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Atchafalaya Basin FLW

Bill McDonald – Day 2
Thursday, February 12, 2004

Bill made the cut in 10th – pretty sweet for a tour rookie fishing his second tour event – and thus is covered in the main story.

John Murray – Day 2
Thursday, February 12, 2004

(John caught 4 for 11-15 today and missed the $10,000 mark – 50th place – by 4 places and 13 ounces.) I had three to the boat that would have given me that 13 ounces, but it was just one of those deals where you can't get over the hump. But I was glad to get back in it.

Today I reversed my order. I fished one area early and one late. I only fished two areas – yesterday I tried to fish four or five. Both (today) were clear-water areas around muddy-water areas. I caught my fish on a Reaction Innovations tube (black/blue) and a 1/2-ounce spinnerbait with gold blades and a chartreuse skirt.

The oxbows I was fishing actually fell down about 3-4 inches. I was flipping tight to cover, but it wasn't happening so I started flipping some outer grass.

I'm going to fly home to Phoenix for about 4 days and pay bills (laughs), and then fly back to Birmingham and get ready for Guntersville. I'm ready to take a little break. My boat and truck are pretty dirty.

I've fished Guntersville twice before. It should be interesting. Some good ones are in there.

Paul Elias – Day 2
Thursday, February 12, 2004

(Paul had three bass for 10-09 total and ended up 94th.) I had two that weighed 4-something today. I just never had anything going. I didn't have enough practice time, and I didn't have any power trim or tilt for 2 days (in practice) and that really hurt. I couldn't get around. I never got to check one area I was in last year because I knew I had to have my power trim to get in there. But I don't want to make excuses. I thought I had a little bit going on down there in the marsh and it just didn't pan out.

I had those two big fish there in practice, and those marsh fish usually bite when it's cloudy, rainy and stormy, but they just didn't do it. I caught that 6-pounder in one of those canals I caught fish in last year. It was crystal clear in there, and I went back this morning and it was all muddied up. Two other boats were in there with me too. Larry (Nixon) was in there. I didn't catch anything so I left and ran all the way to the marsh on the west side. I only had 2 hours to fish when I got there, but that's where I caught those two, and my partner caught one and lost three.

He was swimming a grub. He was just pulling it along behind the boat. The first one he caught close to some hyacinths I was pitching in. I thought the fish just swam out and got it. But the second time through there he was about 10 yards away from those hyacinths and caught another one.

I got one of those jigs from him and caught my fish, and he caught two more. That was all in the last 20 minutes. If I'd figured that out a little earlier, I probably would have caught a limit in there.

On my week off? I'm not going to fish. I'll be home for 4-5 days, and then I have a Triton promotion Friday and Saturday of next week in Tuscaloosa, Ala. I'm looking forward to the time off. Mentally, I have to get myself prepared. I've been in a frenzy ever since the season started. I feel too rushed everywhere I go. I have to just calm down and start fishing right.

Chris Koester (co-angler) – Day 2
Thursday, February 12, 2004

What a week. I zeroed again today. Steve Daniel ran us back into the area where he zeroed yesterday because he thought the changing wind direction would pull clearer water back in there. Sure enough he was right, and he turned it into five nice keeper bites. I couldn't capitalize though. I did have one nice fish on today, about 4 pounds or so, but it pulled off. My only other bite all day was a short fish.

The rain held off most of the day, but was replaced by cold and wind. This has been a pretty unpleasant tournament. I did learn some valuable lessons, as usual, so all was not lost. I picked Steve's brain a bit about Okeechobee, and got some interesting tips on fishing jerkbaits and flipping tubes. When you're fishing as a co-angler at this level, you aren't guaranteed to catch fish, but you are guaranteed to fish with someone you can learn something from every single day. I was really impressed with Steve. The ability to make the right decision and then believe in it and stick with it is really what separates these guys from the rest of us, and Steve did it to perfection today.

I should also mention that while I remain a passionate Ranger Boats devotee, I think you could do a lot worse than the Triton Tr-20 we fished from today. Triton bass boats seem to have come a long way in the last several years.

With zeroing in a tournament this early in the season, I have to assume I'm out of the FLW Championship until proven otherwise. I'll have to put together a couple of top finishes just to break even on this tournament points-wise, but I'm still going to try.

