KISSIMMEE, Fla. — Luke Clausen maintained his lead during the second day of the 36th annual CITGO Bassmaster Classic with a total of 44 pounds, five ounces. But if he hopes to be in the same position when the tournament champion is crowned on Sunday, he needs to have a bigger bite than what he brought to the scales Saturday.
That's because several anglers, buoyed by large catches on Day Two, are on his heels in search of the most coveted prize in competitive fishing — a Classic title.
Clausen, who is from Spokane Valley, Wash., caught a five-fish limit of 14 pounds, 15 ounces on Saturday. Though it was an impressive catch, Arkansas' Ron Shuffield and Florida favorite Terry Scroggins went higher on Saturday — much higher.
Shuffield is in second place with a two-day total of 39-15 after landing a 21-0 limit Saturday. Scroggins, who many anglers pegged to win the Classic because of his familiarity with Lake Tohopekaliga and surrounding water, was even more impressive. After a disappointing first day, he vaulted into third place with a sack that weighed 28-6. His two-day total of 39-04 is just ahead of another Sunshine State native — Preston Clark who has 39 pounds, 3 ounces. Virginia'a Rick Morris is in fifth with a 37-5 total.
Saturday's catch was down from the tremendous bags weighed a day before. That was due in part to a brisk south wind that stirred the water and threw some fishermen off their best patterns. And catching Clausen, who has a two-day total of 44-5, isn't going to get any easier.
There is an 80 percent chance of rain tomorrow morning in front of an impending cold front. The temperature is expected to be in the low 60s at daybreak and drop steadily throughout the day.
Clausen said he would have liked to build on the lead he seized Friday after weighing a Classic record limit of 29-6. But he couldn't find the same success on Day Two while he was fishing Lake Kissimmee.
"They just weren't biting like they were," he said. "I should have left to fish new water a lot earlier."
He said he caught 11 keepers, but has lost confidence in what was his primary spot. So he'll be on the run Sunday.
"I have some areas I still haven't fished — since last week (in practice)," he said.
"I don't know, but I'm going to bounce around a lot more and try to find some active fish."
Shuffield, however, will head back on Sunday to the place that has put the veteran angler within reach of his first Classic victory — Lake Kissimmee.
"It's the only place I've found that if things go right, I believe I can win this Classic … second place to me doesn't exist. It's winner take all for me."
Shuffield said he has keyed on post-spawn bass and the strategy paid off with an 8-pound, 8-ounce lunker on Saturday. He estimated it will take 25 pounds on Sunday to catch Clausen.
"He's four pounds ahead of me," Shuffield said. "Well, I can catch that with one bite."
Scroggins' biggest fish on day two weighed 9-5. The Palatka, Fla., resident caught five keepers in an area of Lake Kissimmee he happened upon Saturday.
"It all happened in like a two-hour period," Scroggins said. "I know there are a lot of big fish in the area. I'm going to go there tomorrow and just see what happens. If they bite, those guys better watch out because I could have well over 30 pounds."
Clark, who also hails from Palatka, added 10 pounds, 2 ounces to the 29-1 limit he caught on Friday. His first stop on Saturday was a bed where he spotted a 9-pounder the day before. The fish had left the bed by the time he returned, however, and Clark wound up scrambling to scratch together a limit.
Tomorrow, he said he will fish three patterns in Lake Hatchineha — one that is a good bite.
"There's another big sack out there," Clark said. "Twenty-five pound sacks are not uncommon any time of year down here — so it's wide open for about six or seven guys, I think."
Morris had a total of 18-14 on Saturday. He only plans to use a spinnerbait and a Chatterbait to close the tournament. While pleased with his consistency the first two days, he said he has to go higher if he is to catch Clausen and company.
Kevin Wirth, Edwin Evers, George Cochran, Jeff Coble and Skeet Reese round out the top 10 anglers. Kevin VanDam, the defending Classic champion who is in search of an unprecedented fourth consecutive tour victory, has a two-day total of 29-1 and is in 12th place.
Only the top 25 anglers in the 51-man field will compete during Sunday's final round of action. The tournament winner will earn $500,000.
The anglers are scheduled to launch at 6:40 a.m. The Classic show will begin at 2:15 p.m.