The second day of the Bassmaster Elite Series stop on the St. Johns River was one that was beyond belief. Gonzales pro Greg Hackney weighed in a 10-pound, 10-ounce monster, and he was joined in the 10-pound club by Pierre Part’s Cliff Crochet.
And then there was the sack of bass brought to the stage by 2012 Bassmaster Classic champ Chris Lane — five fish that pushed the scales to 37 pounds, 9 ounces.
Lane said the stringer was largest one-day weight he’s ever achieved.
And it was more than enough for the pro from Guntersville, Ala., to take the lead in the Bassmaster Elite Series event after two of the four rounds of fishing. Lane climbed from 15th place into first with a two-day total of 56-4.
Hackney goes into the third day in sixth place, while Crochet jumped 94th to 37th on the strength of his second-day stringer. Crochet talks about his double-digit bass in the attached video.
Lane’s lead was an ounce shy of 9 pounds over first-day leader Randy Howell of Springville, Ala., who dropped to second place with a 47-5 two-day total.
Third place was taken by Elite rookie Justin Lucas of Guntersville, Ala., who rose from 12th place on the strength of his Friday bag of 24-15 for a two-day weight of 44-11.
Mark Davis of Mount Ida, Ark., brought in 26-7 to make his total 44-10 and move him up from 17th into fourth place. In fifth place was Paul Elias of Laurel, Miss., with 44-3.
Lane said he was frustrated after the first day, and upset that he, a Florida native, had not fished to his potential. He made himself fish more slowly. He tried another lure.
The adjustments worked. By early afternoon he had about 30 pounds in his livewell, he estimated, including an 8-15. He thought about checking in early.
“But I had a 3 1/2-pounder I wanted to get out (cull for a larger bass),” he said. “I just felt like today was the day when the big ones were biting. I stopped on a stretch of pads and caught a 4-pounder and culled. Then I caught a 5-pounder and culled the 4-pounder. And then I caught the 9-12, and culled the 5-pounder.”
“I knew I was done after that,” Lane said. He headed toward the check-in point in Palatka, about an hour’s drive by water from his hot spot, and arrived about 45 minutes early.
“When you have a day like I did today, you just want to get back in,” he said.
Lane said he has not been sight fishing at all over the two days of the event, but flipping and pitching into vegetation.
“I’m fishing exactly how I want to, and I’m having fun,” he said.
Howell said the spawning beds that yielded 27-3 to him on Day 1 are almost depleted of bass, and that too many competitors drifted closer to his best spots. He is considering abandoning that area.
“Unless something crazy happens overnight and a lot of new fish move in,” he said. “I was just grateful to catch 20 pounds out of that area today.”
Howell brought in a 7-14, but despite searching, could not find another kicker.
Lucas, who is competing on the St. Johns River system for the first time, decided to quit the spawning areas at about 10 a.m. He had nothing in his livewell. He moved to another area, and by 2:30 had about 6 pounds.
Then, he said, he “stumbled on an absolute honey hole.” On his last cast, a 10-2 came back to him. In an hour and 10 minutes, he had gone from 6 pounds to 24-15.
The field was cut to 50 for Saturday’s semi-final round. The cut fell at 28-14, the two-day weight produced by local favorite Terry Scroggins of San Mateo, Fla. On Sunday, only the Top 12 will compete for the first prize of $100,000 and an automatic berth in the 2015 Bassmaster Classic.