BIRMINGHAM, Ala. — In a come-from-behind charge familiar to fishing fans, three-time Toyota Tundra Bassmaster Angler of the Year Kevin VanDam moved up the leaderboard with one of his patented moves Saturday, jumping from 19th place into the lead at the 37th Bassmaster Classic on Alabama's Lay Lake.
The Kalamazoo, Mich., Elite Series pro, who has amassed over $2 million in BASS earnings, totaled 19 pounds, 14 ounces, Saturday to bring his two-day total to 32-15. He built a 9-ounce lead over California's Skeet Reese. The top angler will take home a $500,000 top prize Sunday.
Coverage of bass fishing's equivalent to the Super Bowl kicked off Saturday morning on ESPN2 at 7 a.m. ET. ESPN2 will air 10 ½ hours of coverage over the three-day event and viewers can catch the action starting at 6:30 a.m. ET. Sunday.
Alabama Elite Series pro Gerald Swindle's Day 2 catch was disqualified Saturday by BASS officials for violation of Rules 5i and 6ii. Swindle didn't make the top 25 cut and finished in 45th place. The applicable part of the rules state: "Safe boat conduct must be observed at all times by competitors."
Rounding out the top five were Reese (32-6), Florida's Terry Scroggins (30-15), Alabama's Boyd Duckett (30-13) and Alabama's Tim Horton (29-11).
"This is what we live for," VanDam said. "I was really disappointed on Friday because I felt I had dug a hole for myself and these guys are too good for you to leave anything on the table.
"Just getting to the Classic doesn't satisfy me anymore. I always want to put myself in a position to win and that's what I've done."
Reese is no stranger to winning BASS tournaments — he's won two — but he has yet to score a coveted Classic victory in seven tries.
"I have a spot where I caught a pretty quick limit the first day and I fished there pretty much all day Saturday," the 37-year-old said. "There are some prime-looking areas around it, so I'll go exploring."
While Reese was pleasantly surprised with his tournament after an unproductive practice period, to win the marquee event he will still have to jump ahead of VanDam.
"The last thing I wanted to see is this guy [VanDam] catch almost 20 pounds and leapfrog me in the standings," Reese said. "He seems to always do that."
Other Alabama anglers safely above the cutline are Steve Kennedy from Auburn, Ala., in seventh; Randy Howell from Springville, Ala., in 10th; Aaron Martens from Leeds, Ala., in 13th; and Russ Lane from Prattville, Ala., in 25th.