We just heard Tharp describe to his cameraman how he called an audible in a tournament years ago, but he hasn't pulled the trigger on a major change quite yet. He just idled a hundred yards or so to a high spot in the grass. Several spectators were sitting very close and they quickly scrambled to get out of his way.
Tharp has moved again, this time to the opposite side of the old river channel. He's closer to the bank, not quite as exposed. Of course we've heard the reports that other anglers like Randy Howell and Paul Mueller are having early success, but Tharp almost certainly has not. As the sun blares and the air temperature rises, he's probably thinking that his bite can only get better.
Jordan Lee has the best fans. They're staying well away from him and even provided striptease music when Jo took off his coat and bibs.
Within 15 minutes of my last post about how well Evers was handling the pressure of spectators and media, he started showing signs of cracking. He just got onto us for sitting in one spot 75 yards from him, saying he wanted to come back and fish the spot where we were sitting. We slowly and quietly backed up 50 more yards. Apparently, our psychic powers aren't what they should've been. A few minutes later, he chastised another media boat for being near the same spot. With more than two dozen spectators in the area now, I'm wondering how Evers will react to being under the microscope as the day progresses.
The activity is picking up for Tharp, but his weight hasn't improved. He set the hook on one fish, made a handful of cranks, and then his line went slack. Twenty yards down the flat he got another bite. This one made it into the boat, but he immediately dumped it to swim back where it came from and grow bigger.
Jordan Lee now has a limit in the boat. He's punching grass from a foot to 6 inches in depth. He says he's going to put every other rod back in the box except for the flippin' stick in his hand.
Tharp just moved down the lake again, to yet a third section of the flat on the edge of the river channel. From our GPS map and our distant vantage point it's hard to tell if he's keying on similar structural elements or why he's drawn to these precise spots. From above the surface it all looks pretty nondescript.
I failed to mention that Evers only has about a dozen spectator boats at the moment, so it will be interesting to see how he reacts to increased scrutiny if he stays near the top of the standings and the traffic picks up later.
By the way, he has a limit now, catching his fifth fish just a few minutes ago. But they'll only go about 10 pounds.
Edwin Evers is extremely composed for someone who entered the day leading the Bassmaster Classic. He's calm, cool and collected, taking his time and being very methodical in his approach. I've watched him dig around in his bait box and rod locker, and he's taking his time and not rushing.
Evers is somewhat known for a distaste for crowds and the media attention that come with the type of scenario he's fishing today. But he has been uncharacteristically inviting to the boats around him this morning, announcing when he's moving and explaining what he's doing so spectators and folks like photographer Jerry Cunningham and I can get what we need out here on the water.
He politely asked everyone out here within earshot to turn off their depth finders just a few minutes ago.
Randall Tharp lived near Lake Guntersville for 17 years before moving back to his home state of Florida last summer. Over that period of time, Tharp witnessed a change in bass spawning habits here.
"When I first started fishing here, the fish didn't spawn back in the creeks," Tharp said. "They spawned just off the main river channel."
When Tharp got here in December to look over the lake, before the cut-off date, he saw fish ganged up near the river channel again and thought they might go back to their old habits this year.
"That's what gives me the best chance to use my local knowledge," said Tharp.
He doesn't know exactly why the bass change but thinks it probably has to do with the amount of aquatic vegetation in the lake. The one thing he doesn't like is the lake level, which is only a foot or so higher than normal, but that's like 5 feet at other reservoirs.
"This lake is notorious for not fishing great when it's high," Tharp said. "When you get to the ramp and it's low, you know you're going to catch 'em."
Tharp said he's mainly throwing moving baits this week, X-Caliber lipless crankbaits, Rapala DT6s, and SPRO McStick jerkbaits, while mixing in a jig at times.