MARBURY, MD — On a day when limits were understandably scarce, Skeet Reese not only threw five fish on the scales Saturday, he apparently put the pedal down in doing so.
Reese leads the Capital Clash presented by Advance Auto Parts by 8 pounds, 9 ounces over second-place Charlie Hartley and a cadre of chasers as the top 12 Elite Series anglers head into Sunday's final day of competition.
"I smoked 'em today," said Reese, talking about his 17-14 pound bag, which included a 4-5 big fish. "I've got two areas to fish this whole week and I'm milking it for all it's worth."
Reese's strategy for going for the win on the third day of the tournament instead of conserving fish stems from the way his primary area is giving up his fish, as well as the presence of a number of spectator boats, the behavior of which is unaccounted for after he left the area after 12.
"Every day I've caught fish on different spots in my primary area, so it's replenishing somehow," said Reese, who is looking for his first Elite Series win. "I had to fish very slowly and methodically today, but when I got a bite, it was a good one."
Reese said a number of recreational boats had the same gameplan as he did this morning, but that they were exceedingly helpful in deferring to him, especially early on.
"I asked the guys if they would mind if I worked the shoreline first and they did. It really paid off with a four-pounder right off the bat," said Reese. "We may need a referee boat tomorrow."
Reese's secondary area also gave up a few fish — he said he culled one today — but that and his honey hole are basically all that he's got.
"I know I've got to catch something tomorrow. I can't just completely sit (on the lead)," said Reese. "It's looking like 10 pounds might be glorious tomorrow."
There have been bigger jumps in the standing this week, but none top the leap Charlie Hartley made in terms of significance. The Ohio pro, who shared water with Reese the first two days before respectfully moving on at Reese's request, came from 18th place to stake his claim as the No. 1 spoiler candidate.
"I've got a spot here that I've always considered a 'sunshine spot.' This morning I decided to give it a try," said Hartley, who bagged 17-5 for a three day total of 44-8. "It's a deep hole in the middle of a grass bed. It's the first time I've fished it in low light conditions. I caught 15 fish there in an hour and the day got better from there."
Hartley said his newly crowned "A spot" is also a haven for recreational as well as commercial traffic, prompting the decision to visit it Saturday morning.
"It's just marina after marina, jet ski and jet ski, tugboat after tugboat," said Hartley, whose biggest fish for the day was 4-12.
Oklahoman Tommy Biffle stands in third place on the strength of an 11-15 pound Day Three limit. His 43-4 pound puts him nearly 10 pounds behind the leader, a margin that has him thinking about taking a big gamble in hopes of taking an improbable victory.
"The only real shot I've got is to make a long run to a place I haven't even been this year," said Biffle, adding that he's done well in the area in years past. "It's a place where you can go and get 20 pounds or you might not get a bite. It's something I'll have to think on tonight."