EVANS, Ga. — At the start of Day Three in the Pride of Georgia presented by Evan Williams Bourbon, the top 6 anglers were separated by a little more than three pounds.
"I told some people yesterday that [Saturday] is going to be the day that decides this tournament," said Chris Lane, who started Day Three with a two-ounce lead over Mike McClelland. "I thought I needed about 20 pounds to separate myself from the field."
He caught 18 pounds, 13 ounces and holds the lead by 5-0, which is intimidating in a tournament where bags over 15 pounds have been scarce.
Lane has spent the entire tournament in a deep hole on one of the many arms of Clarks Hill Lake. He said he has been hammering on the spot, and his gut tells him that the fish will be there again Sunday.
"Hopefully they'll replenish or do something, just as long as they're in there," Lane said. "I'm fishing there all day tomorrow. I'm going to win it or lose it in that spot."
Lane's spot is the gift that keeps on giving. He hasn't come to the scales with less than 17 pounds all week, but it represented an even greater value on Day Three. A local tournament launched on Clarks Hill on Saturday and the weekend anglers were in full force.
Lots of pros, including local Elite Series rookie Casey Ashley, said the local pressure had an effect on their day, but Lane said he didn't have a problem. His spot is so discreet he had to slowly follow his GPS to find it.
"Maybe they [the locals] couldn't find me in the morning," Lane said. "I had a couple guys come into the spot late in the afternoon, but they were real respectful."
The majority of the anglers who made the top-12 cut are fishing one of two ways: 1.) They are jumping points at five minutes apiece or 2.) They have one spot that has yielded 90 percent of their stringer.
The point jumpers, like Ashley and Derek Remitz, really felt the local traffic Saturday. Ashley led the tournament after Day One with 22-6, which still stands as the largest stringer of the tournament. But his weight dropped to 14-8 on Day Two and all the way down to 9-6 on Saturday.
"It's tough man," said Ashley, who sits in sixth with 46-3. "There was a lot of pressure out there today and a lot of people muddying up the water. Hey that's just what you have on the weekends.
"I figured out a little different deal late today, but I didn't have time to run it. I hope it's like this again tomorrow. I like it when it's tough."
Remitz, who weighed-in his lightest bag (10-11) of the tournament on Saturday, said he thought the sunny, calm conditions were good for his bite, but he was dead wrong.
"I really don't know what happened," he said. "I just struggled to get a bite and when I did, I lost them. I was lucky to get five."
Some low weights from anglers that topped the board on Friday made room for some big names to make their way into the top 12. Ish Monroe made the biggest move, jumping from 37th to 10th with the largest bag of the day (19-12), and Angler of the Year points leader Skeet Reese surprised himself with a 17-pound stringer that moved him from 19th to eighth.
But the anglers that were fishing spots, like Pete Ponds (2nd, 51-12), Mike McClelland (3rd, 50-8), and Kevin Short (4th, 47-4) said they had no shortage of bites on Day Three.
"I hit my fish harder today than I did yesterday, but I've still got plenty of good fish left," Ponds said. He admitted that five pounds in this tournament is a pretty good margin, but said it would be foolish to count him out.
"I caught 21 pounds in this spot on the first day, and there's at least that still there," he said.
And Lane is heeding the warning.
"There were a lot of guys who caught them today, so there's no slacking off tomorrow," he said. "It's all business."