Kennedy retains lead on confusing day

Gary Klein
Gary Klein

DEL RIO, Texas — Steve Kennedy took off from Lake Amistad's Diablo East Marina Friday morning a confident man.

When the Bassmaster Battle on the Border first-day leader returned for the weigh-in Friday, confusion had replaced confidence. But at least Kennedy held on to the lead, adding 16 pounds, 6 ounces to his first day bag of 36-10 for a two-day total of 53-0.

Kevin Short also had confidence coursing through his veins Friday morning after catching a five-bass limit weighing 33-0 pounds the day before. When Short came back without a fish, he dropped from third place one day to missing the top 50 cut the next.

Lake Amistad showed it's frustrating side Friday, while continuing to flash glimpses of the brilliance that make this incredible fishery on the Texas-Mexico border so appealing.

"I ran into my fish yesterday, and I ran out of them today," said Short, who is from Mayflower, Ark. "It was pretty frustrating. The fish were still there. With no wind blowing, I could see them swimming around in 12 to 13 feet of water. But I threw everything in the book at them and couldn't get them to bite."

Going from 33 pounds one day to zero the next is the ultimate definition of frustration in bass fishing. But there were plenty of other examples, even if of lesser degree.

Ish Monroe, who won this tournament last year with a four-day total of 104 pounds, 8 ounces, could see fish around him all day long in the clear water of Lake Amistad. But as the water warmed closer to spawning temperatures, these fish were on the move and uninterested in most of what Monroe threw at them.

"It was like being in the Playboy Mansion," said Monroe. "They were coming from everywhere. But I just couldn't put any of them in the boat."

Monroe did manage to make the cut with 43-0. And as the bass move to their spawning beds, as most of the pros think they will over the next two days, sight-fishing will become the dominant technique.

"There's going to be an opportunity for someone to catch a 35- to 40-pound bag with what I see coming," said Monroe.

Rookie Scott Campbell of Springfield, Mo., who was in second place Thursday, fared about like Kennedy on Friday, adding 16-7 to his Day One total of 36-0, which put him in a tie for second place with Gary Klein at 52-7.

"My fish left," said Campbell. "Then I went to the banks looking for spawners and all I saw was a lot of cruisers. They're not locked on yet. But I'll look for spawners all day (Saturday)."

Mike Iaconelli, the 2006 Bassmaster Angler of the Year, moved from ninth place to fourth by catching four pounds less than he did Thursday. He has 52-1 for two days.

"The fish are getting more shallow every day," Iaconelli said. "I caught fish as shallow as 3, 4, 5 feet and I caught two off beds today. If it keeps going like this, by Sunday this could turn into a sight-fishing tournament totally."

Well, maybe not totally. The anglers who made the big moves up the standings Friday generally concentrated on deeper pre-spawn fish.

Fred Roumbanis of Auburn, Calif., a swim bait specialist, jumped from 98th place to 25th with the big limit of the day, 33-2.

"Actually, I had a good game plan for this tournament," said Roumbanis, who weighed-in only 10-5 Thursday. "But yesterday was my worst nightmare. Today I did the same thing, but I slowed down. I think I had too many energy drinks Thursday."

Roumbanis is catching pre-spawn fish staging in 20- to 25-feet of water. He's using the Reaction Strike "Poseidon" swim bait that Kennedy used to land his limit of 7-plus-pounders Thursday.

And four-time Bassmaster Angler of the Year Kevin VanDam probably isn't going to sight fish no matter what happens over the next two days. It's not his style.

VanDam moved from 14th place to fifth, adding 24-8 to his first day total of 26-8 to give him 51-0. He's just two pounds behind Kennedy, after being 10 pounds back Thursday.

"This reminds me a lot of smallmouth fishing back home," said VanDam, who is from Kalamazoo, Mich. "You can target the big flats. And you'll usually find fish that will hit a reaction bait.

It's a big lake. You can find fish that are pre-spawn, post-spawn."

It sets up and interesting contrast in styles for Saturday, when the field will be cut from 50 to 12 for Sunday's final and the chance for a $100,000 first-place check.

This year's pace is just slightly off last year's Bassmaster event at Amistad. Edwin Evers had the Day Two lead a year ago with 55-2. And the two-day cut in 2006 was 37-0, while it's 35-11 this year.

But the spawn was already in full-swing last year when the Elite Series pros came to Amistad. Evers, who is in sixth place with 50-9, thinks the best is yet to come this year.

"I found 70-degree water today," Evers said. "If I make it to Sunday, it's going to be fun. It could be that all these fish move up (on beds) overnight. Then it's going to be completely sick."

That's "sick" as in awesome. So awesome that Preston Clark, who holds the Bassmaster Elite Series record of 115-15 for a four-day, five-bass per day limit at South Carolina's Santee Cooper last year, thinks his record is in jeopardy.

"It should be broken," Clark said. "These fish are starting to move up. You should see some 30-pound bags in the next two days."

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