We're due for another tough, cold tournament coming up at Old Hickory, but I'm going to stay positive and figure out what I need to do to maximize my chances there. For starters, I think I will invest in a helmet. Old Hickory is a really long impoundment, and it's likely to be cold and rainy (or snowy) when we go. The relative comfort of a helmet will help keep my mind off the nasty conditions and help me focus on the fishing. It's also a little scary to run at 70 mph without one anymore after John Sappington's ordeal.

I'll spend the 14-hour drive home getting my mind right after this sorry performance. Fortunately I'm an optimist and a diehard – I may not even get across the Louisiana border before I'm ready to get started on the next tournament. I plan on playing the new Jay-Z album really, really loud. That should help.

Chris Koester (co-angler) – Day 1
Wednesday, February 11, 2004

Rough day on the water today. As expected, it rained all day long. We all look like prunes. A total of 104 co-anglers blanked today, including yours truly. I caught one 13-inch short fish and I worked my butt off for it. My pro partner, Lee Bailey Jr., caught two keepers, spaced about 6 hours apart. It was really brutal out there. I'm rarely glad to see a tournament day end, especially with no fish in the livewell, but today was an exception.

I'm paired with Steve Daniel tomorrow. Neither he nor his co-angler caught any keepers today, so things aren't really looking too hot for me. As it stands, forget about making the cut or even a check: My goal for tomorrow is just one lousy keeper. Getting skunked in a tournament hurts bad because you get zero points for it. Just one little squealer can be worth a lot of points, especially in a tournament like this. Mentally, it also helps a lot to be able to focus on a realistic goal, so I’m setting my sights on that one fish.

Lee's boat is a Stratos 201 with a 250 hp Mercury XS racing motor. That thing absolutely flew down the lake. We must have passed 20 boats running down the canal from the takeoff this morning. I really need to buy a helmet.

Bill McDonald – Day 1
Wednesday, February 11, 2004

It rained all day long. I had a pretty good day of fishing. I had seven bites today, and caught all seven. I had five keepers and two short fish, and caught two on a spinnerbait and three on a jig.

The water was coming up in the area I'm fishing, and a couple of boats are in there with me. The bite is a little slower than I thought it was going to be, but the water is coming up and I think the fish are moving up too. So tomorrow I'll try to follow the fish as far as I can.

I'm looking forward to tomorrow. Hopefully it won't rain as much, but I think the water will continue to come up. I just hope I can get five keeper bites.

Paul Elias – Day 1
Wednesday, February 11, 2004

I caught one fish that weighed 6-03. I've caught 3 keepers since I've been down here – a 5-pounder, a 6-pounder and a 6-03 (laughs). Maybe I can catch two or three tomorrow and make a little comeback.

I ran $75 of gas out today, but caught the 6-pounder 2 gallons away (from the ramp). So I guess I'll hang around close tomorrow.

John Murray – Day 1
Wednesday, February 11, 2004

I caught one bass. I had four bites – 1 short, 1 keeper, and missed two. The keeper I caught on a Kinami Norie's Bug.

It was a tough day. I know some fish are in my areas, but they just didn't bite. I'll do the same thing tomorrow but reverse my timing. I have a late flight tomorrow so maybe they'll bite a little better. Who knows.

That's about it. Pretty lousing fishing today.

Chris Koester (co-angler) – 1 day prior
Tuesday, February 10, 2004

What a soggy mess we're in down here. It was raining when I woke up this morning and it was raining when we dragged our sorry selves back off the water. It's getting colder, too. It's going to be tough to stay focused in this event, as the fishing seems as questionable as the weather.

I fished with Jeffrey Thomas today. We ran around to a few different areas trying to do what everyone is trying to do -- find a concentration of fish among all this identical-looking water. Not much to go on today, a short fish here on a spinnerbait, a small keeper there flipping plastics, etc. I did have one nice 4-5 pound fish on today that pulled off next to the boat, and a little later caught a borderline keeper doing the same thing. Every fish we caught today was on one specific type of cover, so that will help me focus my efforts.

We called it quits early in the afternoon, and found the hotel parking lot totally full of boats when we got back into town. Everyone came in early today. In fact I think a lot of guys may have stayed in today. I can't blame them, although I'm still glad I went out. I think I figured out what I'm going to try to do tomorrow.

