LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — As Shaw Grigsby Jr. motored down the Arkansas River Saturday morning, he had one of those moments that all anglers treasure.
Through the early morning sunbreak, he noticed a white bird perched in a spot he planned to fish to open the third day of action in the Bassmaster Legends presented by Goodyear. Knowing that the bird's presence might signal the presence of bait fish and possibly the presence of bass, logic dictated he would head to that spot.
But Grigsby disregarded logic. And he's happy he did so.
Grigsby, a veteran CITGO Bassmastert Elite angler from Gainesville, Fla., continued to another spot deeper into Hole 5 on the south side of the river. He wouldn't say specificially what area he did fish or what he was throwing, but whatever he was doing worked.
Grigsby landed each of his four keepers Saturday in the spot. The haul gave him a total of 11 pounds, 5 ounces, and the lead heading into the final day of competition in the final Major of the season.
Joining Grigsby in the cut to six anglers were Little Rock resident Scott Rook, who is in second place with a 7-pound, 14-ounce bag.
Fellow Arkansas resident Kevin Short is in third with 5-11 and Greg Hackney, who is originally from Arkansas but now lives in south Louisiana, is in fourth place with a 4-2 total. Texas' Gary Klein (4-1) and Alabama's Gerald Swindle (3-9) round out the field of six that will compete tomorrow for a $250,000 first-place prize.
Grigsby, who is noted for his knack of throwing soft plastics to grass beds in his native Florida, did admit that the areas he's targeted are similar to the ones he sees back home. But even he wasn't certain whether or not he can reproduce Saturday's catch.
After all, the Arkansas River has toyed with many of the world's finest pros in recent days as five-fish limits have been increasingly scarce.
"I may have caught every keeper out of there," Grigsby said. "I didn't catch another keeper on the whole course. I lost one though. So I can go through this whole course tomorrow and not catch a keeper."
A look at some of the other anglers who were cut Saturday validates Grigsby's reasoning. Kevin Van Dam, a two-time Classic champion and three-time angler of the year, zeroed on Saturday. So did Brian Snowden, who led this tournament after Thursday's weigh-in, but didn't catch a keeper after that. Steve Kennedy, Dean Rojas, Rick Clunn and Mike McClelland also missed the cut with catches below 4 pounds.
Rook, who was looking forward to fishing this central stretch of the Arkansas River Saturday, didn't produce as much weight as he did the first two days of the tournament. But he did land three keepers flipping soft plastics. He knows, however, that this fickle fishery can vault him into the lead Sunday or drop him out of the championship hunt altogether.
"Anyone can go out there and have a bad day tomorrow, he said. "I'm just going after keepers. If I can get five keepers that would be huge."
Short, who has enjoyed perhaps the biggest cheering section of all the anglers this week, only caught two fish Saturday but finds himself well within strikingdistance of Grigsby. Short has primarily thrown topwater baits during this tournament. He's happy with his lure selection, but said timing will be the major factor in
determining who wins the Bassmaster Legends on Sunday.
"I feel like I could have gone out there and caught a lot of short fish, but I know that wouldn't do me any good," he said. "I'm confident I can find a few bigger ones, but it's about being in the right spot at the right time. If that happens, then I'm right in there."
Like Short, Hackney only had two fish. But the Gonzales, Louisiana resident said he may have found bass Saturday afternoon that could proprel him to the tournament title.
"I think it's wide open," he said. "I'm pretty pumped, I'll tell you. I'm doing a little bit of everything -- I caught one of them flipping, one of them on a worm, lost one on a topwater bait. But the thing is tomorrow, I'll move around a lot better because I know how the holes are laid out. I won't be looking for anything. I know what's out there and what I want to fish, I'll go fish."
Swindle, who led after Friday's weigh-in before all previous weights were erased, found the fishing tougher Saturday. He produced double-digit weights Thursday and Friday, but caught only two Saturday.
"I think there aren't as many fish here than where we were fishing yesterday," he said. "They're just not in there and there's not a lot to offer (as far as variety is concerned.) You're either fishing the river or you're fishing the river.
"I caught probably 20 fish today, which is way more than I thought I would catch, but they were all shorts. So I've got to make some adjustments. I don't really know what."
Even though the river has perplexed many of the anglers this week, Swindle said that unpredictability gives him hope to earn his first victory on tour.
"It's still anybody's game," he said. "It ain't over."
The remaining six pros will launch from downtown Arkansas Sunday morning at 7:50 a.m. ET. Weigh-in will follow at 5 p.m. ET at the State House Convention Center.