GUNTERSVILLE, Ala. Russell Colwell plunked his five bass on the scale, looked at the weight and then spun a tale that would make any tournament angle's knees buckle.
Despite his 16 pounds, 2 ounces, and a total weight of 48-15 for the ESPN Outdoors Bassmaster Series championship, Colwell had the biggest bass in his creel disqualified Saturday afternoon.
Seems he brought six bass to the check-in line in his Triton livewell. Tournament rules state anglers may only have five. The penalty is the biggest bass gets taken out.
Colwell took the hotseat with a roughly 4-pound lead over Todd Lee of Oklahoma, who had yet to weigh in. Rumor was that Lee had just one fish. He did, and Colwell got a good look at it through the plastic bag as Lee approached the scale.
"It was fat," he said. "I though it was 4 pounds and I was going to lose by a few ounces."
Lee's fish weighed just 3 pounds, giving Colwell the victory and a check for $100,000.
Better yet, Colwell earned the final spot in the Bassmaster Classic next month on Lay Lake south of Birmingham, Ala.
"I just wanted to get there," said Colwell, who lives near Baltimore and fishes the Potomac River where the 1991 Classic was held. But he's never been able to even go to a Classic as a fan, much less as an angler.
"I just wanted to come here and be respectable," he said. "I know it's all about selling lures and all that, but there is some luck involved. Jeff Coble would kick my ass (fishing) just about every day, but sometimes there's just some luck involved."
Coble, a two-time Classic qualifier and the defending Bassmaster Series champion, finished fourth with 41-14. Lee was second with 47-10, while Bobby Myers of Oklahoma was third with 44-15.
Colwell went jerking
Colwell caught one of his fish Saturday on a grub in Honeycomb Creek, a popular area lined with rock and some deep water. He figured pre-spawn bass were using the area as it warmed up during the day, but Saturday they never appeared.
Colwell's partner, Tony Impellizzeri of Michigan, keyed him in to another area.
But they didn't hit Impellizzeri's exact spot and instead found another sweet spot that produced all of Colwell's fish in about 20-30 minutes. He caught them on a Lucky Craft Pointer 100 jerkbait.
"It was like a gift from God," he said.
Lee, Myers frustrated
Lee couldn't muster anything and by midday was scratching his head. On Friday he wowed the crowd with a limit weighing 31-3. Everything changed Saturday.
"I thought I'd need about 20 pounds again to hold off Bobby Myers, because he was on some really good fish," Lee said. "But he pulled in where I was and said he only had two fish. I had one, so we both knew something wasn't right."
Myers had a jerkbait pattern going and Saturday caught four weighing 11-15, but it wasn't enough.
"My pause time probably was 45 seconds to a minute and a half," he said. "I just had to wait on it. I had the pattern, but I wasn't waiting long enough and my partner helped me slow down. But all my jerkbait fish left me Saturday and I had to go shallow to scrape together what I had."