LEESBURG, Fla. — If this were any place else but Florida, Brian Snowden could already be counting his money from winning the Bassmaster Elite Series Sunshine Showdown presented by Advance Auto Parts.
Despite winds that howled up to 40 mph Saturday on the Harris Chain of Lakes, Snowden widened his first-place lead Friday from 2 pounds, 6 ounces to almost 10 pounds Saturday.
But this is Florida, and no margin is safe. Another one of the Lane brothers proved that Saturday, as Chris Lane jumped from 50th place to fifth with the Berkley Heavyweight bag of 19-12. He also won the Purolator Big Bass award with a 6-2.
On Friday, Bobby Lane zoomed up the leaderboard from 85th place to third with the biggest five-bass limit of the tournament so far, 26-9.
The Florida lakes trait that Shaw Grigsby expounded on Saturday morning is what will keep Snowden from sleeping soundly before Sunday's top 12 finale.
"Normal stringers are 10 pounds," Grigsby said. "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."
Fortunately for Snowden, he's on a pattern that has been better than average, no matter what the weather this week. His weight for three days has been consistent — 17-3, 20-0 and 16-13, which was the second biggest bag Saturday, to give him a total of 54-0.
"If Brian just had a horrible day and the good Lord shined down on me, I might could catch him," said Mike McClelland, who is in second place with 44-2. "But he's just fishing flawlessly. I almost feel like I'm fishing for second place."
Snowden, who has finished second three times but never won a BASS event, is flipping soft plastic lures in areas where several other Elite Series pros have concentrated. But the 35-year-old Reeds Spring, Mo., resident obviously has refined his pattern better than anyone else.
"The wind made it very, very difficult today," Snowden said. "There was one key stretch I couldn't fish at all. I was very fortunate. My second-best area was protected from the wind and relatively calm.
"If the wind will go down to about 10 miles-an-hour, we'll see how many are left (in that key stretch) tomorrow. All I need are five more good bites."
Just how hard was the wind blowing Saturday? Greg Swindle, as he often does, said it best: "It was so bad out there my kidneys were white-capping."
Chris Lane has his bass boat set up in a unique fashion, which allowed him to withstand the constant 25 mph winds that gusted considerably higher throughout the day. Lane has not one, but two Power Poles mounted on the back of his boat. By putting down both poles, Lane could anchor himself in areas of thick aquatic vegetation and flip them slowly and methodically.
"Without those two Power Poles, I couldn't have caught what I did," said Lane, whose three-day total is 41-3. "We call it doubling down. You've got to fish so slow. That allowed me to sit in certain areas and pick them apart."
Lane said he caught 12 or 13 keepers Saturday, flipping a Gambler 4-inch soft plastic chartreuse/green pumpkin Crawdad.
"They were spawning fish," Lane said. "I got the opportunity to look at Bobby's fish yesterday and a couple of them were full of roe.
"The areas where I caught fish were 3- to 4-feet deep, and that was important because a lot of that water is only 2-feet deep."
Bobby Lane remained in third place Saturday but caught a limit that weighed only 8-11, giving him a total of 42-10. He caught that big bag Friday by casting a Gambler Ninja Spin spinnerbait on main lake areas, just outside the grass lines. But that tactic wasn't possible due to the wind Saturday.
"I didn't want to go get beat up in that wind," said Lane, who flipped various soft plastics in wind-protected areas to put a limit in the boat.
"I had five in the boat in the first two hours," Lane said.
But he couldn't find a lunker doing that. And really no one else did Saturday in comparison to the previous two days. Bill Lowen took big bass honors with a 10-6 Thursday and Jim Murray did it with a 9-3 Friday. Bass like the 6-12 Chris Lane took top honors with Saturday had been common the previous two days.
And if the wind lays down, as it is predicted to Sunday, those big bass could start biting again. That's the main factor in making Snowden's 9-14 lead within reach for the other 11 anglers who qualified for the final day of competition.
Dean Rojas is in fourth place, exactly where he was after Day One. His total of 42-6 has him almost 12 pounds behind Snowden.
"I've had a great three days," Rojas said. "I had 12 keepers today. I haven't changed all week. They're up shallow. I'm just fishing real slow. I know with that cold front coming through, I'll have to slow down even more (Sunday).
"I don't know if I can catch Brian. I'll need a couple of big bites."
Rojas has been flipping a Slurpee Jungle Hawg in 2 to 5 feet of water.
Like everyone else near the top of the leaderboard, McClelland has had to concentrate on slowing down to catch his fish. He has been casting a Zoom Trick Worm in lily pads.
"The fish are spawning around those pad stems," McClelland said. "You have to fish really slow.
"I'd pitch that worm in there and just leave it for 15 or 20 seconds.
"This is a moral victory for me, no matter what happens (Sunday). I know I don't fish slow enough sometimes. I made my mind up that I was going to have the confidence to slow down this week."
Steve Kennedy made almost as big a move as Chris Lane did Saturday to make the top 12. He was in a three-way tie for 47th place Friday and moved up to 7th with 16-9. Mark Menendez dropped from second to sixth Saturday with four bass weighing 4-4. But like Bobby Lane, Menendez knows what is possible on the Harris Chain. He caught 24-9 Friday, which is the second-biggest bag of the tournament.
The remainder of the top 12 includes Morizo Shimuzu (37-3), Rick Ash (37-0), Kenyon Hill (35-5) and two anglers — Todd Faircloth and Bradley Hallman — tied for 11th place with 34-15.
There were actually three pros tied at that weight. But Mark Davis, the former BASS Angler of the Year and Bassmaster Classic champion, fishing in his first BASS event after two years on the FLW circuit, lost out of one of those final spots due to a tiebreaker. The 44-year-old Mt. Ida, Ark., native was the only one of the three who didn't catch a 5-bass limit all three days. Davis had only 4 keepers on Friday.
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.