BULL SHOALS, Ark. — After a biting-cold Saturday morning running his boat on Bull Shoals Lake, Bassmaster Elite Series pro Greg Vinson could well have been running a line in his head from an old children’s verse: “Saturday’s child works hard for a living.”
Didn’t help that the fishing was hard too on Saturday, the second day of the Ramada Quest.
“I can’t tell you what a grind it was. The bite was really slow,” Vinson said on stage after he weighed in 13 pounds, 8 ounces.
He finished his work day with a two-day total of 30-5 and the Quest lead for the second consecutive day, but by only 3 ounces instead of the 1-pound lead he had Friday. The angler right behind him was Casey Scanlon of Lenexa, Kan., with 30-2.
How hard was Vinson’s day?
“To put it in perspective, at 12 o’clock I had four fish that might have weighed 6 pounds,” said Vinson, who’s from Wetumpka, Ala. “I had two keeper largemouth and two keeper spots. That was really working on my mind. At that point of the day, I was thinking about just making the Top 50.”
Vinson turned it around when he hit on a key adjustment — which he wasn’t about to share.
“I caught a 4, a 3 and a 2 1/2 in the last couple of hours. And I caught them a little bit differently than the way I caught them yesterday. At that point I was excited about saving the day — but I was a little upset with myself for not making that adjustment sooner.”
The 4-pounder was “barely hooked,” and he had to play the fish with patience and precision.
“At the time I still had two spots in the livewell, and I knew what a difference that fish would make,” he said. “I was so nervous the whole time I fought that fish. I’ve never taken so long to land a fish, but I knew it was important to take it slow. It felt like 30 minutes, but was probably only a couple of minutes.”
The lack of wind and spotty water color within the one area Vinson is working forced him to make the crucial adjustment.
“The least amount of wind makes all the difference for me,” he said.
The Alabama pro ended up with five-fish limit of largemouth after he landed his final largemouth of the day with 15 minutes of fishing time remaining. At about 2 1/2 pounds, it allowed him to cull his one remaining spotted bass.
“That was huge,” he said. “It was the difference between leading and not leading.”
Vinson’s job isn’t over. With two more days of Quest competition remaining, Vinson has Scanlon to worry about. Scanlon brought in 15-5 Saturday to bump up his two-day total to 30-2. He climbed from seventh place into second, just 3 ounces in back of the leader.
Scanlon said he’s caught his limits early two days in a row. He went through 30 keepers Saturday (and about 25 or so Friday) before he was satisfied with what he had swimming in his boat’s livewell.
“Both days I’ve quit fishing the ‘good stuff’ at about 10 o’clock,” he said. “I ran some new patterns and figured out one more that’s pretty easy to catch keepers, but it’s probably worth only 13 pounds.”
His fish are pre-spawners, he said. They’re in deep, clear water, he said, and he’s making long casts to prevent spooking them.
Also on Vinson’s heels was Cliff Pace of Petal, Miss. Pace ended his Saturday competition 7 ounces behind Vinson. The 2013 Bassmaster Classic champion, Pace weighed 14-12 for 29-14 over two days. Pace held in third-place, same as he finished the first day.
“These clear lakes, it’s so important to fish the conditions of the day,” Pace said.
He said the winds of Friday allowed him to use moving baits. Not so on Saturday, when the water was glassy.
“Today I had to slow down and pick things apart, be very methodical,” he said.
Fourth place was taken over by Terry Scroggins, who inched up from sixth place with 29-9. In fifth place was Pete Ponds of Madison, Miss., with 28-6. Ponds made a clean break from a first-day tie with two other anglers at 18th place.
The pros are after a first prize of $100,000 and an instant-in for the 2014 Bassmaster Classic. They’re also are earning points toward a Classic qualification. The top pro in points at the end of the eight-event regular season will win the coveted Toyota Bassmaster Angler of the Year title.
Vinson won the $500 Livingston Leader Award. A Bassmaster Elite Series Supporting Sponsor, Livingston Lures offers the award to the angler with the Day 2 lead.
The largest bass of the day was weighed by Ish Monroe of Hughson, Calif., but at 5-4, it wasn’t enough to tumble Kentucky pro Bradley Roy’s 5-6 of Friday. Roy remained in line for the Quest’s Carhartt Big Bass prize of $1,000 plus a $500 bonus if the angler was wearing Carhartt apparel.
Vinson’s Day 1 bag of 16-13 remained the frontrunner after two days for the event’s Berkley Heavyweight Award of $500.
The Ramada Quest continues Sunday with the Top 50 who made the Day 2 cut. The field will whittle down to the Top 12 for the $100,000 championship round on Monday, one day later than usual in a four-day Elite event because the planned start on Thursday shifted to Friday when severe weather hammered northern Arkansas.
Fans can follow the action on Bassmaster.com, and are invited to the Bull Shoals White River State Park to watch the pros weigh their bass Sunday and Monday starting at 3:15 p.m.