BRANSON, Mo. — Everyone’s saying Mark Davis is on fire.
Indeed he is. Friday he fanned that flame by taking the lead on the second day of the April 3-6 A.R.E. Truck Caps Bassmaster Elite on Table Rock Lake.
Davis moved up from second place by adding another 15 pounds, 3 ounces to his first-day weight of 18-8. The Mount Ida, Ark., pro’s two-day tally was 33 pounds, 11 ounces.
If Davis, who already owns three Toyota Bassmaster Angler of the Year titles, goes on to win Sunday, he would cement his early lead in the race for the 2014 AOY title. He earned the AOY lead by finishing in third place in each of the first two Elite events of the season.
“It’s been really, really hard to keep it going, but so far, so good,” said Davis, who also owns a Bassmaster Classic title from 1995.
Several pros in the Bassmaster Elite Series field still have a lot of say about Davis taking the title at “The Rock.” Chris Lane is one. Winner of the St. Johns River Bassmaster Elite Series tournament two weeks ago, Lane moved from third place into second with 33-1, just 10 ounces behind Davis.
Aaron Martens, the reigning AOY, is another. The first-day leader, Martens ended the second round in third place at 33-0, just 11 ounces in back of Davis.
The list of immediate threats to Davis is longer. Trailing Davis by 1-7 was an old hand on Table Rock, Mike McClelland of Bella Vista, Ark. McClelland moved up from 12th place into fourth with 32-4. Edwin Evers of Talala, Okla., who was tied for fourth place after Day 1, slipped into fifth place on the second day with 30-13.
But Evers is only 2-14 behind first place. And only 9-0 separates Davis from the last man into Friday’s 50-cut, Yusuke Miyazaki at 24-11.
The Top 50 move into Saturday’s third round. Sunday, only the Top 12 will compete for the first prize of $100,000 and a win-you’re-in entry in the 2015 Bassmaster Classic.
Davis said the key to his success over the past two days has been a technique and the lure he’s using to execute that technique.
He’s also playing a numbers game. He said he’s increasing his odds of catching larger bass simply by catching a lot of fish.
“I’m getting 60, 70, 80 bites a day. The law of averages will carry you — even though you can start to doubt yourself on that at times. You get enough bites on a lake like this, you’ll come up with a little better grade of fish,” he said.
His five-bass limit of 15-3 contained four largemouth bass, including a 4-pounder, and one spotted bass. But Davis was hooking into smallmouth too.
“With the technique I’m using, you’ll catch a smallmouth one cast, a spot the next, and a largemouth on the next,” he said.
Lane took second place by producing a limit Friday of one spotted bass, three largemouth and one smallmouth. They weighed 14-12.
“I’m not going through the numbers like other people are,” said Lane, who is working banks, “just fishing.”
Lane said he is targeting larger bass by using a red colored crankbait. He boated just eight or nine keepers Friday, he said.
“I caught two bigger ones early, but it was a grind after that,” he said. “The cold didn’t seem to bother them.”
Martens said that unlike Thursday, he did not go after largemouth Friday. In his bag of 14-5 were two smallmouth and three spotted bass.
He also went to different water Friday. But no 8-pounder appeared for him as on Thursday, which had helped him to the lead.
A rainy cold front Thursday evening followed Friday by lower temperatures, wind and near-bluebird skies didn’t affect the bite of the prespawn bass on Table Rock, said McClelland, who weighed five largemouth that went 16-14.
“The water warmed up so much earlier this week, it would have to get cold and stay cold for three or four days to slow these fish down again. Once these fish decide to go to the bank, it won’t get cold enough to send them back,” he said.
The largest bass of the day was 6-10 caught by Cliff Pirch of Payson, Ariz. But Martens’ 8-0 of Thursday held on as the top candidate for the Carhartt Big Bass award of up to $1,500.
Cliff Prince of Palatka, Fla., produced the largest sack of the day, a 19-10. He became the front-runner for the event’s Berkley Heavyweight Award of $500.
The 50 Elite pros who made the cut will return Saturday to Table Rock Lake for the third round. The takeoff will be at 6:30 a.m. at State Park Marina (300 State Park Marina Drive, Branson, MO 65616).