KISSIMMEE, Fla. – Putting two good days of fishing together at the Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Open on the Kissimmee Chain of Lakes is proving difficult for the 200-boat field, but Jeff Cloud of Lubbock, Texas, has figured something out. He leads with 34 pounds, 12 ounces.
Cloud's Day Two catch of 18-6 backed up his tally of 16-6 in the first round and pushed him from sixth place into the lead. Thursday's leader, Todd Auten, failed to weigh in a bass Friday. His first round catch of 22-10 is still the biggest of the tournament, but with nothing to add to it he finished the event in 28th place.
Phillip Cury of Jacksonville is second with 32-4. John Brazzell is third with 31-6 and had the best catch of the day – a limit of five bass weighing 19-4.
"I fished on Lake Toho today," Brazzell said. "One of my better fish hit a creature bait that I was flipping. The rest came offshore on a Zoom Trick Worm and hard jerkbait around scattered hydrilla."
Big fish of the day – and the new Carhartt Big Bass leader – was a 10-7 giant caught by Van Soles of Haines City, Fla. The lunker struck a Reaction Innovations Sweet Beaver that Soles pitched into matted lily pads on Lake Kissimmee.
"I was using a 2-ounce weight and punching heavy cover," Soles said. "The bite was sluggish, so I had to hop the bait up and down 10 or 12 times before she struck. I fought her until she got mired in the pads and then my partner and I pushed in to get her."
Soles ended the day in sixth place with 29-6. His plan for the third and final day is to "swing for the fences and leave it all on the water." Though only 32 years old, he has 28 years of experience on the Kissimmee Chain and hopes to put his accumulated knowledge to good use on Day Three. "It's going to be a grind," he said.
At stake are cash and prizes plus a berth in the 2015 Bassmaster Classic on Lake Hartwell, S.C., for the winner who fishes the full series of three Southern Open events.
On the co-angler side, Bryan Jones of St. Petersburg continues to lead, though his day's catch slipped to just 6-8. For the tournament, he has 23-0 and more than a two-pound lead over Marlon Crowder.