LAKEPORT, Calif. Brent Chapman was one of the first anglers at the dock Friday morning, on the second day of the Golden State Shootout presented by Evan Williams Bourbon. As he arranged his rods in the pre-dawn gloaming, he pondered the thick adhesive bandage wrapped around his right thumb.
"This is a good sports injury right here," he said. "It means a fisherman has been catching them."
The anglers on the Bassmaster Elite Series all caught bass Thursday. Big bass, medium bass come to think of it, no one mentioned any small bass. But they caught them by the thousands. Some anglers said they pulled more than 50 or 60 fish out of Clear Lake. It turned into such a frenzy that when anglers would hook up a fish that was only 3 or 3 ½ pounds, they'd loosen the line in hopes the fish would shake itself off.
The result on the tournament's first day was an embarrassment of riches at the weigh-in. Greg Gutierrez (32 pounds, 13 ounces) and Ish Monroe (32 pounds, 9 ounces) led the charge at the scales, but everyone in the top 28 was within Gutierrez' 10-0 big bass of the lead.
"Normally an 18-pound bag is a good bag," angler Mike Wurm said. "Here it's ho-hum."
The weights on the first day sparked speculation that someone could challenge the BASS four-day tournament record of 115-15 that Preston Clark set last year at Santee Cooper Reservoir in South Carolina. Clark admitted during Thursday's weigh-in that his mark was in danger.
At the dock Friday, Gutierrez said: "Preston Clark better watch out. His record could be broken."
The obvious obstacle to that happening is the sheer volume of the task. To gather 116 pounds of bass, an angler needs 29 pounds each day. The anglers with more than 28 pounds on Thursday numbered just five: Gutierrez, Monroe, Peter Thliveros, Jason Williamson and Britt Myers.
Realistically, the top pros will need more freak weights to threaten Clark's mark, a tall order whenever a lake's fish feel the pressure of a day or three of fishing.
Anglers, though, cited two factors that could make that a possibility. The first is the weather. After a cold spell pushed many pre-spawn fish deeper into the water, the days are cracking 70 degrees and the nights, while still chilly, have warmed by about 10 degrees. Cloudier skies and a touch of wind will be a welcome change to most anglers.
"If the wind blows, it'll hurt the sight fishermen but it'll help everyone else," Chapman said. "I'd like to see the wind blow, personally."
He and the other anglers who bemoaned the pristine conditions of Thursday have reason to hope Friday. The forecast calls for a high of 72 degrees, gentle breezes of about 10 to 13 mph, sunny skies and a 90 percent chance of gigantic sacks of bass.
The second factor is the spawn. Anglers said they've been seeing many males on beds already, so the egg-heavy females can't be too far behind. Mike Wurm said the greatest potential for big weights would be if hungry females are looking for one last meal to tide themselves over before they lock down on the beds.
"If they start hitting that," Wurm said, "it could be unbelievable."
Said angler Chris Lane: "I wouldn't be surprised if the one-day record is set today."
After Aaron Martens weighed in Thursday, he said conditions on Clear Lake reminded him of Santee Cooper. "The difference is," he added, "these fish are bigger."
Angler Steve Kennedy recalled watching Russ Lane unload his bag on Thursday. He eyeballed it at 22 pounds. Turned out Lane had almost 27 pounds. The plump bellies on these largemouths belie their heft, he said.
"You'd almost think the scale's wrong," Kennedy said. "They look like big, fat Kentucky spots. I don't know if it's genetics or that they're full of eggs. There must be some incredible foraging out here. I just don't know what it is. I'm betting on crawfish, because they don't get that fat chasing bait fish."
Editors Note: ESPNOutdoors.com's new and exclusive pre-game show, Hooked Up, will start at 6 p.m. (ET) on Sunday, April 1. It will be hosted by ESPN2 Bassmaster television hosts Tommy Sanders and Jerry McKinnis, and can be seen in the same location on ESPNOutdoors.com where the live video weigh-in is streamed.