LAY LAKE, Ala. — The talk all week at the 37th Bassmaster Classic has been of change. Few things — besides the inexorable impact the event will have on the winner — have been as heavy on the anglers' minds, but early rising onlookers at Saturday morning's launch saw transition right before their eyes as cloud cover moved in from the west, steadily covering the rising sun.
The forecast also called for high temperatures in the low 70s, well above the mid-40s chill at the dock this morning. How this will affect the spotted and largemouth bass is, of course, up to the fish themselves, but most anglers seemed happy with the absence of the bluebird conditions seen all day Friday.
Tournament history tells us that a few anglers down in the standings will make a move to near the top of the leaderboard. Gerald Swindle, in ninth place with a first day bag of 14 pounds, 10 ounces, said he hopes a small switch in strategy will help put him in a better position to qualify for the final day.
"I'm going to change it up on them boys a little bit," said Swindle, who revealed he was fishing in the same general area as second-place Randy Howell and third-place Skeet Reese. "I think I left it a little early yesterday. I'm gonna go do something early on and then get over there about 9:30 and finish it out there."
Swindle said he lost a 5-pounder on Friday, but was confident that the area and technique will produce similarly today.
"I may not be able to get that one fish to bite again, but it's an area that historically holds good fish," he said.
Federation qualifier Terry McWilliams, who after Day 1 sat solidly in seventh place with 15-9, said he also made the mistake of leaving his good fish too early, but he hopes to stay consistent with his catch of fat spotted bass. He's on two quality areas, getting his bites in four to five feet of water.
"I feel good about today," McWilliams said. "I caught 17 to 20 keepers yesterday and every now and then I get a good one. I've just got to stay consistent and adjust to what they're doing. There are some 3½ to 4-pound spots in there."
Kevin Wirth, who was pleasantly surprised with his 14-9 weight when it was locked in Friday afternoon, said quickly making adjustments, then allowing them to take hold, will be critical Saturday.
"One of the keys is covering as much water as possible, even though you've got to fish thoroughly," said Wirth, in 10th place after Friday, a little more than 5 pounds behind leader Boyd Duckett. "The quicker you can pick up on the patterns that are working, the better."
"All it'll take is one or two bites. It's gonna be that quick, whether they're in the first few hours or at noon today."
Wirth, who said he's working two or three patterns, caught all spotted bass Friday and said the fish are getting and more aggressive.
"I think they may hit the moving baits a little better today. It's gonna be interesting to find out."