LAKEPORT, Calif. — After weighing in another pendulous sack of bass on Day Two of the Golden State Shootout presented by Evan Williams Bourbon, Greg Gutierrez made an appearance at the parking lot of the nearby Kmart. There, the full-time fire captain did a little meet-and-greet with families — "lots of kids," he said Saturday morning — and along with some fire agencies he invited, gave them lessons on fire prevention.
Maybe he should have been back at the firehouse that's putting him up for the week, tying lures and resting, but Gutierrez seems less likely to burn out than to burn up. His two-day total across the scales, 66 pounds, 10 ounces, puts him 57 percent of the way to a record BASS tournament total weight with two more days to go.
No angler is hotter, but several are close enough to give Gutierrez a tight chase. Right behind him is Kelly Jordon (2nd, 55-11), followed by Gutierrez' pick for most likely to upset him, Skeet Reese (3rd, 54-5). "Kelly got 32 pounds yesterday," Gutierrez said. "But he only had 23 pounds the first day. Skeet has 27 pounds both days."
Reese's 26-12 and 27-9 have put him in contention, but still more than 12 pounds behind Gutierrez. Anglers have all but conceded that Gutierrez is going to continue catching huge bags. Their best hope of preventing him from winning his first Elite tournament, it seems, is simply to beat him at his own game, and catch a sack of massive largemouths. Ish Monroe (5th, 53-0) described a plan as good as any Saturday when he said he wanted two days of 35 pound sacks while Gutierrez caught only about 27 each day.
"We're all seeing giants," said angler Kevin Wirth (23rd, 48-0). "If you just go out and look, it's unbelievable."
According to Jordon, the key to the day, and thus the tournament, is "whether a lot of fish move up and sit on beds." Next week is shaping up to look like the ideal time to catch fish off the beds. But many thousands of fish are in the process of moving into shallow water to spawn. Some are already on beds, but the plum bite seems to be the staging fish, which is what Gutierrez is riding.
The bite, if huge, can be terribly fickle. "They tease you," Jordon said. "But I tease 32 pounds right back."
Even though Jordon had 31 pounds by 9 a.m. on Friday, he would have preferred not to be in the first flight to leave the dock (and thus, the first to return) on Saturday. "There's a late afternoon bite right now that's just sick."
The weights on Saturday have a chance to get plain daffy. Combined weights Friday were up just 43 pounds, to 2,249 for the field. But of the top 20 remaining anglers, only seven weighed smaller bags the second day. Anglers are figuring out the lake, and landing fish that they've spotted on earlier days.
There's a reason why current tournament record-holder Preston Clark said there was a "95 percent chance" that his record would fall this weekend, and why proto-angler Kevin VanDam (t-6th, 52-6) said this is the best fishing he's seen in his career.
Anglers are digging the fishing on Clear Lake, but none more than Gutierrez. Just before the blast off, emcee Keith Alan caught up with Gutierrez. Over the loudspeaker, the fire fighter's voice echoed: "My face hurts, I'm smiling so much."
Editors Note: ESPNOutdoors.com's new and exclusive pre-game show, Hooked Up, will start at 6 p.m. (ET) on Sunday, April 1. It will be hosted by ESPN2 Bassmaster television hosts Tommy Sanders and Jerry McKinnis, and can be seen in the same location on ESPNOutdoors.com where the live video weigh-in is streamed.