KISSIMMEE, Fla. -- Elite Series pro Gerald Swindle once again has his first B.A.S.S. win in sight. He's had several narrow misses but hopes to close out the 2011 Bass Pro Shops Southern Open on Florida's Lake Tohopekaliga. Swindle holds 3-pound, 8-ounce lead, but he has stiff competition breathing down his back in Elite pro and local ringer Bobby Lane.
"Today started out kind of weird," Swindle said. "You would have thought with the warm conditions we had last night the fish would be really fired up, but that wasn't the case. "I was throwing a reaction bait and the first four or five nice ones that bit came off; they didn't really want it that bad. I was hooking them in the tail, side and lots of other places; they just got in the way (of the bait)."
The feverish pace at which the Warrior, Ala., pro caught his bass during Day One slowed significantly, calling for him to adjust his approach. He slowed down his presentation and filled out a five-fish limit that weighed 24 pounds, 8 ounces for a total of 55-5. Swindle plans to stick to his plan (and spot) for the third and final day.
Lane once again showcased the quality fish that live in Lake Kissimmee, which is just south of Lake Tohopekaliga, connected via the Kissimmee River. Anchored by a 9-pound-plus lunker, he brought 30-6 to the scales on Day Two for a 51-13 total.
Lane's sight fishing bite relies heavily on fair weather and little or no winds, but Saturday may throw a wrench into his plans. Cooler, frontal conditions may move bass off of their beds, making them harder to catch. "A lot depends on what this weather does," Lane said. "It's Florida, and when it gets cold, they shuffle all over the place, and everything is against you. I lost a big one today and I lost a big one yesterday, so I should be better off than I am. But, I'm happy to have what I have."
In third place is Trevor Fitzgerald of Ocklawaha, Fla., who slipped a spot but is still within striking distance of his second B.A.S.S. win. Fitzgerald brought 20-5 to the Day Two scales for a total of 50-4. In fourth is Larry Cahan of East Palatka, Fla., who added 22-0 to his Day One weight of 24-9 for 46-9. In fifth is Elite Series rookie Ott Defoe of Knoxville, Tenn., with 45-8.
On the co-angler side, Day One leader John Avalos of Jacksonville, Fla., zeroed, leaving the door wide open for Chris Lewis of Dublin, Va., to take the reigns with a 13-6, three-fish limit that brings his two-day total to 18-1. In second is Bill Bruce of Tennessee with 16-13, in third is Clint Sterling of Winter Garden, Fla., with 16-11, in fourth is Preston Harris of North Carolina with 16-5 and rounding out the top five is Jason Patterson of Bluffton, Ind., with 15-7.
A number of 10-pound bass were paraded across the weigh-in stage Friday, but big bass honors lie with Elite Series pro Charlie Hartley of Grove City, Ohio, who bagged a 10-10 monster.
Fishing fans are invited to daily launches and weigh-ins. Saturday's launch at Big Toho Marina, 101 Lakeshore Dr. in Kissimmee is at 7 a.m.
The final weigh-in will start at 4 p.m. ET at Bass Pro Shops Orlando, located at 5156 International Drive in Orlando. All events are free and open to the public.