Well, at least the coffee pot came on this morning! It’s 3:30am again; I’m tired but eager to get to the ramp and find out who the lucky Pro is that I get to follow.
I catch up with Mark Sudol, my ESPN cameraman, at the production facility and found that we drew Brian Snowden today! He had 34-11 after two days of fishing and is in the top 10 going in to Day 3. We catch up with Brian in the boat yard and introductions follow. Brian is cordial but you can tell he knows there is $500,000 on the line today and he has a chance to take it! It’s all business this morning as he gets his equipment ready. Brian tells me that we’re going to pool 4 and will be in the jungle. I tell his observer where my boat is and I’ll be waiting for him after he drops Brian in the water.
We load up and head out before the blast-off to wait for the pros at the lock. We pass even more spectators than Saturday! They are lined up on the river like it’s a Mardi gras parade! Hate to tell them, but that was last night! LOL There is a sight, a big tug pushing four empty barges down the river. Around it we go waving at the crew. We get to the lock and find the gates closed. This is unusual as they have been open and waiting for us the last two days. Don’t tell me they’re going to let the barge through first! Commercial traffic on the Red River has priority over us fisherman through the locks. We idle over to the Sheriff’s boat and he’s trying to get a hold of the lock operator, the Deputy is wondering the same thing. He finally gets through to the operator and finds that the barge is going to hold back and let the Pros lock through. The gates open just in time for the Pros heading down.
They let the Pros head out in the order they came into the lock. My fellow camera boat operator and Legend owner, Russ Jeardoe, and I come up with a quick plan for a pit stop on the way down since there will undoubtedly be a ton of spectators on our Pros today. With the Pros gone and business taken care of, we’re on our way to the jungle. I wish I’d had some film of our two Legends running down the river side by side! Where’s the helicopter when you need him? LOL
We almost pass Brian sitting on the bank about 2 miles south of the lock! What the heck is he doing? As we idle up to him, he is on the phone. Mark tells us the lower Unit just “let go” and Brian is contacting BASS officials. They say a spare boat is on the way. Mark gets a short interview and hands off some tapes for us to take in. I tell Brian to keep his chin up and he comments, “there is nothing I can do but start fishing. I’m not going to let this get to me.” Wow! I don’t know if I could’ve been that pragmatic about it!
We find Brian fishing the bank as we get back from the Coushatta ramp after dropping off the interview film. He’s patiently fishing and waiting on the spare boat to get to him. Ten minutes later the Nitro folks show up and we start getting some of Brian’s stuff transferred over. A quick safety check by an LDWF Agent and we’re off! Brian stops at a little cut just south of the Hwy 84 Bridge, no luck. Mark hands us some more tapes to run to the ramp. We catch up to Brian in the Jungle fishing the same area as Jami Fralik. We tie up with Russ, who’s following Jami today, and find that Brian caught a keeper right behind Russ as soon as he got there about 11:00am.
We watch as Brian sets the hook on a good one! It’s a solid 4lber! Jami is swimming a jig through the pad stems and is consistently catching keepers, just none that will cull anything. What’s this? Brian’s boat is idling up to us! It’s only been 1 ½ hours since we put Brian in the spare boat! We find they towed his boat down to Coushatta where they had a lower unit waiting. Man, that’s service! We get Brian, Mark, and the fish transferred to Brian’s boat and he is off trying to make up for lost time! Brian quickly puts another 3lber in the boat! He’s throwing a jig too, but seems to be working it a little slower than Jami is. There goes another 2.5lb fish in Brian’s livewell! Brian is now alternating between the jig and a spinnerbait now that the wind has kicked up a bit. Boom, another fish in the boat for Brian and that gives him a limit!
Brian looks like a machine fishing for that kicker now. It’s getting late and he’s only got another 40 minutes before he has to head for the lock. Boom! He’s got another 4lber in the boat off the jig! Brian is in the very back of the pocket in some skinny water as the day has warmed the water up quite a bit. His rod doubles over and we find another fat 3lber in his boat within seconds! Brian has been calling the weights out as he catches them because Russ and I are not about to get in his or Jami’s water! It’s that time and Brian is not ready to go. Bang! He’s got his last fish and it looks like a good 3lber too!
The gear is strapped down and he and Jami are heading back. Mark hands us some tapes as they pass us on the way out. We drop them with the runner and we’re all off to the lock before they close the gates. We make the lock and Brian has a look of relief on his face. He’s smiling and relaxing finally. We figure that he has a little over 15.5lbs. Not too shabby considering the way his day started! Being able to overcome adversity is a mark of a true Pro and nobody deserves that moniker better today than Brian!
We get back and watch as the Pros are pulled out and lined up to head for the Century Tel Center for the final weigh-in of the 2009 BASSMASTER Classic. I ease over and get Kelly Jordan, Brian, and Ike to sign my ESPN hat for a memento. They are all glad this tourney is over! Brian ended up with 18-1 that earned him 3rd place and a $40,000 check!
I’m beat after three days of non-stop action! I decide to forego the weigh-in and turns out that was a smart move because the place was at capacity again today. I heard later that they turned away over 3000 people! This was an experience I won’t soon forget. I say goodbye to the folks I’ve come to know over the course of this event and I mention that I’d be more than willing to do it again given the chance! Some things are just worth the effort!
BassBUFF, UB Community Diplomat