2000 Red Man All-American
Lake Hamilton, Hot Springs, Ark.
As All-American as it gets … A heartfelt congratulations goes to fourth-place finisher Gary Simpson of Gainesville, Fla., who was awarded the Citgo All-American Leadership Award. Last year, Simpson and his family were floored when doctors told him that he had lymphoma. Following months of painful chemotherapy, Simpson’s cancer is in remission, and he is back on the tournament trail pursuing his dream. The likable Simpson, who has fished in the All-American six times, said, “For the last 12 years, winning the All-American has been my sole goal. I’m glad to be here to have that chance.” So are we.
There’s a certain poetry to that … With his win in Hot Springs, Jeff Coble has won tournaments on all three Operation Bass circuits – Red Man Tournament Trail, EverStart Batteries Series and Wal-Mart FLW Tour – making him the only angler ever to do so … In a way, Coble’s win symbolized the progress of professional bass fishing since the birth of the All-American. He competed in the very first All-American in 1984. In that effort, he caught no fish. But in this 2000 season, the final year of the “Red Man” All-American, Coble dominated from start to finish and took home his first RMAA trophy. Seems a fitting tribute to the last of the Red Man All-Americans.
In another first, sort of … Coble became only the second angler to win an Operation Bass tournament after leading going into the final round. It was a first for the All-American, but not a first for an Operation Bass event. Relentless Rick Clunn of Ava, Mo., first broke the final-round leader hex in April when he won the Wal-Mart Open after leading the field on day three.
Hot on Hot Springs … Drawing on the huge fan reaction it received in central Arkansas, Operation Bass Vice President Charlie Evans announced that the All-American will return to Hot Springs next year, May 9-12. With its scenic beauty, new convention center and location in the heart of bass fishing country, the charming city seems made to host the event.
You mean I can’t weigh this in? … Ray Barga of Gilbertsville, Ky., landed one of the biggest fish of the tournament on day one. Too bad it was a walleye. He weighed it at 6 pounds, 7 ounces, but, for obvious reasons, he had to release it. Said Barga, “It was the biggest walleye I’ve ever caught in my life.”
Beginner’s skill … Kudos to 43rd-place finisher Rodney Bell of Salisbury, N.C. Not only was this his first trip to the All-American, 1999 – the qualifying year for the 2000 tourney – was his rookie year of fishing on the Red Man Tournament Trail.
5,548: Near-record attendance at the Super Saturday weigh-in. According to Evans, it was the second-largest crowd he’s seen at an Operation Bass event, bested only by an All-American several years back when country music performer Ricky Van Shelton made an appearance.
5: Number of ounces by which Coble defeated Keith Green of Arkadelphia, Ark. Those mere five ounces were worth $80,000 to Coble – it was the difference between $100,000 for first place and $20,000 for second.
“Everybody thinks I ought to make it, but it’s still fishing.”
– Local favorite Green, who was fishing his home waters, Lake Hamilton, and was the early favorite to win. Though his humility prevailed in front of the press, his strong second-place finish – just five ounces back from a win – showed that he was up to the challenge.
“I think I may have figured out what to do if it’s overcast and windy, unless it was just a fluke.”
– Simpson, fourth-place finisher.
“It’ll only hurt me if I forget my rainsuit.”
– Angler Ricky Smith, responding to a reporter’s question about how he would handle rain in the final round. Smith fished well in the uncertain conditions and placed third.
“This is quite an experience. You get chauffeured around, fed, and you get all this press time.”
– Nicolas Sakata of Manteca, Calif., who, at age 20, was the youngest angler to fish the tournament. He placed a commendable 21st in his first trip to the All-American.
“We didn’t catch many fish, but we had a great time riding around in that Ranger.”
– Angler Jeff Viverette of Frederick, Md., who finished behind the rest of the field in 51st place. Every angler and his observer was provided a Ranger Comanche R93 to use for the duration of the tournament.