MANY, La. — Bassmaster Elite Series rookie Jacob Powroznik had been to Toledo Bend Reservoir just once before he came to the May 1-4 Evan Williams Bourbon Bassmaster Elite.
Dean Rojas has a wealth of experience on the lake; his 2011 Bassmaster Elite Series victory on Toledo Bend proved that.
Yet these polar opposites — at least when it comes to the famed big-bass factory on the Louisiana-Texas border — were the top two anglers after Friday, the second day of competition.
And it was the rookie who led the veteran; Powroznik had 3 pounds, 7 ounces on Rojas.
Powroznik, who is from Port Haywood, Va., added 23-6 Friday to his Thursday weight of 24-14 for a two-day total of 48-4. He inched up from third place to take the lead.
Rojas climbed from 14th place into second by setting 24-15 on the scales, the day’s largest five-bass limit. His two-day total was 44-13.
Chad Morgenthaler of Coulterville, Ill., moved from 19th place into third after weighing 24-13 for a two-day total of 43-12. First-day leader Jared Lintner of Arroyo Grande, Calif., fell to fourth place with a total of 42-4. Skeet Reese of Auburn, Calif., climbed from 28th place into fifth with 41-5.
The field was cut to the Top 50 for Saturday’s semifinal round. The cut fell at 28-14, the two-day weight of Kelly Jordon of Palestine, Texas.
Producing consistent weights over the first two days, Powroznik cashed in on an early shad spawn bite and then went sight fishing — which he said is one of his major strengths.
He returned to his solid Day 1 area for the shad spawn, but it held some surprises.
“I caught a big bass on my second cast, and I thought things were going to go the same way they did yesterday,” he said. “But then the fish kind of got out a little bit away from where they had been. And other boats around got on top of them.”
He stuck to it. After boating three, he went sight fishing and caught several more for his limit.
And for Saturday’s round? He’s going to try for another shad spawn bite, and then turn to spawning bass as long as the wind doesn’t blow too hard and wreck his sight bite.
“Anything can happen,” he said. “This lake’s full of big ones. You make the right cast and find the right wad of them out there and you can catch a good bag.”
Rojas said he was hooking into postspawn bass Friday. He wasn’t into large numbers of fish, but the quality was there.
“For some reason the big fish bit for me today,” said the pro from Lake Havasu City, Ariz., claiming to be mystified as to why.
“I’m just fishing, doing what I know how to do best,” Rojas said.
A 5-pounder late in the day, plus a 6-3, his largest of the day, were the anchors of his 24-15 sack of bass.
Rojas said he spent time Friday searching for new water, trying to put together enough for two more days and a chance at a second Elite win on Toledo Bend.
“I’ve got a lot of experience on this lake, and I know I can’t win in one area,” he said. “I have to have multiple areas. And the conditions are changing, getting warmer and warmer. I think that can play into my hands.”
The 50 pros who qualified to compete Saturday will take off at 6:20 a.m. CT from Cypress Bend Park. The weigh-in, at the same location, will start at 3:15 p.m. CT.
Only the Top 12 from Saturday will advance to Sunday’s championship round and a shot at the first-place prize is $100,000 and an instant qualification for the 2015 Bassmaster Classic. The pros are also competing for points that count toward a Classic entry and the 2014 Toyota Bassmaster Angler of the Year title.
Powroznik won the $500 Livingston Lures Leader Award for heading up the leaderboard on Day 2.
Friday’s largest bass was an 8-3 by Reese. But with his 8-12 of Day 1, Chris Zaldain of San Jose, Calif., remained the frontrunner for the Carhartt Big Bass award of up to $1,500. For his Day 1 weight of 25-7, Lintner continued to lead the event’s Berkley Heavyweight bonus competition for $500.
Saturday and Sunday, the Bassmaster Elite Series Expo will feature demos, giveaways and products from the tour’s sponsors, including free boat rides in Nitro, Triton and Skeeter boats powered by Yamaha and Mercury engines. The rides will be offered after takeoff is complete and continue until 2:30 p.m. The event’s title sponsor, Evan Williams Bourbon, will offer free tastings.
Saturday’s activities also include the 3 p.m. screening of the newest GeoBASS video from Costa. Musical entertainment beginning after the weigh-in includes a performance by Jason Cassidy from 7 to 9 p.m. The concert will be followed by fireworks.
All activities will be at Cypress Bend Park (GPS help: 3463 Cypress Bend Drive, Many, LA 71449). There’s no admission charge, and free shuttles from parking areas will be provided.
The local hosts of the Elite event are the Sabine Parish Tourist Commission, Louisiana Office of Tourism, Sabine River Authority, Cypress Bend Resort, TanMar and other local businesses.
The Bassmasters on ESPN2 will feature the Toledo Bend event May 18 from 8 to 9 a.m. ET.