| FishTails: July
|Russ at the Classic
The BassMaster's Classic of 2000 will forever be remembered for several things. It will long be remembered
for Woo Daves' winning catch of 27lbs-13oz. It will be remembered as the Classic where the weigh-in was held at
Soldier Field.It will be talked about for many years as "The Smallmouth Classic." For all of us it will
be fondly remembered as the year likeable Russ Smarr of Charleston stood tall and proud representing West Virginia's
BASS Federation among the tall timber. However, it will probably be most remembered by Russ and those of us who
had the pleasure or riding along during his Classic appearance as the roughest and most frightening ride in a bass
boat we've ever taken.
Northeasterly winds made for horrible conditions for those, like Russ, who had plans of locating smallmouth on
the outer breakwalls of the Chicago and Calumet harbors.
"If it wasn't for the wind, everybody would have probably had some big bags of fish." Noted Smarr just
after the final day's weigh-in at Soldier Field. "That wind will kill you out here. I mean it's unreal. I
was going to go out there on the main lake and fish for some smallmouth. I was going to look for some ledges and
rock piles, but it was so bad you just couldn't fish it even in those big old Ranger boats."
Russ wasn't the only one who had troubles with the wind. The gale forces at 20-to-30 miles an hour made five and
six foot white caps on the practice day, forcing the launch to move to the Alsip Ramp 25-miles away.The Alsip launch
wasn't a total disaster for Russ. For one thing it would keep the pros off the smallmouth bite where most had banked
a lot of their plans. Secondly, Alsip lies on the Calumet River, just west of where Russ had a bank he believed
could produce five-keeper largemouth each day.
"I had one bank down there where I had some fish and you get on it at the right time, they'll bite. If you're
not there at the right time they just won't bite. They're just not there or they move out, I don't know where they
go. You could be there one hour and there's nothing there and hang on to it until the next hour and just pick up
Unfortunately Russ never hit the bank at the right time.On day one he caught ten-largemouth in the course of about
90-minutes. Unfortunately nine-of the fish were 11 and 15/16th's inches long.
"Another one of those football fish." Noted a frustrated Russ as he tossed a fourth chunky dink back
into the river. "They're there, but I don't think there's a keeper in the bunch."
Day two was even more frustrating. Despite the high winds, B.A.S.S. officials launched at the regular site in Burnham
Harbor. However, winds picked up during the day making the main lake nearly unnavigable in the Rangers.
"I was at the lock and met some guys coming back and heard them yell 'Alsip.' I took that to mean the lake
was too rough so they were taking out at Alsip. Later I realized they'd passed Alsip and gone to the Chicago River
and back up through town. By that time I only had 15-minutes so I just called for a trailer to come pick me up."
The late arrival cost Russ the one bass he caught on the day.
Day three, Russ knew his chances of contention were the longest of longshots-but since he had his largemouth bank
all to himself-he stuck with the gameplan. He brought two keepers to the final weigh-in. As he pulled them from
the livewell with the cameras rolling, Hank Parker in a friendly manner joked, "Russell you're going to have
to pull at least two world records out of there to win! Lake Michigan's been tough on these guys this week."
Feeling a bit more relaxed, Russ addressed the Soldier Field crowd, "It's been tough on me that's for sure."
"I've had a great time and everybody's been real nice. This tournament is run just great."
Would he like to do it again?
"Really not here! I'd like to go somewhere where it's calm!"
Russ at the Classic
Russ's Diary - Day One
Local angler shoots for bass fishing's top prize
Sponsors: Catch ’Em Lures, Russ’s Lures, Eagle Claw,
West Virginia B.A.S.S. Federation, ACDelco, Ranger Boats