EVANS, Ga. — Kevin VanDam looked up Friday morning, but couldn't see past a chubby, midnight blue cloud overhead. Those sun-blotting blobs, along with a brisk morning wind are why things may look up for VanDam and many of the rest of the Bassmaster Elite Series pros on the second day of the Pride of Georgia presented by Evan Williams Bourbon.
Of all the big names who struggled Thursday, none was bigger than VanDam, the two-time Bassmaster Classic champ who couldn't even manage to boat a limit from Clarks Hill Lake, on the Georgia-South Carolina border and finished the day in 82nd place.
Like the rest of the field, he had to deal with "high, bluebird skies" and a slick water surface on a fishery that was expected to be comparatively difficult to begin with. A little cloud cover and a breeze had VanDam and others perked up Friday morning.
"I had my chances," VanDam said. "It just came down to executing. A lot of it had to do with the conditions, and how I was trying to catch them. I feel a lot better today."
Asked what he thought of the wind, Paul Elias said, "Can't hurt me, as bad as I did yesterday."
Elias (88th place, 6 pounds, 13 ounces) certainly did worse than most, but he was hardly the only angler to catch fewer and smaller fish than has become customary on the Elite Series.
At the pace the Elites established on Day One, the 50-angler first cut will require just more than 20 pounds. They're still contrasting those numbers with the Biblical bags that California's Clear Lake was producing in the previous Elite Series tournament. The two-day cut in the Golden State Shootout was nearly 42 pounds. Not even four-fifths of the Elites caught limits on Day One.
"It's a lot different than what we're used to," said Brent Chapman, as he reclined on the deck of his boat. "This is back to the old days where you could catch a decent bag and you'd do all right."
One factor they expected to sway the results Friday is the behavior of schooling fish — some anglers have seen them; others haven't — that will be chasing the blueback herring upon which the bass enjoy supping.
Day One leader Casey Ashley, who improved on his already solid singing of "The Star-spangled Banner" between Thursday and Friday mornings, said the clouds and wind boded well for him, and that he was going looking for schooling fish.
The rookie seemed cheery on the first day in his Elite Series career on which 106 anglers would be gunning for him.
"I'm just going to try to stay cool," Ashley said.