COLUMBIA, S.C. It's the fish that were caught that decided the winner of the Carolina Clash presented by Evan Williams on Lake Murray, but anglers couldn't help but talk about what could have been.
"I know there were at least six or seven guys that were on the bite to win this tournament," said Kelly Jordon, who caught 17 pounds, 12 ounces on Sunday and finished seventh. "But it's not about who hooks them, it's about who gets them in the boat."
Jordon said it comes with territory of fishing topwater baits and especially when the bait is mimicking the blueback herring. He said he lost four 6-pounders on the first day of the tournament.
Bass wait on the points until the blueback start schooling and then they attack, but sometimes the bass don't commit to the blueback — they just slap at them to stun them.
That meant the bass spent a lot of time slapping at the pros' baits, which resulted in a lot of foul hooking or weak hook sets. And that resulted in a lot of lost fish.
Martens (ninth, 56-7) said he missed over 20 "good bites" on Sunday alone, including three or four that were in the 5-pound range.
"I was missing them on everything," he said. "I tried a fluke, a pencil popper and even a drop shot, but I couldn't get them to commit. It's rare to lose that many fish on a drop shot."
Local Davy Hite (fourth, 64-1) said a few of the fish he pulled in on Sunday, including his largest 5 pounds, 3 ounces were barely hooked. Brad Hallman, who weighed in 18-4 on Sunday and finished fifth, said he doesn't want to think about where he would have finished had he boated more bass.
"If we could weigh in all the fish we hooked, this would have been a different week for everybody," Hallman said.
It rattled some of the guys like Grant Goldbeck, who talked about losing an 11-pounder on Day Two, and said he could have weighed in 28 pounds a day.
"I lost them all week," he said. "They'd shake off or jump and throw it. I tried different baits, but I couldn't get them to commit to anything."
Ish Monroe (11th, 53-2) perhaps had the worst luck out of anybody. He not only lost fish that were hooked, but his largest fish on Day Three jumped out of his livewell when he was moving from point to point.
"Those things happen," he said. "You just have to deal with it and move on. If I would have gotten stuck on losing that fish, I probably wouldn't have been able to fill out my limit, which means I wouldn't be in the top 12."
Steve Kennedy (2nd, 65-4) said he got frustrated from losing fish on Day One and went to work on his baits. He scratched the paint off his lure and gave it his own special touch.
"I painted their back greenish brown and that was key to getting them to take the bait," he said.
But the difference in the tournament turned out to be the one that didn't get away a 6-13 bass champion Fred Roumbanis had named Sugar.
"I'd lost this fish every day of the tournament," Roumbanis said as he watched video of the catch on the screen at the weigh-in. A huge smile crossed his face as the video showed him pull her out of a bush and scream, "I got Sugar! I got her."