PALATKA, Fla. — Even though Alton Jones has a 7-pound, 4-ounce lead after two days of the Bassmaster Elite Series St. Johns River Showdown, this game is far from over.
"I didn't have any big fish to go to today, and I don't have any big fish to go to tomorrow," Jones said.
But that didn't keep him from catching a five-bass limit weighing 28 pounds, 7 ounces on Friday, which included two 8-pounders. The problem for Jones is that he thinks he will have to catch two more 8-pounders to win this event.
"My goal for tomorrow is to find two or three big ones to catch," Jones said. "Maybe it will happen and maybe it won't."
David Walker moved into a second-place tie with Rick Morris with a total of 37-10. Walker hasn't been discouraged by fishing pressure in the areas where he's been concentrating.
"Have you ever golfed?" Walker said. "You hit your ball into a field, you know how hard it is to find it? Even when you've seen where it went?"
Walker was describing how hard it is to find some of the few big female bass left on spawning beds in some areas. Neither he nor Jones is worried about other anglers being in their areas Saturday.
"You can go by one of those fish and miss it by 20 feet and never know it was there," Walker said. "Or when a cloud comes over, it's just like somebody put a bag over your head. You can't see anything."
This sight fishing game for spawning females sitting on beds has become a head game as much as anything. And several anglers are bugging out.
"I'm liking the fact that there's not as many fish (spawning) in these areas as there were last year," Jones said. "It's sending more people out to do different things. As few fish as there are, if there was any more pressure, it would be over with."
J Todd Tucker fell from first place and 24 pounds on Day One to seventh place with 9-9 on Day Two with a total of 33-9. He admitted he was going to have some thinking to do before Saturday.
"It's like playing jack-in-the box," Tucker said. "When one of them pulls up in front of you and sits on a bed, that's how it happens. It happens just that quickly."
Tucker knows there is also a topwater bite, but he's reluctant to leave the sight fishing game.
"The confidence in what you're doing and staying with a pattern is the reason you catch a big one," Tucker said. "You've got to make a choice."
Palatka resident and local favorite Terry Scroggins jumped from 35th place into 10th with 18-4 Friday and found some new fish in the process. But he knows the sight fishermen have a chance to put the title out of reach Saturday.
"It's kind of a cat-and-mouse game as to how long those spawning fish are going to last," Scroggins said.
And sight fishing will definitely test your will, when one fish can make all the difference. Todd Faircloth discovered that Friday with the big bass of the day, an 8-15 that helped move him from 19th place into fourth with 36-6. That one bass was almost half his total weight Friday of 20-8.
"I found that fish yesterday afternoon," Faircloth said. "I didn't know if it was still there this morning or if I just couldn't see her or what. I pulled up there about 3 o'clock and I had her three pitches later. That turned my day around."
Bassmaster TV commentator Mark Zona said he thinks experience is the key to how this tournament will finish.
"I equate it more to hunting," Zona said. "If you put yourself in the right situation, where all the factors come together, a big one is going to walk by. If you look at the top of the leaderboard now, those guys are experienced at waiting on them, and they don't panic. That's why you don't see any new kids on the block.
"It's just a waiting game. To me, that's where experience means the most."
So the game — whether it's golf, jack-in-the-box, cat-and-mouse or deer hunting — is definitely on to see who can win on the St. Johns River.
And this game is definitely not for the faint of heart.