Casey friends reap the rewards of fishing together

April 09, 2004|JILL ERWIN

LIBERTY - Twenty years ago Bennie Patton helped Jeff Carman get acclimated to tournament fishing.

Last month, the two longtime friends - Patton is from Dunnville and Carman from Liberty - celebrated their best fishing weekend ever in an EverStart Series FLW bass tournament at Lake Eufaula in Alabama.

Carman won the co-angler division of the tournament and took home $5,000 and a new Ranger boat, while Patton finished seventh and won $1,800.

"Bennie took me under his wing a little bit," Carman said. "He and I fish together, and the first money I ever won at a tournament came when we were fishing together. We've been the best of friends for over 20 years, and we've fished and hunted all over the country."


"I didn't want to say that. If he feels like I'm his mentor, I guess I am," Patton said. "Maybe he's passed up his teacher."

The best two days of his fishing career

Carman did just that on the third day of the tournament. Patton was in first place after two days, largely because of a second-day haul of four fish for 18 pounds, 8 ounces. However, Carman had the best two days of his fishing career on the second and third days.

"I caught my limit (22 pounds, 4 ounces) within two hours (on the second day)and I quit fishing that day at 10 a.m.," Carman said. "I told the pro I was fishing with, Gerald Beck, 'I don't see myself improving much on this bag, you need to catch some.' Then I sat back, ate some sandwiches and drank some soft drinks for the rest of the day."

He followed that up with a third-day total of 22 pounds, 7 ounces. Of the 400 competitors (200 pros, 200 co-anglers), none came close to either of his big catches.

"For four days fishing, no one had a sack like that," Carman said. "I caught it two days in a row."

When he first arrived in Alabama, Carman wasn't even thinking about fishing because he came down with a case of food poisoning. He spent one day in the hospital and didn't really get to begin practicing until until two days later - or only two days before the tourney started.

Just one fish on the first day

His first day showed that, as he caught just one fish for 2 pounds, 1 ounce. But the pro he fished with that first day, Steve Kennedy, was also paired with him again for the third day.

"He had been targeting the banks I'd showed him," Carman said. "I was fishing a jig, and he refused to throw a jig. He said, 'I have a bad feeling you're going to burn my britches.'"

He did just that, and he carried an 8 1/2-pound lead into the final day. That was more than enough to carry him to the title.

For that, he took home $5,000 and a new boat. However, Carman's Ranger boat is only four years old, and he said it was worth keeping. So he sold his new boat to a dealer in London and took the money.

Carman and his wife, Donna, built a new house last year on Lake Liberty, and he said having two boats was less of a necessity than having some cash around.

"Money was a whole lot more appealing than another boat," Jeff Carman said. "Things sometimes find a way to work out. A quick $20,000 comes in handy after you build a house."

Patton didn't win nearly that much, but he did come away with his biggest prize of his career.

Every bite was a five-pound fish

Patton's big day came on the second day. He said every bite he was getting was a five-pound fish, and said he felt like he was in a zone.

"I guess it was just one of those days," Patton said. "Everything I was doing was right.

"My poor old pro partner ... I had three of mine in the boat before he caught one. He did catch a couple, and that helped his feelings out a little bit."

Both hope to remain in the top 40 in points standings through the remainder of the season (Carman is 31st, Patton 39th). If that happens, they will qualify to compete in the EverStart Championship tournament on Lake Cumberland.

"I don't think that will be a problem," Patton said. "We have one tournament coming up on Lake Guntersville in Alabama (on May 19) that's just loaded with big fish. Then again, everybody's going to be trying to catch them. But I think we'll be all right."

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