Jordon takes Capitol Clash

Texas angler avoids penalty, gets surprise Bassmaster Elite Series victory in Charles County


MARBURY -- On the third day of the four-day Bassmaster Elite Series tournament, Kelly Jordon made a potential life-or-death decision on the water, releasing a bass he had hooked badly and returning to the dock one fish below the minimum.

Instead of coming back to haunt him, Jordon's calculation paid off. He avoided the 4-ounce penalty that goes with having a dead fish on the boat and scored public relations points by giving the fish a chance to recover in the cooler water of Nanjemoy Creek.

Yesterday, Jordon won the "Capitol Clash," the penultimate event in the Elite Series, and $100,000, with a four-day, 19-fish total of 60 pounds, 9 ounces.

"It's a call I would make again," said Jordon, a 35-year-old Texan of his decision to release the fish. "It was the right thing to do."

During the tournament, 202 competitors caught a total of 2,668 bass. Just 21 fish died on the boats. Tournament rules prohibit culling dead fish.

Jordon's last victory came in 2004, at Santee-Cooper in South Carolina.

Skeet Reese, the Californian who has had two top five finishes in BASS tournaments on the Potomac River, added one, finishing second with a total weight of 60 pounds, 2 ounces.

Steve Kennedy of Alabama took third place with a total of 57 pounds, 8 ounces, while New Jersey's Mike Iaconelli came in fourth with 55 pounds, 6 ounces. Rick Morris, who led going into the final day, slipped to fifth place, even though he was fishing the same stretch of water as Reese.

Oddly, while waiting backstage for the final weigh-in at Smallwood State Park in Charles County, both Jordon and Reese thought Reese had the winning bag of fish. Unlike most recreational fishermen, the professionals usually underestimate the size of their catches.

After eyeballing the bags of fish being cooled in large tubs of water, they concluded Reese had 18 pounds of bass and Jordon had about 16 1/2 pounds of bass.

Indeed, when Jordon's five fish tipped the scales at 17 pounds, 15 ounces - an ounce more than Reese's catch - the runner-up grabbed his head and spun around while Jordon looked shocked.

For Jordon, the tournament was a series of salad days as he worked the seams of thick beds of hydrilla, milfoil and duck weed. He caught all of his large fish on a plastic crawdad.

"Big bait, big line, big hook," he said. "Then, it's a toe-to-toe battle."

The anglers who staked out Nanjemoy Creek all commented on the number of spectator boats that crowded to watch, in some cases muddying the water and scaring the fish. Before he left the dock yesterday, Morris teased fans that anyone who came close would risk getting shot with a paintball gun.

But Iaconelli, the 2003 Bassmaster Classic champion who holds a 45-point lead over Kennedy in the race for Angler of the Year, said dealing with fans has to be factored into the strategy.

"It's part of the sport growing," he said. "It's an awesome sport to watch."

The final event of the Elite Series is at Table Rock Lake outside Branson, Mo.

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