With only three fish on Day Two, Jeff Kriet lost the lead he built up Thursday and fell to eighth place with 24 pounds, 15 ounces.
"I took off this morning and as I was running out in the middle of the lake, I lost my lower unit," Kriet said. "The service crew got it changed out fast, but the longest part was getting towed back in."
Kriet had to be towed to the nearest boat ramp and then trailered back to Wildwood Park to get it fixed. The delay cost him the most precious fishing time at first light.
"The first two hours are the best, no doubt," Kriet said. "I made my first cast at 8:00 and my problem was I only got to hit one spot while they were biting. I caught two nice ones right off the bat, but it shut down after that."
He only could manage one more keeper for the rest of the day, at least, only one that he would put in his livewell. Kriet actually landed four more 13-inchers, but hooked them deep and decided to throw them back rather than have them die in the livewell and not be able to cull later.
After five straight tournaments with a top-five finish, Skeet Reese will see his streak come to an end this week in the Pride of Georgia after failing to make the top-47 cut. Reese finished in 59th place with 15 pounds, 15 ounces, and won't fish on Saturday for the first time since Lake Erie in 2008.
"I don't like being below the cut," Reese said. "I don't know how long it's been since I missed one, but it will piss me off and fire me up for Kentucky Lake."
Last year, Reese finished fourth on Kentucky Lake and looks to get back on track when the Elite Series heads for Paris, Tenn.
"Last year I did well on Kentucky Lake," Reese said. "I'm not sure how the water level will affect things, so we'll just have to see."
All things considered though, Reese has had a tremendous season thus far, winning two tournaments and placing second in one by a mere ounce.
"We had five good events so far and I had the opportunity to win three of them," Reese said. "Then we came here and it was a reality check."
Indeed, Reese can only wait for the next two days to see how the Toyota Tundra Bassmaster Angler of the Year race shakes out. He is guaranteed to still be in the lead, but his nearest competitor, Edwin Evers, made the cut in 38th and has a chance to narrow the gap.
With Reese missing the cut, it also gives defending TTBAOY Kevin VanDam a chance to narrow his deficit as he looks to win the award for the third consecutive year. Even though VanDam admits to struggling this week at Clarks Hill, he has held on and made the cut in 43rd place with 19 pounds, 5 ounces.
"Yesterday I thought I had figured them out and today they changed again," VanDam said. "There were a lot of fish chasing bait yesterday, but I didn't see that at all today."
What VanDam has yet to find is a bigger-sized keeper to elevate him from the ranks of 9- or 10-pound bags up into the mid-teens.
"I'm trying the best I can every day, I just haven't been able to catch a good fish," VanDam said. "It's happened to me all year long. I'm not making any mistakes — that's just the way it goes."
As for Reese's stumble, VanDam knows fishing can be a humbling sport.
"It happens — I don't care who you are," VanDam said. "Skeet's had an incredible year, but reality sets in sooner or later. You have to be in the top-12 at the end of the year to have a shot, but he helped everybody today."
As a rookie on the Elite Series, Cliff Crochet has been having the time of his life all season long. He's seen snow, fished West of Texas and now on the opposite coast, has put himself in contention to win on Clarks Hill.
"That big fish came out of nowhere," Crochet said. "I went to a place where I caught four yesterday and you just don't know what lives there.
He quickly found out that there was at least one big bass living there. The Louisiana angler had not fished such diverse waters until he joined the Elite Series, but he has proven to be a quick study. While Clarks Hill may not seem to set up to his strengths, he still searches out areas where he is most comfortable.
"When I got to a new place, like this one, I'll try how you're supposed to catch 'em," Crochet said. "If that doesn't work then I'll just go out and do my deal and try to make it work. I like to fish shallow, dirty water. If you can't find that, you just find anything you can that's close."
His strategy has paid off so far this season. He entered the Pride of Georgia in second place in the Rookie of the Year race, but he very well could leave Evans with the lead after leader Bradley Roy missed the top-47 cut.