Monroe maintains lead after two days of Okeechobee Elite Series

Crochet makes top-50 cut in Bassmaster event

Smashing a six-year-old Bassmaster Elite Series record and threatening others, Ish Monroe increased his lead Friday to 13 pounds, 11 ounces, in the Power-Pole Slam over his nearest challenger, 2012 Bassmaster Classic champion Chris Lane.

Monroe weighed in 24-15 Friday to add to his gigantic first-day sack of 34-5 for a two-day total of 59-4 on Lake Okeechobee. Lane, who won Bassmaster events on Okeechobee in 2006 and 2010, had 45-9 for second place, moving up from fourth.

Monroe isn’t claiming anything, even with 13-plus pounds as a cushion.

“I want a 40-pound lead to be comfortable. Anything can happen tomorrow,” he said.

In third with 41-3, Jeff Kriet of Ardmore, Okla., trailed Monroe by 18-1. Fourth place was taken by 2009 Classic winner Skeet Reese of Auburn, Calif., with 39-14. Fifth was held by Lakeland, Fla., Elite rookie Kyle Fox, who had 38-5. In sixth place was Todd Faircloth of Jasper, Texas, who was the runner-up at the Elite event last week on Florida’s St. Johns River.

Pierre Part’s Cliff Crochet goes into the third day in 35th with 27-3.

Click here for full standings.

The field was cut to the Top 50 for Saturday’s competition. On Sunday, only the Top 12 will battle for the first prize of $100,000 and an instant qualification for the 2013 Bassmaster Classic. All pros are vying for points that count toward a Classic berth, postseason entry and the Toyota Tundra Bassmaster Angler of the Year award.

Monroe’s 13-11 lead over Lane surpassed the 12-1 record for a Day 2 Elite lead set in 2006 by Mike McClelland on Oklahoma’s Grand Lake. It was Monroe’s second record in as many days: Thursday, his 8-12 lead broke a four-year Elite record for the Day 1 margin by a leader. The old Day 1 record, set by Aaron Martens, was 6-4.

The Power-Pole Slam’s leader would have to step back up to 30-something bags to threaten the four-day record of 132-8 by Paul Elias on Texas’ Falcon Lake, but Monroe said he is shooting for it.

After landing lunkers almost consecutively Thursday, Monroe had to work harder Friday, moving through a lot of smaller fish between the larger bites. His biggest bass of the day was a 6-15, backed up by mostly 4-pounders.

“I missed another good one, but that lets me know that with the wind blowing the way it is, it’s going to give me more water,” he said. The wind was blowing out of the west, pushing enough water so he can venture farther back into his area without worrying about getting stuck.

He’s flipping his way inside high vegetation, working slowly. Like Thursday, he used the Missile D Bomb, but said he switched to another bait when the wind died down. He was working a stretch about 1/4 mile long.

“But there’s three miles of shoreline in that general area,” he said.  “I’m going to have to expand [into it] a little bit tomorrow, because I kind of put the hurt on the area I’ve been fishing the first two days. But there’s lots of water there — lots of places for fish to be.”

Lane said he missed a pair of 6-pounders Friday that would have helped his case against Monroe.

“But with the way I’m fishing, I have to expect I’ll miss a couple a day,” he said. “I’ll just have to keep putting 23 or 24 on the board and see where we end up.”

He’s been taking his bass out of “the thick stuff.”

“Getting them out’s tough. It’s not like you hem them on a reed, and they lay there. They keep on until they rip themselves out,” said Lane, who not only won on Okeechobee twice, but also won on the Harris Chain of Lakes earlier this season.

Less wind on Lake Okeechobee will help him Saturday, Lane said.

Kriet said his success and consistency — 19-5 on the first day, 21-14 on the second day with a 5-pound anchor fish — was possible because he had water mostly to himself, at least early in the day.

“There’s a lot of fish in there, and I’m having to catch them three or four different ways,” he said. He’s flipping, frogging, swimming a jig.

Reese, who popped up from eighth into fourth, said he caught his larger fish by sight fishing late in the afternoon.

“There’s still a few good ones around, but not too many,” he said, adding that he might run some new water Saturday.

A 7-13 by Kelly Jordon of Palestine, Texas, was Friday’s big bass. It matched Kevin Short’s 7-13 of Thursday, creating a tie in the Carhartt Big Bass competition for up to $1,500 in bonuses. The bonus goes to the angler with the largest bass over all four days of the Power-Pole Slam.

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