I'm paired with Lee Bailey Jr. for day 1. I'm not sure where we're going, as Lee has only had 2 days to practice since fishing the Smith Lake BASS event. We may be making a long run, but he's undecided. He didn't do that well where he practiced, so we may just fish close and try to eke out a limit. I'm just hoping for some decent water quality wherever we fish because the way I got my bites today won't work very well in mud.

It's still raining outside tonight, and it's supposed to rain all day tomorrow. It's going to be cold, too, so everyone should be properly miserable. I hope I can get a keeper in the box early to help keep my head in the game. Discouragement and distraction come pretty easily when conditions are so rotten.

John Murray – 1 day prior
Tuesday, February 10, 2004

I'm a wet rat. It was raining this morning when we got up, and it rained all day non-stop.

I found a couple of little areas and caught a couple of fish, but it's not real good fishing here right now. Today I went to look for more areas. There's so much water here – around every turn there seems to be something more. I spotted a couple of little ponds on the map. It took an hour of an idling to get to one. I got one on my first cast, but then I never got another bite. I was looking for clear-water areas that had some depth.

I have about 3-4 areas I've had a couple of bites in. I'll go there tomorrow and see if I can get them to bite. I'm running a long way. Half the field will stay close, in the Gulf (Oil) fields. A lot of fish are in there. But I'm going to try to get away from them. I'm just in this habit of not liking to fish around guys. It hasn't worked so far this year, but I'll keep trying it.

Bill McDonald – 1 day prior
Tuesday, February 10, 2004

It rained all day, but the fishing was better for me today. I don't know why. Maybe because I had a little more peace of mind – I got the boat going and everything.

I went into a little area, and had one keeper, two short fish and 5 other bites I didn't set the hook on. No one's fishing around me.

I have a pretty good outlook on the tournament. We'll have to wait and see whether I can catch them tomorrow, but at least I have a positive outlook on things now.

Paul Elias – 1 day prior
Tuesday, February 10, 2004

I didn't do any good today. It's definitely not doing what it did last year. It looks like I'll have to go the marsh and hope I get some big bites. I won't get many bites, if I get any. I really don't have anything going. I had those two big bites, and if I'm lucky I'll get a few bites like that. If not, I won't catch anything.

Paul Elias – 2 days prior
Monday, February 9, 2004

I've been handicapped since I got here. My power trim went out yesterday morning, and Mercury didn't get here until this afternoon. I've been trying to fish 2 days on this bayou with no trim. Then I ran aground today on a bar. I was on there for 3 1/2 hours – I finally got someone to tow me off. So I've practiced maybe 10 hours in 2 1/2 days, which isn't good.

I caught a 5-pounder the first day I was here and no other keepers, then a 6-pounder the next day and no other keepers, and I had none today. I haven't checked (his winning spot from last year), but the water's too high for it to be any good. And one of the two canals I fished (on the first 2 days last year) is blown out. It was a dead-end canal, and a ditch blew through the woods so it's all messed up.

Tomorrow I'm going to expand a little on that 5- and 6-pounder area. I caught them out of different canals, but they're close together so I'll try to find something else close by. It's a long way away. I'll only have about 4 1/2 hours to fish if I go there. If don't find anything better, I guess I'll fish those two canals for 4 1/2 hours.

It's tough, but someone will catch them. Yesterday they had a 120-boat local tournament, and it took 18 pounds to win. There were a couple of 17-pound stringers, and they paid 18 places and it took 12 pounds to get a check. That's two guys fishing, but still, some fish will be caught. But they're also talking about rain coming.

Bill McDonald – 2 days prior
Monday, February 9, 2004

It's been awfully tough. The water's flooded – it's all back up in these fields, all through the swamp. There's not much bank definition. I've caught a couple, but I've had some mechanical difficulties.

I practiced with a local guy down here that I fish the EverStarts with. We found a few fish, but trying to make the run through all these canals is tough. Garmin has good definition on their topo maps so that's good. Tomorrow I'm going to make that run and familiarize myself with it. I'll get some tracks on my GPS, look at the area again and be ready to go for the tournament.

Everyone's talking about how tough it is. I feel like I can catch a few fish in there. Whether it's enough to (make the cuts), I don't know, but I think I can catch a few fish.

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