The two top dogs in the Bassmaster Classic did a flip-flop on Day Two of the tournament in North Alabama. Edwin Evers, from Talala, Okla., the last to weigh-in Saturday, edged out Day One leader Randall Tharp, from Port St. Joe, Fla., by ONE ounce. Evers caught 20-9 on Saturday for a 2-day total of 47-6.
However Guntersville Lake isn't producing the weights many experts expected prior to the tournament. Most thought it would take a total of at least 80 pounds over the three day event. It will take a record-breaking bag of fish Sunday for that to happen.
"I was surprised the weights didn't go up more today," said Tharp. "That rain we had (two days ago) really muddied things up and it's just not condusive to the field catching the weights that were expected."
The field started with 55 anglers but on Sunday only the Top 25 will get to fish. The winner will take home a $300,000 purse, as well as the opportunity for major endorsement deals. The 30 anglers who didn't make the cut will be pressing the flesh with fans at the huge Bassmaster Classic Outdoor Expo on Sunday, rather than fishing.
Several of the country's top anglers failed to make the cut including Kevin VanDam who just barely missed, ending in 26th place after Saturday. Skeet Reece and Mike Iaconelli also missed the cut, as did Gary Klein who was in last place.
BASS circuit comedian Gerald Swindle ended the day in 53rd place. He took it all in stride however, joking with the crowd at the weigh-in.
"I caught one fish yesterday and two today," said Swindle. "I just wanted to prove that anybody can go out (on Guntersville) and not catch crap."
Swindle said he tried everything, and nothing worked."I was more confused than when I tried to fill out the Obama healthcare plan," Swindle joked, drawing a huge laugh from the Birmingham crowd.
Tharp had an engine break down early in the day. Like a NASCAR pit crew, mechanics yanked his boat from the water and replaced his lower unit in less than an hour. Tharp said the time lost fishing wasn't so bad, but he said it broke his momentum.
"I felt like that sort of broke my rythm," said Tharp. "When I got back on the water I just didn't feel like I ever got back into a pattern."
If Tharp were to win he would be the only angler in history to win both the BASS and the FLW championships in one year.
Less than six pounds separates the Top 5 anglers. Several fishermen pointed out that on Guntersville Lake, a six pound difference can be made up with one fish. One angler said everybody tomorrow will need to be shooting for that "dirty thirty," a 30-pound bag of bass.
The big bass Saturday was 8-8, caught by Jordan Lee from Vinemont, Ala., who ended the day in 14th place. The big bass Friday was 9-3, caught by Fred Roumbanis from Bixby, Okla., who ended Saturday in 21st place.
by Richard Simms