GADSDEN, Ala. — Brent Long started Day Two of the BASS Federation Nation National Championship on Lake Neely Henry in Gadsden, Ala., behind the leader by 4 pounds, 4 ounces, and he finished Day Two leading the tournament by 5-7.
Kevin Waterman, who led after Day One with 19-4, which is still largest stringer of the tournament, brought in only five pounds on Thursday. Waterman was one of two anglers who lost their division lead Thursday, and his fall was the most unlikely as he held a 6-2 advantage going into the second day.
The other division lead change came from Long, who outfished Day One Southern Division leader Bryan Thrift by 9-2 on Thursday with an 18-9 stringer.
"I'm catching my big fish after lunch time," said Long, who is a general contractor from Catawba, N.C. "I have one spot I fish in the morning to secure my limit, and I spend the afternoon looking to go big."
Long said he is using a crankbait on his early spot and a jig late in the day, and he caught his bigger fish in about 6 feet of water. It is a plan that has worked for him thus far, and he says he's sticking to it.
"I'm leaving the early spot tomorrow at noon no matter how many fish I've caught," Long said. "I want to leave myself at least two hours on the bigger fish."
Long holds an 8-15 lead in the Southern Division, and if he holds on he, along with the other 5 division winners, will earn a berth into the 2007 Bassmaster Classic in February.
For most tournament anglers, fishing in the Classic is just a fantasy, yet one some have held onto for many years.
"It's everything," Jimmy Johnson said in reference to advancing to the Classic. Johnson, who currently sits second in the Central Division with 27-4, had to pause and think of how to put such a thought into words. "It's been my dream for 22 years."
Shigeru Tsukiyama from Tokyo, Japan, moved one step closer to realizing that dream, holding on to his Western Division lead by catching 10-10 on Thursday.
When emcee Steve Scott mentioned to Tsukiyama that he might have an ESPN cameraman in the boat with him for the final day, Tsukiyama forwent his interpreter and responded to the notion directly.
"No thanks," Tsukiyama said as a big grin came across his face and before he gave Scott and ESPN a reasonable alternative. "I don't want cameraman, I want beer."
Whether it will be beer or a cameraman sitting beside Tsukiyama in the boat on Friday, he is serious about catching fish. He has weighed in a limit on both days of the competition.
Scott Nadeau from Springville, Maine, leads the Eastern Division with 19-6, Royce Dennington from Barnsdall, Okla., leads the Central Division with 28-2, Ivan Morris from Virginia Beach, Va., leads the Mid-Atlantic Division with 25-8 and Terry McWilliams leads the Northern Division with 22-2.
But they are all chasing Long for the Federation Nation National Championship title, which includes $15,000, a Triton/Mercury package valued at $50,000 and an invitation to the 2007 Bassmaster Elite Series.
"I hope my hole holds up," Long said. "I went there late in the day and caught my four biggest fish within an hour and left. I'd like to say I'm going to sleep fine tonight, but that might not be the way it goes."