding off Kevin VanDam for the Berkley Heavyweight Award, which is worth $25,000 this year.
The Heavyweight Award is based on accumulative weight for the first two days of each tournament this season. McClelland led VanDam by less than 12 pounds coming into Oneida, but sealed the victory with that 17-pound bag.
"I fished very well the first two days this whole year," McClelland said. "I gambled a lot on Day Three, and I learned a valuable lesson: You can't win on Day Three. You've got to catch enough on Day Three to get to Day Four."
McClelland did just that Saturday and goes into Sunday's Champion's Choice top-12 final in sixth place with 43-1. Not only does he have a chance to win the $100,000 cash prize for this tournament, McClelland needs only a fourth-place finish to pass Faircloth in the Toyota Tundra Bassmaster Angler of the Year standings.
Second place in the TTBAOY standings pays $100,000; third place pays $55,000.
"I want some of that second-place money, and I'm going after it tomorrow," McClelland said.
Beat that drum
Alton Jones resides in Texas, so he knows what a big bass looks like, but Saturday the sun must have diminished his vision somewhat. At first glance, he misidentified what turned out to be the Purolator Big Bass of the day, a 5-10 largemouth.
"I was in a weed-choked area and I made a long cast up into real shallow water, to a little hole in the weeds," the 2008 Bassmaster Classic champion said. "But the wind was drifting me toward it, and when I got up to the edge of the hole, I saw a big drum looking at my bait."
By the time he realized the big fish was a bass, not a drum, the fish had spotted the angler and his 20-foot Skeeter hovering overhead — and bolted through the weeds.
"She just shot out of there," Jones said. "I told my partner, 'There goes my chance.' But I made a long cast. I led her by 50 feet. A few seconds later, I turned around. and my line was shooting off.
"That's what you call a 'Thank you, Lord' fish."
Vote for Skeet
Here's a bit of tid for fishing fans, specifically Skeet Reese fans, and even more specifically Skeet Reese fans who also like pictures of women.
Playboy and Skoal are holding a vote to determine which of three sports celebrities — Reese, former Dallas Cowboy Walt Garrison, or poker player Chris Moneymaker — will be interviewed for the January 2009 issue of the magazine.
Get more information and vote at skoalbrotherhood.com, which requires you to be of legal dipping age to enter.
"Tomorrow my goal is to be 100 percent. I'm going to block everything else out and focus on each bite 100 percent."
— Mike Iaconelli, who reliquished his Day 2 lead to Dean Rojas
"I had 17 pickerel mixed in. You set the hook and you never know what it is until you see it."
— Mike Iaconelli, who wasn't sure how many of the bites he missed were bass or pickerel
"We didn't talk about music. I don't talk when I fish."
— Ish Monroe, who was paired with renowned songwriter Rodney Clawson
"I've had the kind of year that everything that could go wrong did. It could have been raining $100 bills this year and with the luck I've had, I'd get hit with a sack of nickels."
— Gerald Swindle on missing the Top 50 cut and a chance to qualify for the 2009 Bassmaster Classic
"Why do smallmouth jump so much? Because they are good at it."
— Steve Daniel's answer to a co-angler's question about the aerial abilities of bronzeback bass
"I'm going to hang around the house and do what my wife tells me to do."
— Peter Thliveros, on his plans for the postseason
Visit Bassmaster.com for full coverage of the Elite Series Champion's Choice with weigh-in host Keith Alan, Aug. 3-10, 2008. Thursday, Friday and Saturday, daily weigh-ins with live streaming video and real-time leaderboards start at 5:00 p.m. ET. On Saturday, catch "Bassmaster University" at 4:15 p.m. ET before the weigh-in. Then on Sunday, get "Hooked Up" with hosts Tommy Sanders and Mark Zona at 1 p.m. and 4:30 p.m. ET. Live JWC weigh-in video starts at 5 p.m. ET with the final weigh-in and real-time leaderboard of the season starting at 7:30 p.m. ET.