GUNTERSVILLE, Ala. — Terry Butcher's leading some very big names right now. Just behind him, heading into the final day of the Southern Challenge presented by Purolator, is Jason Quinn, who certainly has the biggest diamond earrings of any Bassmaster Elite Series pro.
Also within a couple of pounds of the lead are Terry "Big Show" Scroggins and Elite Series B.M.O.C. Kevin VanDam, who said Saturday that he's throwing "big-fish baits on big-fish spots."
So get ready for the big finish. The gap between fifth and first is barely more than 3 pounds, and the Butcher (42 pounds, 9 ounces) afterwards was dropping such confident lines as, "I've pretty much run everything," before saying his plan Sunday was to run the same water that brought him a bag of 26-3 on Friday but only 16-6 on Saturday.
Asked whether he had an advantage by not having the name VanDam or Scroggins on the back of his jersey, Butcher added, "I'm sure it is. I'm getting less boat traffic at this point."
Lake Guntersville is known for having heavy weekend traffic, and it became a factor for several anglers. The weather, however, was nothing short of delightful, and anglers seemed to be able to catch fish following several patterns and on a variety of techniques.
Quinn (2nd place, 41-14) said he feasted on areas that he assumed looked shabby to other anglers, mostly unassuming stretches of banks that he said held post-spawn fish that would seem more likely denizens of pockets and structures. It took him until 1 p.m. to get a limit, but his 19-4 bag helped to ensure his best finish of the Elite Series season thus far.
"I had to turn my season around," Quinn said. "In California, I got put in a headlock."
Scroggins (3rd, 41-3) sacked 20-1 on Saturday after seeing his co-angler catching fish on a spinnerbait, then making the switch himself. VanDam, meanwhile, won't miss having a co-angler in the boat on Sunday, after seeing his amateur partner whack two big fish on VanDam's water just after VanDam would hook up other fish.
"I'm on the winning fish, no doubt," said VanDam (4th place, 40 pounds, 14 ounces). "I've just got to capitalize on my opportunities."
Those four anglers also led after Day One. The only shift Saturday was Scroggins' move from 2 ounces behind VanDam to 5 ounces ahead.
Also in the cut, made directly from 108 to 12 because of the cancellation of Thursday: Yusuke Miyazaki (5th, 39-2), Mark Tucker (6th, 37-12), Kelly Jordon (7th, 37-0), Shaw Grigsby (8th, 35-12), Kotaro Kiriyama (9th, 35-9), Ben Matsubu (10th, 35-1), Timmy Horton (11th, 34-11) and Alton Jones (12th, 34-6).