Jason Hamilton has only weighed in one fish during his two days in the Pine Bluff pool of the Arkansas Big Bass Bonanza.
That one fish just so happens to lead the pool heading into the tournament’s final day.
“I honestly thought it was a regular fish,” Hamilton said. “… I didn’t think it was that big.
“Then it pulled my pole almost under the boat, so I thought it was big. Then I pulled my net and scooped it up and said, ‘Holy, mackerel.’”
The Star City resident said he had only been fishing for about 20 minutes before he hooked the fish that knocked Terry Stewart of Greenbrier and his 5.13-pound catch out of the top spot of the pool standings. Hamilton said he was “sweating bullets all day” thinking somebody might top him.
Hamilton, 32, said his 5.63-pound fish was about two pounds heavier than any fish he’d ever caught in Pine Bluff. He said he knew when he pulled it into his boat that it would meet the 16-inch mark necessary to weigh a fish.
“I knew it was long enough, but I still measured it out of habit,” he said of his 22-inch catch. “I tried weighing it on my little scale there in the boat. He has been flopping around a bit but I knew it was somewhere around five (pounds).
“I thought I might have a chance to win the hour.”
Well, he accomplished that goal, which he said was good enough for him.
“That alone has paid for the fuel, registration and other costs,” Hamilton said of winning the 8 a.m. hour. “Even if I was just winning that $500, I would still be about $200 ahead.”
Despite not weighing in any fish on Friday, Hamilton said it helped him prepare for Saturday.
“I caught several fish that were 15 inches and under,” he said of Friday, “but those are too short to weigh.
“But it helped me learn what color bait to go with, and it helped me have a better gameplan (Saturday) morning.”
If Hamilton’s haul holds up through Sunday, he’ll earn $10,000 for leading the pool. Hamilton admitted he might struggle to sleep Saturday night and also said he wouldn’t be fishing in the tournament Sunday due to a prior commitment.
“I probably won’t sleep much,” he said Saturday. “I’ll probably be up at the crack of dawn (Sunday).
“But I’m not fishing (Sunday). I told my wife I would fish Friday and Saturday, but that I wouldn’t Sunday so I could go to church.”
Hamilton said he thinks he has a good chance to finish on top, but added that it doesn’t matter too much to him where he finishes on the Pine Bluff pool leaderboard.
“In my personal opinion,” he said, “If it’s not beat at 8 o’clock, I think it’s got a really good chance. It seems the biggest fish are at the first weigh-in.
“Bottom line, if it does (hold up), it does. If it doesn’t, it doesn’t. I won’t be mad either way.”