Clouse conflicted | Bassmaster

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Clouse conflicted | Bassmaster

Last year, Gary Clouse had a much easier decision. He had only one option that nearly paid off big for him. This year, minutes before the Day-1 take

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Last year, Gary Clouse had a much easier decision. He had only one option that nearly paid off big for him. This year, minutes before the Day-1 takeoff found the Tennessee pro pondering how he’d start the Bassmaster Elite Series season opener.

Option 1: Make the same 2-hour run to Spring Garden Lake — the previously unmentioned fishery nearly at the southern end of tournament boundaries where Clouse turned in two field-leading days of big-fish smackdown before losing steam on Day 3.

Option: Fish Rodman Reservoir — the Ocklawaha River impoundment much closer to takeoff, but very likely to host several competitors. Anglers reach Rodman by traversing a 7-mile canal and passing through the Buckman Lock.

Describing his dilemma, Clouse said: “I checked out (Spring Garden Lake) in practice and it was about like last year — I caught one fish in practice. The difference this year is it’s a lot colder and the water temperature is a lot colder. I think there were a lot of fish spawning last year than this year.

“It seems like the fish are biting in Rodman a lot better this year than last year. I spent about 5 hours in Rodman and had more bites in that time than I did in two days of fishing the river.”

So, it’s a quality versus quantity decision, with a serious time calculation. Clouse knows his long-distance honey hole offers big-fish potential, but the going and coming would leave him with only four hours of fishing time.

On the other hand, Rodman’s a much shorter run but he’ll be sharing water. Also, while the reservoir definitely holds monsters, Clouse didn’t find any big bites in practice.

“I guess I’m going to run down the river and when I get to the canal that goes into Rodman I’m going to have to make a decision,” Clouse said. “I may gamble again; I don’t know.

“I either play it safe and go to Rodman and try to catch five that weigh 8-10 pounds and just survive, or I take the gamble again and run down (to Spring Garden Lake). If I catch two down there, they might weigh as much.”

Ten minutes before takeoff, Clouse was clearly chewing on the decision.

“I have this internal battle going on in my mind over what to do,” he said. “I probably won’t know until I get to that fork in the road and I have to either go straight or turn right (toward Rodman). Honest, I don’t know what I’m going to do.”

One factor could be the day’s weather. Dense fog delayed last year’s Day-1 launch by three hours and cut Clouse’s fishing time to less than two hours. This 7:30 morning’s takeoff proceeded on time, so Clouse will have a full day — wherever he decides to fish.

“Last year, I didn’t have anything else to do, so it was an easier decision,” Clouse said. “This year, I feel like I can catch a few in Rodman. Maybe knowing too much is not always a good thing.”

Cue The Clash “Should I Stay or Should I Go?”

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