Wacky, Wonderful Day 2 At Bassmaster Classic Bracket As 4 Pros Advance

Jacob Powroznik cheers-on Koby Kreiger, the guy he’s supposed to be fishing against. photo courtesy B.A.S.S.

As a fan of professional bass fishing, confrontational drama on the water has never bothered me. Some say that it ‘gives the sport a black eye’ or whatever. I say that’s true – only if you’re trying to reinvent golf. Wake me up when you’re done with that. I’ll be over here watching Happy Gilmore. “Gee, I hope none of those players have a fight right here in front of us,” said no hockey fan ever.

And fans do watch NASCAR for the crashes. At least a crash occurs because somebody is trying too hard to win.

Today we witnessed the complete opposite of that.

Jacob Powroznik held a one-pound lead over Koby Kreiger, his close friend, travelling mate and the guy he was paired-up to compete against during the first rounds of the Bassmaster Classic Bracket. Powroznik is a lock to make the 2017 Bassmaster Classic. The big prize this week is a berth into said Classic. A $10,000 paycheck is the only other carrot dangling before the horses in this derby. All 8 of them win a $5,000 check just for showing up.

The extra 5-grand and a useless 2nd ticket to the big dance was not enough motivation for Powroznik to keep his foot on the gas when his buddy, Kreiger sits in 72nd place on the Elite Series – way out of the Classic cut with few tournaments left to make up ground.

So Powroznik bowed-out of today’s competition. He cheered-on his friend and actually hoped he would catch 1 pound, 1 ounce in total weight and survive to fish tomorrow’s semifinal round, one step closer to qualifying for the 2017 Classic.

From a business standpoint, it was classy move to help a friend gain all the exposure afforded to anglers as they participate in the week-long pageantry and exposure associated with the Classic. From a friendship standpoint, it was a solid decision that we can all appreciate on some level.

I respect Jacob Powroznik and the decision he made. That’s the reasonable adult in me.

But as a fan of the sport, there is a part of me that has a problem with a competitor laying down his rods for any reason when it’s game time.

We tuned-in to see a competition. I want to see blood, sweat and tears. What bothered me most is not simply the fact that it happened, anglers help each and make deals to share info or even fishing locations all the time. But then it’s game on. Powroznik basically quit. He wasn’t helping a buddy make the cut so they could both fish the next round. He was eliminating himself.

It was a selfless act and, again, on one hand I appreciate seeing that type of gesture. But on the other hand, the non-fishing world was watching today as the event was broadcast on WatchESPN alongside Major League Baseball, soccer and the Youth Robotics World Championship (not making that up) and I’m not sure I like what they may think of our sport if they saw a competitor quit. Especially if they don’t understand the reasons behind it. It felt a little bit like some family business was aired in front of strangers.

Perhaps if there was more on the line, a bigger prize purse or a spot in the Classic before most of the field has already qualified for it, maybe then the competition would be more intense for all anglers involved.

That said, it was an INCREDIBLE day of action – and inaction – all very well documented by the outstanding coverage we  have come to expect from B.A.S.S.

And to tell the truth, it was kind of fun to watch Kreiger fish against . . . well, his contest was with the clock, not with Powroznik. It was a lot like watching the cops pursue OJ Simpson in the white Bronco – one party was trying to catch the other but neither was going anywhere real fast.

Kreiger was grateful for the chance given to him by Powroznik. It took nearly the whole 3-hour period for the veteran smallmouth angler to land a 1-pound, 7-ounce fish and progress to the next round.

Kreiger also said that Powroznik had some issues back home that needed tending-to and stated, “There’s a lot going on here that people don’t know about.”

Tomorrow Kreiger won’t get a break. He squares off against Kevin VanDam who defeated Drew Benton by a score of 20 pounds, 8 ounces to 5-10.

There was no let up today for KVD as he precisely matched his numbers from yesterday by putting another 10-4 on the scoreboard.

Then he went looking.

VanDam took full advantage of his huge lead by scouting around to find new areas to fish tomorrow as well as eliminating dead water. “I was able to use this round today to practice and I’m feeling good about it. Like, real good,” said VanDam as he scanned the shallows and saw bunches of bass. “I have got ’em,” he said, “I have got them!”

By ‘them’ KVD probably means, both, the fish and the other competitors.

It’s fortunate for VanDam that he found fresh water to pound tomorrow because the place where he did most of his VanDamage has been hammered by half the field.

Kreiger spent an hour there today and never caught one. Keith Combs camped on the spot first thing this morning in a losing effort. Jordan Lee quickly abandoned it this morning after he couldn’t make it work for him.

Brett Hite has found a reliable structure in a bridge that has produced all of his fish – a tournament best 21 pounds, 14 ounces. He has tread lightly upon it, believiing it will hold up for the duration of the event.

Tomorrow Hite takes on Dean Rojas who posted a pulse-pumping come-from-behind win over Lee in the closing minutes of his morning on the river. We saw it all live and in color, counting down the minutes with Rojas, cheering when he set the hook, landed the fish and heard, as we did, Tournament Director Trip Weldon’s announcement that it was big enough to put him over the top.

So the Final Four looks like this:  VanDam vs Kreiger and Hite vs Rojas. You can see it all on Bassmaster.com where I’m pretty sure there will be no coverage of competitive Youth Robotics.