EVANS, Ga. — While much of the talk this week has centered on the blueback herring, rookie Cliff Crochet is looking to make the first top-12 of his career doing something completely different.
"The one thing I like about my area is that it is not a blueback area," Crochet said. "I don't think they will leave chasing bait."
That has been one of the biggest problems with fish on the main lake. The blueback herring move around and the bass follow — there one day, gone the next.
Fortunately for Crochet, his area is isolated from the main lake and the fish don't seem to be going anywhere.
"They are resident fish, fish that just live in there all the time," Crochet said. "I think there are plenty of fish left. It's not the number of fish left that is a problem, I just need a big bite."
He got one Friday, landing the big bass of the day, a 6-pound, 2-ounce largemouth that accounted for a good chunk of his Day Two weight. With the weights as close as they are, he'll need to do that again Saturday if he wants to make the top-12 and challenge for the win.
"I caught 8 keepers the first day and 10 yesterday," Crochet said. "The first hours of the day are so important. The first day, I caught my limit by 9:00 and the second day had 3 keepers by 9:00. It's still slow and steady fishing, but the morning is important."
Unlike Crochet, Charlie Hartley isn't in position to win the tournament, but he has made three consecutive top-47 cuts and a solid Day Three performance will give him valuable points toward re-qualifying for the Classic.
Hartley improved upon his light Day One with 11 pounds, 11 ounces Friday to jump into the cut in 35th place.
"You know more of what you need to catch after the first day," Hartley said. "On Day One, there is no scoreboard, so you don't know what you need to do well."
The biggest reason for Hartley's improvement came courtesy of a few big bites he got early in the morning. While Crochet and others fish way up the lake, Hartley has been focused on the blueback herring bite, which occurs mostly in the early morning hours.
"My biggest one was almost my first cast," Hartley said. "It was in the dark because I had an early boat number and I still had my glasses on so I couldn't see. I thought I saw something behind my bait and then there was an explosion."
Hartley explained the low light is important because the fish are in such shallow water, they get too spooky when the sun gets up.
"They run those blueback herring almost up onto the bank," Hartley said. "It never ceases to amaze me how shallow the fish are, almost ankle deep in some places."
Hartley has also noticed some big fish schooling around him, but those fish are very hard to catch. He'll need to catch a few of those if he hopes to make his move Saturday. Competition on Day Three wraps up at 3:15 p.m. ET with the first fish hitting the scales at Wildwood Park at 3:30 p.m. ET. Tune in to ESPN3 to find out which 12 anglers will survive for their chance to take home the trophy at the Pride of Georgia.