While professional bass fishing has continued to be a “younger man’s game,” requiring far more stamina and pace than the recreational version of the sport, this past weekend, saw two “seniors” perform at the highest level in prominent competition.
Much ballyhooed by ESPN/BASS, Guy Eaker, 70, of North Carolina came to Clear Lake with the Bassmaster Elites, capturing third place with just over 90 pounds in four days of fishing. In what has been advertised as his final professional season, and he weighed over 20 pounds each day, ultimately finishing 8 pounds behind former Californian Byron Velvick’s 98 pounds, 6 ounces.
Velvick, no longer a kid himself at age 45, started fast, catching 29 pounds on the first day and it set the tone for the competition. That sack of fish, however, turned out to be the largest of the contest, with Skeet Reese, another 40-something, the only other angler in the field to catch five bass weighing more than 25 pounds, and that was his 25.1-pound sack on Sunday.
Clear Lake, obviously, is one of the premier big bass waters around, especially when you think of the average fish taken. But in the case of Eaker, to cross the country and be right in the thick of the race against a field full of his juniors, it was an impressive result.
But when I look at the WON BASS results from Saturday, I wonder if we didn’t see an even more remarkable performance at Lake Havasu, where Mike Folkestad, the seemingly ageless Californian, set an all-time tournament record for the lake, winning with 43.28 pounds.
Yet it was Friday, when he weighed in 26.62 pounds for five bass, that knocked the bass fishing community out of its seats. No organization records anywhere could find a one day catch exceeding 23 pounds, and that one must have been hidden in some vault.
Folkestad, however, made searching for obscure marks unnecessary, as he anchored his sack with an 8.64-pound largemouth, one of the heaviest ever taken in competition on Havasu. Folkestad, 69, has been competing on this water for 35 years, so he knows more than a little about its progression.
For that reason, he was stunned by the fact that even without the 8-pounder, his four other bass totaled 18 pounds, enough to be the largest sack on many a day on Havasu. But think of it? Other than Velvick’s first day sack, Folkestad’s record catch exceeded everyone else’s sack—at Clear Lake—over four days of trying!
Even Mike, the former San Diego, Pisces Bass Club member, had to marvel as he recounted this week’s tournament. “I’d catch a 3 or 3 ½ pounder and it’d go over the side. I couldn’t cull (with it).”
Tournament bass fishing remains a grind, certainly best suited for the fit and aggressive angler. But they better get hard at it. Today’s younger competitors may have to burn up quite a few birthdays before they match Folkestad’s record. Bass columnist George Kramer, who hopes to live so long, can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.