By STEVEN NALLEY
Fish donâ€™t like the dog days of summer any more than humans do.
Thatâ€™s what fishermen from across the state of Mississippi witnessed first-hand Friday at the Columbus Lock and Dam during the first day of the 2011 Mississippi Bass Federation Tournament.
The two-day event was originally scheduled for the end of April, but it was postponed due to tornado damage throughout the South at the planned time. Brad Aldridge, president of the Starkville Bass Club, said it was a tough but ultimately necessary decision for the MBF leadership to move the tournament.
â€śAt the time the decision was made, I think the entire Golden Triangle was without power, and there was discussion that it might take days to restore it,â€ť Aldridge said. â€śThere were approximately 200 anglers that would need hotel rooms, gasoline and batteries charging and all that would have been next to impossible without power. You also had clubs that were picking up the pieces of their houses ... that were directly affected.â€ť
Aldridge said the extra heat of August will make the tournament extremely challenging.
â€śItâ€™s harder on both the fishermen and the fish,â€ť Aldridge said. â€śAnglers will have to take extra precautions to ensure they keep their catch alive to avoid penalties at weigh in time as well as staying hydrated themselves.â€ś
Randy Haynes, vice president of the Starkville club, said even before the fish are caught, they are less likely to bite in the August heat.
â€śTheyâ€™ve gone through a whole complete season of fishing here on the waterway, and the hot water makes them lethargic,â€ť Haynes said. â€śThe heat does the same thing to them that it does to us. They are usually pretty active for the first 30 minutes or hour of the day. The hot water temperature depletes the oxygen some, and theyâ€™re not as active. Theyâ€™re a lot more frisky when the water temperatureâ€™s a lot more cool, around 70 or 75 (degrees.)â€ť
As a result, Haynes said, the Starkville team struggled to make catches, but they were far from alone.
â€śThere were a great deal of people in the tournament who did not reel a single fish in,â€ť Haynes said. â€śThey had what they call a bunch of zeroes.â€ť
Each fisherman is limited to a total of five fish per day, Haynes said, but very few reached that limit Friday. He said one of them was leading the tournament Friday: Gene Brown from the Clay County bass club, with 16.82 pounds caught.
However, the Starkville club is in the running, Haynes said. Starkvilleâ€™s Heinz Davis caught three fish totaling 9.32 pounds, Haynes said, and the Starkville club knew what to expect this weekend after their club tournament on the Aberdeen Lock and Dam two weeks ago.
â€śWeâ€™re probably in the top two or three,â€ť Haynes said. â€ś(Davis is) in third place overall in the boatersâ€™ division.â€ť
The top six boaters and top six non-boaters with the heaviest catches over both days will advance to the regional level, and awards for the most successful club are also at stake. The Starkville club has finished second in the past two tournaments, Aldridge said, and individual members have advanced to regional championships in the past.
â€śThis year, we are focusing on trying to win the overall club event,â€ť Aldridge said. â€śWe know this year will be extremely tough due to the heat and the competition, but we are going to fish and fish hard.â€ť