Todd Faircloth explained his predicament Friday in the quest to catch Brent Chapman in the Toyota Tundra Bassmaster Angler of the Year race. Faircloth has posted almost identical days: 14-5, then 14-9. He's in 13th place.
"If I maximize my area, I can catch 15 pounds," he said. "I can't do much better than that, from what I've seen."
Faircloth, like many others, is seeing a ton of smallmouth bass in the 2 1/2- to 3 1/2-pound range. You can see evidence of Faircloth's observation throughout the Day Two leaderboard's Top 10: Almost everyone has 30 pounds, from first-place Randy Howell's 32-2 to ninth-place Matt Herren's 30-0. Jason Quinn is just 2 ounces shy of the 30-pound mark in 10th place. In other words, 10 bass averaging 3 pounds apiece has been the standard of excellence after two days.
The game-changer at Oneida Lake is a 5-pound largemouth.
"A 5-pounder is a giant here," Faircloth said. "If you've got a 2 1/2-pounder in the box, and you replace it with a 5-pounder, those 2 1/2 pounds can make a big difference in this tournament."
Mike Iaconelli had the Carhartt Big Bass of the tournament so far — a 5-5 — in his 20-3 total Thursday. Boyd Duckett's 17-11 Friday was the day's big bag and included the big bass of the day — a 5-1.
But the largemouth have been difficult to find this week. Tommy Biffle, who won here in 2006 targeting strictly largemouth, didn't even look for them this time. He said that almost every place he caught a largemouth in '06 is dry ground now.
Iaconelli almost ruined his tournament by targeting largemouth yesterday. Without a bass in the boat at 12:30 p.m., he changed tactics to catch five "small smallmouth," then went back to largemouth fishing and didn't get another bite the rest of the day.
The largemouth bass in Oneida are high-risk, high-reward, obviously.
But for those who need to move significantly up the standings today, it's a risk they'll have to take at some point.