Fishing report: The greatest sport is also cruel

A bass tournament was held Saturday out of Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings Historic State Park. Nothing unusual about that.

The unusual part didn’t come until weigh-in.

Many anglers believe that when Orange Lake is ‘on’ it is capable of producing big bass catches like no other Florida water. Saturday, competing teams scattered throughout Orange and Lochloosa lakes for event number 3 in the Lochloosa division of the Xtreme Bass Series.

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When they arrived at the weigh scales that afternoon, quite a few of the 38 teams brought evidence of that belief.

Fishing is a sport of many adages. One that I have often had occasion to invoke is: “Tournament fishing is a cruel sport.”

Just ask Tommy Studstill and Bryan Lewis.

What would you think if you did your homework, pre-fishing for hours and days—and finally found the right area. On tournament morning, of course, you went straight to the sweet spot, casting lures you had found to be effective there.

Everything fell into place. The fish did their part and you and your partner fished well, boating a five-fish limit of bass that averaged well over 6 pounds. Oh, and for good measure, you put a 10-pound whopper in the live well to anchor that catch.

For most anglers—even accomplished veterans—this would qualify as a once-in-a-lifetime tournament day. And that is what Studstill and Lewis did.

Just one detail dampened things a little. They didn’t win. Not even second place. They came in third. Neither did their 10-pounder (10.08) win them the Big Bass prize.

On a day that saw no fewer than 12 teams top the hard-to-reach 20-pound mark, the team of C.J. King and Scott Sommer won with a remarkable bag of bass that snatched the weigh scales all the way down to the 36.02 total. The heaviest of their five fish weighed 9 pounds.

Deryl Williams and Tyler Griffis nailed down second place with a 33.77 total, and they also won the Big Bass money with an 11.50-pound giant.

Tommy and Bryan brought up third place with 33.02—a catch that would win about 99 percent of tournaments held anywhere.

Bass fishing seems closer to ‘normal’ on Newnans Lake, where the UF Bass Club and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) are set to host a bass tournament Saturday. Catches will assist FWC in collecting genetic samples from the bass, many of which are hatchery-raised.

There are big fish swimming around in this lake, too, and we could possibly see another bass-catching free for all.

More anglers are drawn to Newnans these days for its good panfishing. Specks are still falling for minnows, grass shrimp, and crappie jigs around the newly flooded cypress, and fishers are catching bream (bluegills and shellcrackers) using grass shrimp and crickets.

Inshore anglers are watching the weather that’s often been rainy and breezy. But we are still hearing of good trout, redfish, and sheepshead catches out of Cedar Key and Steinhatchee on the fishable days.

Spanish mackerel fans are picking up leader wire and spoons, but it’s unclear whether the supplies are for fish they presently have located or in anticipation of a mackerel season that (calendar-wise) should be underway.

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