EVANS, Ga. — In the world of mixed martial arts, a competitor's background and skill level quickly categorizes the fighter as either a "striker" or a "ground fighters."
After Day Two of the Pride of Georgia presented by Evan Williams Bourbon, co-angler Dave Elder, a former boxer, found the hard-hitting strikers of the aquatic variety to lead all anglers fishing from the back of the boat going into their final day.
Paired with Steve Daniel on Day Two, Elder found a tougher, slower bite but still bagged 8 pounds, 11 ounces to earn him the driver's seat among the top 50 in the field.
Federation Nation divisional championship qualifier Preston Frazell, at just 20 years old, skyrocketed into second place with 15-9. In third place, Tom "The Freak" Frink hammered 12-3 to jump into the top five, and Mike Harris' steady 7-5 put him into a two-way tie for fourth place with Ed Amos, after his 10-13-pound effort.
"Today, there was not a whole lot of difference," said Elder, who owns Strike Hard Productions and lives in Tuscaloosa, Ala. "Both of my pros had me around the fish each day."
After spending Day One with Elite Series pro David Smith, Elder ended the day in fourth place — coincidentally, the same position Smith finished in the standings on the pro side. Elder said both men caught 30 fish each at just three spots on the first day of action.
"It was a tougher bite, today — slower, and really light," Elder said. "I went down to 8-pound test and broke off three times before I switched back to 15."
The man knows what it feels like to be fishing on the final day. At the same tournament a year ago, Elder missed the top five by just two ounces going into the last day, but still finished in fifth place overall.
"I came in here with a lot of confidence," he said.
After brain surgery and being paralyzed for almost 90 days — a condition unrelated to his mixed martial arts background — Elder began to explore competitive bass fishing years ago.
"About six years ago, Randy (Elite Series pro angler Randy Howell) and I met," he said. Elder took the tips and tricks he learned from Howell and turned his focus from fighting to fishing.
But as Elder well knows, his work at Clarks Hill Lake is far from over.
Tom Frink, a name seen many times fishing on the co-angler side of a Elite Series tournament roster, left the stage clearly upset despite his nice stringer on Day Two.
"That was probably the worst day of fishing ever," he said.
If Frink fares any better, he could surpass Elder and take the title.
And if Athens, Ga., banker Mike Harris can find fish on Day Three, he could turn in another healthy bag as well.
"I'm just praying for a partner tomorrow on schooling fish," Harris said.