It was not a fluke.
Jonathan Carter, a 30-year-old first-grade teacher who grew up in Orrington, followed up a stellar first-day effort in the prestigious Bassmaster Classic with another solid day of fishing, remained in seventh place, and stands in contention for the title in a fishing tournament with a $1.2 million total prize pool.
Many in the 53-angler field struggled on another cold day fishing Grand Lake o’ the Cherokees in Oklahoma. Carter was not among them: He again filled his five-fish bag limit, though he lost ground in total weight to some of the leaders.
Carter is not only making his first Bassmaster Classic appearance, he is the first Mainer to ever compete in the tourney that is called the Super Bowl of tournament bass fishing.
Of the 53 fishermen who started the tournament, only the top 25 (and those tied for the top 25) are allowed to fish in Sunday’s final round.
The winner of the tournament will take home $500,000. Other anglers will split the remaining $700,000. Carter will be among those taking home substantial cash for their performance in the event.
Carter’s five-fish bag limit on Friday weighed 18 pounds, 11 ounces. On Saturday, he caught another five that weighed 11 pounds, 1 ounce, leaving him with a two-day total of 29 pounds, 12 ounces.
Carter said his Friday performance was better than he could have expected, but said that though he fared better than many others on Saturday, he still faced challenges.
“Today was a lot tougher. I missed a lot of fish today,” said Carter, who said he could have had a much better day if he had landed some of those fish. “Hopefully I can stick them tomorrow.”
Carter’s two-day total puts him well behind the leader, Cliff Pace, who has a two-day total of 43 pounds, four ounces. Brandon Palaniuk is second with a total of 36 pounds, 4 ounces, while Michael Iaconelli is third at 35 pounds, 3 ounces.
Six fishermen trail Carter by two pounds or less.
Carter said that conditions were chilly on Saturday, but not as cold as he’d hoped for. And as a Mainer, he shocked a few of his new Oklahoma fans when he dealt with the cold in distinctively Pine Tree State style.
“At about 9 o’clock I took off my winter coat and at about 9:30 I took off my sweatshirt, and I heard them saying, ‘What is he thinking about here?': Carter said. “[Then I heard them say, ‘Oh, yeah, he’s from Maine.'”
While a few anglers said that they thought the lake had the chance to produce a 25-pound bag limit, which could propel an angler to a title, Carter was even more optimistic.
“I think there’s a 30-pound bag out there,” he said.
And though he wouldn’t predict that he’d be the man to show up at the weigh-in with five fish that averaged six pounds apiece, he also wasn’t willing to count himself out of contention.
“I’m just looking forward to fishing tomorrow, and we’ll see what happens,” he said.
Carter said he’s well aware that the Bassmaster Classic offers potentially life-changing prize money, but he is ignoring that fact heading into the final day. When asked how much the 25th-place angler would win, he said he had no idea.
“Everybody gets something, but I don’t know who gets what,” Carter said. “My main idea is to do well. I’ll worry about [the money] afterward.”