So far this week, the swimbait has not been as kind to Byron Velvick as it was when he won on Clear Lake a few weeks ago. Friday, it very nearly cost him a shot at making the top-50 cut.
With only four fish in the well by 1:00, Velvick made the decision to pull out the swimbait and go to work. Opportunity was quick to strike, but didn't last long.
"My first dock with that swimbait, I hooked a 5- or 6-pounder and lost it at the boat," Velvick said. "I figured the bite would be on and tried grinding it out for two hours, but the swimbait bite killed me.
"I thought maybe I was onto something after that first big bite. I thought I could do something special. It was mind numbing that it came off. That big fish almost lost me a chance at the cut."
Without the big fish, it was a close call for Velvick, finishing Friday 4 ounces inside the top-47 cut in 46th with 26 pounds, 4 ounces.
Aaron Martens has cultivated a technique for catching stubborn bed fish that most anglers wouldn't admit to: he just let's his bait sit as he checks on the rest of his boat.
"The first day of the tournament, I caught a 2-pound male and there was a 6-pounder with it," Martens said. "About the second or third pitch after I caught the male, I just left my bait sitting there."
He does that often with bedding fish, but then comes the moving around the boat part.
"I went to the back of the boat to check on my livewell," Martens said. "When I got back to the front, I went to reel the slack up and my bait was 10 feet off to the side of the bed, so I set the hook and caught the 6-pounder."
His reasoning for moving and checking on something in the boat is that it is hard to stay still and just let the bait soak in the bed, but the deadsticking action is crucial to getting the bite, so he just keeps himself occupied and lets the bass get a good look.
It has worked for Martens so far on Smith Mountain Lake. After two days of fishing, Martens is in sixth place with 33 pounds, 14 ounces.
At Friday morning's launch for Day Two of the Evan Williams Bourbon Blue Ridge Brawl on Smith Mountain Lake, John Crews was still disheartened by his opening day showing.
He feels better now.
Crews, of Salem, Va., turned in Friday's biggest stringer — 19 pounds, 2 ounces — and leaped from 68th place to 12th heading into Saturday.1
"I took out some frustrations on a few of those hook sets, that's for sure," said Crews, whose two-day total is 31-7.
Crews, who won the Elite Series' season-opening at the Duel in the Delta near Stockton, Calif., said he entered new water on Friday and found it to his liking.
"I don't think it's undiscovered or anything like that," he said. "I saw two boats in the area I was in. It just happened to be a little section that's not as beaten up. I think I left six fish up there.
"I just settled into one vicinity of the lake and didn't run around a bunch. I never moved more than a half mile."
After a disastrous Day One, Mark Burgess will not fish the weekend after failing to make Friday's 47-man cut. But his 16-1 stringer Friday — compared to the awful 1-9 on Thursday — restored at least some his pride.
"It's definitely redemption," said Burgess of Norton, Mass. "I know I can catch them, but you can't make any mistakes. These guys are the best in the world. I gobbed it up, you know?"
Burgess said his primary problem Thursday was spending too much time chasing what he called "little blue dots," points he had marked on his global position satellite system to show where he had found large fish in practice.
"Today, instead of running to the blue dot, I just pulled into that place and started fishing. Just fished," he said. "In that process, working through pockets, more fish moved up.
"I'd see one that would circle and wouldn't go away, so I knew she'd be on a bed. I would wait and see what she set up on and go catch her. I could have done that two days in a row and two 17-pound bags would put you in the top 10. I just gobbed it up."
Chris Lane of Guntersville, Ala., was hit with a difficult dilemma Friday, but he apparently made the correction decision in the end.
Late in the afternoon, Lane hooked a good-sized bass in the tongue and soon saw the fish struggling in the life well. He quickly had to decide whether he needed to release the fish or return to launch site early and hope series officials could help.
"It was one of my better fish, so I didn't want the fish to die and I didn't want to let it go," he said. "In this tournament, 8 ounces could be the difference between 10 grand and not 10 grand."
Lane opted to return to the dock about 1.5 hours early.
"I wanted to get her up here where there was plenty of oxygen and ice and water and all the stuff they use her to keep these fish alive. I wanted to make sure she had the best care."
The decision paid off. Lane's five-fish stringer weighed 13-5, and his total of 27-15 just put him over the 47-man cut in 39th place.
A cold front is slated to move into the area on Saturday, driving temperatures and bring 30-mph wind gusts.
But Mark Tucker of St. Louis said nothing is going to drive the Smith Mountain Lake bass off their spawning beds.
"The fish you can find are committed," said Tucker, who is in 15th place at 30-3. "It could come a snowstorm and they'll still be there."
"I messed with this one fish so long I had to sit down and eat a sandwich, me and that fish both needed a break." — Marty Stone
I'm ignoring all the GPS waypoints I saved in practice and fishing all new water." — Aaron Martens
"This sight fishing deal is a head game and sometimes a train wreck." — Britt Myers
"It's a bad thing when you go down a bank and catch a couple little ole 2-pounders, then one of these 19- or 20-year-olds comes right behinds you and catches 4-pounders. I didn't catch them because my old eyes didn't see them." — Mark Davis
"I finally caught me one of them big ole crack heads, today. I chased him around three pockets until he surrendered." — Gerald Swindle
"I've wiped out every fish I had marked, I've got to find more fish." — Greg Vinson
"You can watch it happen, make it happen or think what the heck just happened? Today I wondered what the heck just happened." — Kevin Short
"They're clones, all about 3 pounds. But I'll take 15 pounds every day." — Terry Scroggins
"If I've got to mix it up and not even look at the bank tomorrow, that's what I'll do." — Bobby Lane, on whether he will continue to sight fish in changing conditions Saturday