SYRACUSE, N.Y. – New York pro Jim Bianchi hit his largemouth bass spots hard on Day One to amass a catch of 15 pounds 12 ounces, and thought he may have burned them up, but today he had over 19 pounds of Oneida Lake green fish in the livewell by 9:30 am and was able relax the rest of the day.
On the strength of his big limit, he vaulted into the lead, slightly more than two pounds ahead of second place angler Mike Morrin, also from New York.
Moving down one spot was North Carolina pro Tracy Adams, who is tied with Virginian Jacob Powroznik for 3rd at 32-07, just a half pound behind Morin. First day leader Chris Daves fell to 6th place.
The rest of the top twelve is tightly packed, with 12th place angler James Niggemeyer less than 5 pounds out of the lead, and less than 3 pounds out of second. Any of them could make a move on the victory tomorrow, but on a close scoreboard Bianchi’s lead looks huge.
“I laid off them big time today,” Bianchi said. “I let them rest a lot.
"For sixty-five-percent of the day, I sat and ate sandwiches." One was egg salad, one was chicken salad, but by his own description both were “gas station specials." Tomorrow he likely won’t have the luxury of stopping to eat as he looks to fend off the other 11 members of a strong top twelve, all of whom would like to eat his lunch.
Bianchi started with a limit of smallmouths this morning, quickly culled all of them out with largemouths, and then sat near his best spot the rest of the day to ensure that no other competitor stumbled onto it. He said that he has saved several areas, but the one he has relied upon so far clearly has the best quality.
“I should have the area alone tomorrow,” he said.
Morrin caught a mix of smallmouths and largemouths, the five best of which weighed 16-08, just an ounce better than his first day catch.
He said that his “brown fish kind of fizzled out a bit after three hours,” so he turned to the largemouth bite. Two members of his five-fish limit were largemouths.
This is the first Bassmaster Open that he’s fished, but he’s certainly not an Oneida rookie. He’s notched numerous top tens here on other circuits, and in 2008 he "spent every weekend here from June through October.”
Like Bianchi, Adams weighed in five largemouths today, but he wasn’t necessarily happy about it.
Yesterday his key area produced a mix of both species, and he believes that the resident smallmouths were just a little bit fatter, “four or five ounces more on average,” he said.
He’s not sure what he’ll do tomorrow to generate the type of bag he’ll need to make a run at the victory.
“I just haven’t had any real big bites, nothing over about 4 pounds, and I’m only getting one of those each day.”
Adams professed to be astounded by the 19-04 that Bianchi weighed in: ”I didn’t know there were five that big in here that if you put them all together they’d weigh 19 pounds,” he said.
In order to add a second Bassmaster Open trophy to his mantle, Adams believes that he’ll have to get lucky and the two pros ahead of him will have to stumble.
Powroznik was the only member of the top four who didn’t bring a largemouth to the weigh-in.
He’s primarily chasing schooling smallmouth, and said that the decision to look for brown over green seemed elementary.
“I’ve researched the last couple of big tournaments up here, and it seems that smallmouths are the dominant fish most of the time,” he said. “I also thought that they’d be more consistent.”
He is rotating among six schools of bronzebacks that he pinned down by careful idling and use of his electronics, and said that once he gets them fired up the fishing is relatively easy.
“This morning I had 14 or 15 pounds in about 10 minutes,” he recalled. “It was fast and furious.
"I’m catching them on a dropshot, a tube and a swimbait, but the truth is that if you get it in front of them, they’re going to bite."
For leading the field after the second day of competition, Bianchi received the $250 Livingston Lures Leader Award.
Kenneth Woods of Oneida, Ky., leads the co-angler side of the tournament with two three-bass limits that totaled 19-07, and received a Livingston Lures gift pack valued at $250 for being in 1st place after Day Two.
He fished with veteran pro Gary Yamamoto yesterday and Elite Series rookie Chip Porche today.
Brian Kelly, who won a Southern Open on Lake Toho six months ago, trails Woods by a mere two ounces.
Pennsylvania pro Kenny Garippa weighed in a 5-pound, 6-ounce largemouth today, the biggest fish of the tournament so far.
After struggling with Oneida’s smallmouths over the last month - including yesterday when he weighed in only two for 4-01 - Garippa turned his attention to largemouths today and caught a 19-03 limit on a Texas rigged Senko.
His catch would have been the biggest limit of the tournament thus far had Bianchi not weighed in one ounce more a few minutes later.
Nevertheless, if Garippa’s big largemouth holds up as the Carhartt Big Bass of the tournament following Saturday’s weigh-in, he will receive an additional $500.
Likewise, if the 4-11 bass weighed in by co-angler Tom Hill of Lexington, Ky., holds up on the co-angler side, he too will bank an extra $500.