LEESBURG, Fla. — Mother Nature may have made Brian Snowden's 10-pound lead safer than it would usually be at the Harris Chain of Lakes. It was 43 degrees when the 12 Bassmaster Elite Series pros took off from Venetian Cove Sunday for the final day of the Sunshine Showdown, presented by Advance Auto Parts.
"Weather affects this place a lot," said Bobby Lane, who is from Lakeland, Fla., and sits in third place, 11 pounds, 6 ounces behind Snowden. "What it's going to do today, I have no idea. When it's cold and windy, fish in Florida don't like to bite, so today is a day to try to make them bite."
At least it's not as windy as it was Saturday, when the wind blew at 25 mph, with gusts up to 40. It was a relatively calm 10 mph with northeastern breezes and clear skies that greeted the pros Sunday at 7:30 a.m.
"I slept good last night," said Snowden, who has finished second in three BASS events, but never won one. "I was pretty worn out after fighting that wind yesterday. That's about the worst wind I've ever fished in. Trying to fish slow made it real difficult."
Snowden has been steady all week, in spite of the weather, which has changed every day of the tournament. He started with 17-3 Thursday, had 20-0 Friday and 16-13 Saturday, compiling his 54-0 total.
Mike McClelland is in second place, 9-14 behind Snowden. Two years ago at Oklahoma's Grand Lake, McClelland was in the same position as Snowden is today, with a big lead going into Sunday. McClelland finished with a comfortable margin of victory there in the Elite Series Sooner Run.
"I think I had about a 12-pound lead going into the last day there," McClelland said. "Honestly, that's a little more of a cushion there than it is here. Here it's easier to make up that nine pounds with the right bite. Whereas at Grand, the opportunity to catch an 8-, 9-, 10-pounder is pretty slim.
"He's probably not quite as comfortable as I was at Grand, but he's caught them consistently all week, so he's on them good."
Snowden has had only two rods on his boat deck all week — identically rigged St. Croix 7-foot, 11-inch flipping sticks rigged with Bass Pro Johnny Morris Elite baitcasting reels and 20-pound test Bass Pro XPS fluorocarbon line. He's used a 3/8ths-ounce Bass Pro tungsten weight and either a Sweet Beaver or Zoom Ultra Vibe Speed Craw soft plastic lure, both in black neon color patterns.
He's been sharing his two primary areas with several other Elite Series pros, but with the field reduced to 12, that boat traffic will be cut down today. Plus, because of the wind, he wasn't able to go to his best spot yesterday, so it is well-rested.
"Usually, I've been done by about 11 o'clock," said Snowden, who is from Reeds Spring, Mo. "So I'm going to spend some extra time in there today. Maybe the water will warm up this afternoon. I think that's going to be critical."
In the back of Snowden's mind, he has to be thinking about the big jumps up the leaderboard that pros like Bobby Lane, Chris Lane and Mark Menendez have made this week. Friday Bobby Lane caught the biggest bag of the tournament — a five-bass limit weighing 26-9 — to move from 85th place to third. Menendez bagged 24-9 that day to jump from 47th place to second. Chris Lane caught 19-12 Saturday to go from 50th to fifth.
"I'm not going to feel safe until I've got another 15 pounds in the boat today," Snowden said. "That means they're going to have to catch 25 pounds, and that's going to be tough to do on a cold front day like today."
Temperatures are expected to warm into the 60s before today's 4 p.m. weigh-in at Venetian Cove, where the $100,000 first-place check will be awarded.
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.