DANDRIDGE, Tenn. – Friday dawned cloudy and rainy, which was exactly what Chris Lane wanted to see on Day Two of the Bassmaster Elite Series Douglas Lake Challenge.
"I think this is going to absolutely fire it up," Lane said. "You've got cloud cover, low clouds. I've got a feeling they're going to bite real good."
Lane wasn't referring to those big schools of bass in depths of 15 to 40 feet that were the main topic of conversation at Thursday's weigh-in. The 2012 Bassmaster Classic champion from Guntersville, Ala., plans to pound the banks at Douglas Lake today, just like he did Thursday when he weighed a five-bass-limit of 13 pounds, 3 ounces.
"I'm going to stay shallow," said Lane, who enters the day in 31st place. "You've probably got six of the Top 12 guys in this tournament that are fishing shallow. There's enough fish up there.
"I figure it will take 14 1/2, maybe 15 1/2 pounds to make that Top 12 cut (after Saturday's weigh-in). You probably can't win it up shallow, but you can definitely get paid and move up in the (Toyota Tundra Bassmaster Angler of the Year) points."
The field will be cut from 99 anglers to the top 50 after today's weigh-in. Fiftieth place Thursday was 11 pounds, 9 ounces, so the "cut weight" for today should be around 23 pounds. Lane shouldn't have any problem reaching that goal.
However, he isn't going to move offshore and compete with Day One leader Aaron Martens (23-14), trying to match Martens at what Martens does best.
"Aaron is probably the best in the world at it," said Lane. "I saw him in practice and talked to him a little while when he was out deep. I told myself right then that this was going to be his tournament. He's the best at that kind of deal."
It's often called "video-gaming" – watching your sonar screen to determine how to catch deep, suspended bass. The problem for most anglers is that you can go long stretches without catching a fish. And unless you're as good as Martens, you might go all day without triggering a strike.
Especially on a day tailored for a shallow-water bite, that's an option Lane didn't consider Friday.
Another hook in the hand
Byron Velvick of Del Rio, Texas, wasn't on the water long Friday before he returned to The Point Marina take-off spot with a crankbait treble hook stuck in his hand. See photo gallery.
Brandon Palaniuk had a similar injury on a rainy Day Two at Bull Shoals two weeks ago. Palaniuk had to go to the hospital to get the hook removed. He then went on to win the tournament.
Velvick wasn't delayed nearly as long Friday. The crankbait was clipped off at the dock, then Velvick removed the treble hook himself.
Velvick needs all the time on the water that he can get: He was in 96th place with 4-9 after Day One.
Just how deep is deep?
It's no secret at Douglas Lake that the big-bass bite is in deep water. But just how deep is deep? And what lures are the Bassmaster Elite Series anglers catching them on in the Douglas Lake Challenge?
To know the truth, you'll probably have to wait until Sunday, when these guys are on their way out of town. Until then, the gospel is hard to come by.
But there were a few interesting clues after Day One.
"I have to stop and fizz them when I catch one, so it doesn't kill them," said Matt Reed, who is in second place with 21 pounds, 14 ounces, exactly 2 pounds behind leader Aaron Martens. "It takes me a little longer to get back out there than I would like."
Reed was referring to sticking a needle into the swim bladder of a bass so it doesn't die after being yanked from deep water. But he wouldn't get any more specific about how deep he was fishing.
All the Day One top five anglers are looking at their sonar graphs to target deep schools of fish. Randy Howell, who is tied for 12th, would rather fish shallow, but he didn't think the tournament could be won that way. Howell and Martens saw a lot of each other while chasing deep schools of bass Thursday.
When those two shared a few thoughts backstage of the weigh-in, Howell asked, "Did you catch any on a drop shot?"
The poker-faced Martens said, "No."
Andy Montgomery, who is tied for third with 21-1, said he doesn't think it matters what lure you're throwing, as long as it's a deep one.
"I don't think the bait has anything to do with it," he said. "It's just being there at the right time."
A half-pound "penalty"
It might pay off to throw a big swimbait at Douglas Lake. Britt Myers, who is tied for third with Montgomery, said he lost a half-pound in his Day One total when one of his 5-pounders regurgitated a 13-inch gizzard shad in his livewell.
"It was huge," Myers said.
"It would have measured, it was a keeper," he added, in a humorous reference to the 12-inch minimum length limit on largemouth and spotted bass at Douglas Lake.
Threadfin shad are thick
It's the smaller threadfin shad that are on the receiving end of most of the bass-chomping at Douglas Lake. During Thursday's take-off at The Point Marina, the threadfin shad spawn was hard to miss as they thrashed near the surface like piranhas on a hambone.
"If you and I were going down the middle of the lake, we could go half-a-mile, and I could stop, and you'd see balls of shad 10-feet deep and 20-feet wide," said Jeff Kriet, who is in fifth with 17-15.
Kriet, a noted offshore angler, gave a slight clue about what he's doing, saying, "I'm catching them at different depths. I'm having to change baits because of how deep they are."
How deep are they?
"Fifteen to 30 feet," Kriet said.