KISSIMMEE, Fla. — Despite catching just half his Friday total, Luke Clausen of Washington state increased his leading margin in the 36th annual CITGO Bassmaster Classic on Lake Tohopekaliga on Saturday. Clausen weighed in a five-bass limit totaling 14 pounds, 15 ounces, far short of his 29-6 opening volley, but enough to hang onto the lead. Entering Sunday's final round, the 27-year-old has a 4-pound, 6-ounce lead over Arkansas' Ron Shuffield (39-15). The only two Florida anglers
in the Bassmaster Classic, Terry Scroggins and Preston Clark, are in third and fourth, with 39-4 and 39-3, respectively. Virginia's Rick Morris rounds out the top five with 37-5.
As expected, the catches were lighter in the second round of the
world-championship event, which pays $500,000 to the winner and a total purse of $1.2 million. Weather was mostly to blame, as overcast skies replaced sunshine on Saturday, but also because many of the available spawning bass were already brought to the scales Friday, according to anglers.
"I was pretty disappointed today," said Clausen, who is competing in his third Bassmaster Classic. "I spent all of my time in the area where I caught my fish Friday because I thought it had more fish. "Tomorrow, I'll probably fish there in the morning and then go fish new water and just see what happens."
Clausen said he is fishing a Mann's HardNose plastic worm to lily pads in Lake Kissimmee.
Meanwhile, Shuffield, Scroggins and Morris all benefited from impressive comebacks in the second round, which boosted them into the top five. In his 15th Classic appearance, Shuffield was in 10th place entering the second round with 18-15. He then caught the day's second-largest limit —
21 pounds — to leap into second place.
"I'm going to win this Classic if I get five bites tomorrow," Shuffield, a seven-time BASS winner said confidently. "I'm kind of keeping my techniques wide open and keeping an open mind. I only had eight bites today and two of them were close to 9 pounds. But I only weighed in one, which was 8-8." Shuffield said he lost the other. Shuffield's big catch fell victim to topwater plugs and flipping/pitching soft plastics. Though Scroggins was favored to win entering the tournament, he struggled in the opening round. His first-day weight of 10-14 mired him in 37th place, but set the stage for a dramatic comeback Saturday when
he brought in 28-6 and climbed into third, putting himself in contention for the most important title in fishing. "I backed off and started fishing deeper and casting to the fish," he said. "That's what I should have been doing (Friday). "If the weather gets worse tomorrow and the bites get a little tougher, I'm going to be tough to beat. I'm hoping I can take advantage of my
experience that the other guys don't have."
With the Day 2 cut, only the top-25 anglers will fish on Day 3 of the Bassmaster Classic. They launch at 6:40 a.m. ET from Kissimmee Lakefront Park in Kissimmee. BassCenter will broadcast live from the site. The 2006 CITGO Bassmaster Classic is hosted by the Kissimmee Convention & Visitors Bureau and the Central Florida Sports Commission.