BOSSIER CITY, La. — A half-hour before blast-off on the final morning of the Bassmaster Classic, leader Jami Fralick walked past the four boats separating him from sixth-place Brian Snowden.
Snowden turned to his friend. Fralick reached out and handed Snowden a pair of jigs.
"There's only two of them there," Fralick said, "so don't lose 'em. If you ask me nice, I might give you my spare. But don't go breakin' 'em off just because."
The two Midwestern anglers have been uncommonly convivial in this Classic. When Fralick suffered electrical problems in his boat on Day One, Snowden slowed to escort him up the Red River in case he broke down entirely.
In their case, caring and sharing have paid dividends. One consistent theme in the 2009 Classic has been that the fishy areas have been fishing small. Despite huge blocks of good-looking water in the Red River, fish — and fishermen — are concentrated in small areas.
Fralick (38 pounds, 9 ounces) and Snowden (34-13) co-existed nicely on Day One in the Jungle, a community hole in the river's Pool Four. Casey Ashley showed up on Day Two and proceeded to sack 22-11, the tournament's biggest bag and more than twice his Day One weight.
With that, Ashley moved to the outer edge of contention to 11th place, 6-1 from the lead.
"Brian and I were the only ones in there on the first day, but (Ashley) practiced here," Fralick said. "He said he wouldn't come in there if we were in there today. We'll see how it works out."
At the dock, Fralick told Snowden he would say something to Ashley if he felt the young angler was encroaching on their spot.
The thought that the spot could support such an assault is actually encouraging to Fralick, who thinks it's capable of producing the winning weight.
"I've caught 19 pounds a day in their for two days, plus what Brian's caught," Fralick said. "The fish are in there to win. I've just got to go catch them. Both of us have got a very real shot at winning."
Snowden, a mere 3-12 from the lead, said he hopes it's just him and Fralick in the spot that Fralick said consists of laydowns, stumps and lily pads around "two ditches that we're just going around and around in a circle."
"It's easy to fish around your buddy," Snowden said. "We don't have to communicate about things. We just work around each other." said Snowden, saying that the two will be fishing within 20 feet of each other during the course of the day.
"It's big enough for two guys to fish. It's big enough for three guys to get 20 pounds apiece, really," said Snowden. "Whether it's capable of doing that again, I don't know. If I did, I'd already have the $500,000 in my pocket."
Ashley was sympathetic to Fralick's and Snowden's plight and indicated he would, for the most part, leave the pair be. But at the same time, Ashley was first to the spot on Day Two he wouldn't miss the opportunity to fish the hole that surrendered "16 or 17 pounds on the first pass" in his first 30 minutes.
"I'm gonna try and start in the same place," said Ashley, who secured his Day Two fish with a white/chartreuse willow leaf spinnerbait. "It's not like I jumped their fish. I told them I'm gonna make one pass in there with that bait right there.
"If I get bit I might go through again. If not I'll get out."
Fralick said another thing that encourages him is the fact that the fish have been consistent in biting heartily at specific times during the day.
"It's not like they're biting the first bait they see. I've caught one and then right at the same time Brian will catch one on the other side," he said.