Day Two of the Bassmaster Classic is "moving day." Some anglers are moving up and into contention or at least into the cut to the top 25 anglers. Others are moving down and out of contention. Only 25 will fish on Sunday.
Day Two's best move belonged to 2008 Bassmaster Classic champion Alton Jones who boated a limit of five bass weighing 17 pounds, 14 ounces and moved up from 16th into third. Jones is now 3-13 off the pace set by Chris Lane, who leads the Classic with 35-8.
Both of the Lane brothers moved up. Chris jumped from a tie for sixth (with his brother) into first and Bobby moved up to fourth. It is by far the greatest performance by a pair of brothers in Classic history.
Interestingly, the Lanes made a deal before they entered the Classic. They agreed that if one of them won, he'd pay the 2012 Elite Series entry fees for the other. That way, they'd both win.
The biggest upward move in the standings was Todd Faircloth's leap from 37th all the way up to 13th. The Texan still has his work cut out for him — he's 7-3 behind the leader — but he made the cut and has a chance to improve his payday.
Other big improvements were made by Tim Horton (29th to 12th), Chris Price (31st to 21st) and retiring Elite Series pro Kevin Wirth (38th to 20th). An emotional Wirth knew that a lackluster Day Two would be his last as a professional angler. He turned up the heat and brought a healthy 15-5 to the scales.
On the flip side, there were several big drops among the early leaders. Ott DeFoe fell 10 places from fifth to 15th. He's now more than eight pounds behind the leader.
B.A.S.S. Federation Nation champion Jamie Horton fell even further, from ninth to 23rd, and Terry Scroggins slipped the farthest of any angler. After Day One he was 11th and seemingly safely inside the cut. Saturday ended his hopes of a Classic championship. He caught just three bass weighing 3-9 and ended the tournament in 39th place.
So who's still in the hunt and who's fishing for pride and a chance to improve his payday?
History tells us that 78 percent of all Classics are won by one of the top two anglers, and history looks pretty good in 2012. There's about a three-pound gap between second place (Greg Vinson with 34-8) and Alton Jones (31-11). It might not seem like a lot, but it's a buffer that Jones will have to overcome, and that won't be easy. With creel limits of just five bass a day, that doesn't create a lot of margin for big comebacks.
Smaller limits might be nice conservation moves, but they're nails in the coffin for tournament comebacks. The fewer bass you get to keep, the less opportunity to have to separate yourself from the rest of the field.
Once you get past second place, the field is a pretty dense knot of competitors. Just 3 pounds, 6 ounces separates third from 13th and 13th is 7-3 off the lead. Can it be done? Sure, but don't bet on it. In fact, we should all be shocked if the eventual winner is not already in the top three.
Impressively, the fishing actually got better on Day Two. A couple more fish were caught and the average weight was up slightly. Since we're cutting to the top 25 (the anglers who are "on" fish), the catch rate should go up again on Sunday.