Greg Hackney will need a big day Sunday on Grand Lake O’ the Cherokees if he’s going to win his first-ever Bassmaster Classic title.
The Gonzales angler was once again on the fish — just not the right ones. The Sportsman TV host wrapped up Day 2 in 12th place with a five-fish sack weighing-in at 9 pounds, 14 ounces, for a two-day total of 25-15.
That leaves him almost 12 pounds behind home-state favorite Jason Christie, who had another solid day with five fish weighing-in at 16-11, good for a two-day total of 37-09.
Christie leads second-place angler Todd Faircloth (31-14) by more than 5 pounds, and has better than a 6-pound advantage over third-place angler Edwin Evers (31-4), another Oklahoma native.
“It wasn’t a great day by Grand Lake standards, but it was pretty good compared to what everybody else did today,” said Christie, who lives in Park Hill, Okla., just an hour from Grand Lake. “Just like Friday, I was surprised that I had as much weight as I did.”
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Christie was emphatic Friday that he was going to stick with the one tactic that’s really been working for him since practice began for the event last week.
He stuck with it Saturday, and it worked again. He plans to claim a Classic title or go down swinging with the same approach Sunday.
“It’s the only thing I’ve caught a fish on since I got here for practice,” said Christie, adding that he’ll give more details on what he’s doing as soon as the tournament ends. “There’s just no reason to change.”
Though a lead of 5 plus-pounds is sizable, Christie said he hardly feels like he’ll be home-free with another good day Sunday — especially with anglers like Faircloth and Evers as his closest competition.
“I don’t know if there’s any such thing as ‘home-free’ on Grand Lake,” Christie said. “There are a lot of big fish in this lake, and anything can happen.”
After landing in ninth place with 14-15 Friday, Faircloth added 16-15 Saturday to jump into second with 31-14. Like most of the field, he found the fishing slow and sometimes frustrating.
“It’s so hard to stay focused when you’re going so long between bites,” Faircloth said. “When you’re not getting many bites, you really need to execute on every one you get. It’s tough.”
The Texas pro, who is fishing his 14th Classic, said he also plans to stick with what’s been working — even though the fishing hasn’t been fast and furious.
“I’m fishing everything in front of me,” said Faircloth, who holds five B.A.S.S. victories but no Classic titles. “I’ve been catching them off docks, off wood — a little bit of everything.
“I do have a couple of spots that I haven’t been to, and I caught a couple of big fish on those places in practice. But I could go there tomorrow and not get a bite. So I’m going to stick with what I’ve done the last two days and see what happens.”
With 13-12 on Day 1 and 17-8 on Day 2, Evers was one of the few anglers whose catch improved dramatically Saturday. He said his better catch was the result of a complete change in strategy.
“It’s not hard to improve when you only catch four fish the first day,” Evers said. “I went and did something totally different today, and it’s not really the kind of thing that you normally do to win on Grand. But Grand is not normal right now.”
After a recent cold front, the water temperature is now rising rapidly on the lake, and many of the anglers think the fish are slightly in shock because of it. Some competitors have also been hurt during the first two rounds by a lack of wind that has made the lake slick and caused fish to be more skittish than they are in choppier water.
With more wind in the forecast for Sunday, Evers said he may redirect again.
“I think I made a good decision today, but I honestly don’t think I’ll go and do it again tomorrow,” he said. “I don’t think I can win with it, and that’s what I’m trying to do — win this thing.”
The tournament’s championship round will begin Sunday, with the Top 25 remaining anglers leaving the dock at 7 a.m. The weigh-in is set to begin at 3:15 p.m. in Tulsa.
The winner will receive $300,000 and the most coveted trophy in the sport.
Christie will be attempting to win a Classic in his home state, just as South Carolina native Casey Ashley did last year on Lake Hartwell and Alabamian Randy Howell did in 2014 on Lake Guntersville. Prior to Howell’s win, only one other angler had won a Classic in his home state — Alabamian Boyd Duckett on Lay Lake in 2007.