LEESBURG, Fla. — If Bobby Lane can move from 85th place one day to third place the next, as he did with a 26-9, five-bass limit Friday, any of the top 50 qualifiers today has a chance to win the Bassmaster Elite Series Sunshine Showdown, presented by Advance Auto Parts.
"There's such a big disparity between a decent sack here and a great sack," said Alton Jones, the recent Bassmaster Classic winner, who is in a three-way tie for 47th place on the Harris Chain of Lakes after two days. "A decent sack is 10 pounds, and a great sack is 30 pounds.
"You're going to see a couple of guys today that are not very high in the top 50 jump up and make the top 12. And you'll have a couple of guys who are way up there who will fall today."
The original field of 109 pros was reduced to the top 50 for this third day of competition. The top 12 after today's 4 p.m. weigh-in will compete Sunday for the $100,000 first-place check.
Weather — specifically wind — will play a big role in today's outcome. The anglers took off from Venetian Cove on Harris Lake at 7:30 a.m. under partly cloudy skies and west winds at 25 miles per hour, with 35 to 40 mph gusts expected later today. It was 59 degrees at take-off and the high for the day is expected to be only three degrees warmer.
"Wind is okay," said Rick Morris, who moved from 18th place to fourth place Friday and proclaimed, "The wind is my friend."
"It's the cold front that worries me," Morris said Saturday morning. "Florida bass are sissies in a cold front, so that could hurt me. But maybe the wind will keep them biting."
The pros acknowledged that these high winds won't make it a fun day to fish, but declared a preference for high wind over no wind.
"I want it to blow 100 miles an hour," said Mark Menendez, who, like Lane, made a big jump Friday with a 24-9 limit. He sits in second place with 34-13, behind leader Brian Snowden's 37-3.
"The wind is crucial to what we're doing, and it really helps position the fish. It'll just be bumpy getting there and bumpy coming home."
When Menendez says "we," he is referring to his roommate Bill Lowen, who led on Day One with 21-10, but dropped to sixth place Friday with his total of 30-14.
(Elite Series pros are allowed to work together and share information among themselves; it's advice from local anglers or anyone not competing in the tournament that's not allowed.)
Jones had a rough start in his first competition after winning the Classic two weeks ago in Greenville, S.C. He was in 64th place with 8-14 Thursday. He caught a big fish in the last hour Friday he told his co-angler "was probably worth $10,000."
And that proved to be true, as that bass moved Jones into the top 50, where the minimum payout is ten grand.
Shaw Grigsby, along with Steve Kennedy, are in that same 47th-place slot with Jones. And Grigsby especially, because he lives in Gainesville, knows that anything can happen during one day on these Florida lakes.
"In my opinion, that's what makes Florida so good," Grigsby said. "Normal stringers are 10 pounds. But there are so many big ones here, you can put two or three of those together and you can have 30-pound stringers, 40-pound stringers. We've had 45-pound stringers in Florida.
"So you have the potential to have a giant stringer any day you go fishing in Florida, yet a normal stringer is 10 pounds. The span is huge.
"Like at Clear Lake [in California] last year, everybody was catching 25 pounds. But it was the guys that caught 27, 28, 29 who were separating themselves from the rest of the field.
"I can make the top 12 here today, and I'm sitting in 47th place."
There's not many places where you can say that and expect anyone to believe you. But, as Grigsby said, "This is Florida."
So anything can happen.
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.