LEESBURG, Fla. — It isn't a traditional line of thought among the co-angler ranks, but two-day leader Jim McDevitt claims his secret to success on the Harris Chain of Lakes is practice.
As a co-angler in the back of the boat, it almost seems useless to practice. You're going where the pro wants to go: There's no marking spots or trying different baits in different areas. The traditional school of thought is to hope you draw an angler that's on fish — and hope there's enough for you.
McDevitt, who has a 5-pound, 8-ounce lead over second place Bryan Talmadge, said he's been able to keep a consistent bite because he spent a few days establishing patterns on the lakes before the tournament ever started.
"I had to switch baits today and I did it right away," said McDevitt, who weighed in 9-5 on Friday, for a total of 26-2 over two days. "I knew that because of practice. What's the saying? Practice is the best. And it's also luck.
"Luck is when preparation collides with opportunity. That's where that practice comes in."
McDevitt said he's got three different game plans and he's used two of them on the first two days. And with that hefty lead and a plan for almost any condition in place, he's set to capture his second co-angler victory with BASS, which would more than double his tournament winnings from just over $41,000 to just under $100,000.
"I've been on this lake a couple times," he said. "I get to an area and I feel comfortable I know what to do."
Talmadge had the opposite answer when asked the key behind the 15-11 bag he caught Friday, giving him a two-day total of 20-10.
"Luck," he said. "That's all it was. I was basically fishing the same type of areas I was yesterday and I was doing the same stuff. I just fished deeper and faster, and it worked out."
He had all his big fish within two hours of launch, fishing on the back of Kurt Dove's boat. Dove finished with 6-12 on Friday, so Talmadge must have been doing something right. Here was his tip for success.
"Fish different than them," he said. "They're going to catch what's in front of them, and you've got to try something different."
As for his chances or plans for the final day tomorrow, in contrast to McDevitt, Talmadge said it's hard to plan until you get on the water with the pro.
"It's a crap shoot," Talmadge said. "Who do you get? Where do you go? You just make the adjustments and hopefully get five."
McDevitt, on the other hand, feels like he can catch them almost anywhere with anyone, and he's got a lead that's going to be hard to beat from the back of the boat. But he said it's not in the books just yet, there could be other anglers out there who prepared as well as he did.
"There are some good co-anglers here," he said. "Any of them can do it … if they've done the homework. If you do the homework, you've got a chance to past the test."
Visit Bassmaster.com for full coverage of the Elite Series Sunshine Showdown on the Harris Chain of Lakes, from Leesburg, Fla., March 6th–9th, 2008. Daily weigh-ins with live streaming video and real-time leaderboards start at 4 p.m. ET. "Hooked Up" will air Sunday at 10 a.m., noon and 3:30 p.m. ET. And a reminder … Daylight Savings Time starts Sunday, so remember to set your clocks.