It's been awhile since B.A.S.S. held a top-level tournament on Bull Shoals. Seems the history-rich fishery has simply been forgotten in time along our travels to newfound tournament fisheries from Falcon Lake to Oneida.
Ron Shuffield won the last big B.A.S.S. derby here 21 years ago in 1991. And two years before, in October of 1989, career-long Quantum pro Gary Klein won with just 30-pounds over three days.
Gerald Swindle says it could be worse. Flood warnings that resulted from torrential downpours in Shreveport’s Red River region this past Saturday morning have not turned Bassmaster Classic waters to looking like chocolate milk. And as far as he knows, his ribs aren’t broken following a missed step in rubber boots that sent his 6-foot-4-frame slamming into his Triton’s fiberglass gunnel wall during a rainy practice day earlier this week.
It’s long past midnight, and Brandon Palaniuk has the rock music blaring. He’s been driving all night, and he has three more hours to go. He pops open a Red Bull and takes a deep swig. It’s a liquid jolt. It’ll help him stay awake to make it to his destination, a state park campground at the next tournament site. This is one more leg in his first season on the Bassmaster Elite Series circuit, and 23-year-old Palaniuk is living his dream.
Gerald Swindle wasn’t expecting much on the final day of 2011. At the urging of his friend and neighbor, David Kilgore, Swindle decided to spend it as he had so many fall and winter days over the past 20 years – bowhunting for whitetail deer near his Jasper, Ala., farmhouse.
It’s often perceived that professional anglers are the luckiest guys in the world. If you subscribe to the theory that making a living doing something you love is among the first steps to a happy life, then for sure, the Bassmaster Elite Series pros are a fortunate bunch.
But they too have hopes, dreams, fears and concerns all interwoven into a daily pile of thoughts not drastically different than your own. And at Christmas, they have wishes. Some of their wishes are serious, some humorous, some tied to fishing – and all of them tied to the heart.
The first morning of the 2011 Toyota Texas Bass Classic didn’t see a sunrise. Instead, dogs shivered, cold winds blew, and fans bundled beneath layered clothing as 50 of the best bass pros in the world readied for the first day of competition on historic Lake Conroe, which is currently seven feet lower than normal.
This past weekend on the shores of famed Lake Guntersville, amid the autumn colors of the southern Appalachians, at a table filled with deep fried pickles and catfish fillets, was all the faith you’ll ever need to believe that young America is going to be just fine -- and that people actually win those trip-of-a-lifetime sweepstakes contests you’ve always felt were just a marketing farce.