FLORENCE, Ala. — Skeet Reese came into this week's Bassmaster Elite Series event on Pickwick Lake expecting nothing and hoping for everything. After Saturday, he's closing in on his second straight victory, continuing his red-hot run at the Toyota Tundra Bassmaster Angler of the Year trophy.
The Auburn, Calif., pro vaulted into first place with a 20-pound, 4-ounce limit building his three-day total to 52 pounds, 3 ounces, at the Alabama Charge.
While Reese took the lead, it's not much of one. He holds a scant 2-ounce margin over Cliff Pace of Petal, Miss. But Reese has been dominating all season, notching finishes of second, fifth and first thus far in Elite competition.
Looking for redemption after narrowly missing out on the Angler of the Year title last year, Reese circled Pickwick Lake at the start of the season as a fishery that could cause him problems. After all, this would be his first ever visit to Pickwick. Add in the changing conditions -- which include fluctuating water levels and nasty weather -- and it spelled possible disaster for Reese's bid at the coveted AOY trophy.
"I'm actually very surprised I'm in this position," said Reese, the 2007 Toyota Tundra Bassmaster Angler of the Year. "I was thinking that a top-20 would be good heading into this event so this is icing on the cake. I'm just going to have to punt and grind it out on Sunday."
Fishing fans can catch all the on-the-water action from the four-day event on The Bassmasters, which airs Saturday, May 9, at 9 a.m. ET on ESPN2 (re-airs Sunday, May 23, at 10 a.m. ET on ESPN2). The daily weigh-ins for all regular-season Elite events and the two postseason events will air live on ESPN3.com, ESPN's broadband sports network.
While most anglers have camped out on Pickwick, Reese is locking through and making his run to Wilson Lake. The decision paid off on Thursday as Reese started in third place. But Reese slipped Friday and fell to 13th.
With a tight leaderboard and little separation between the top contingent, Reese was able to take advantage and grab first place, albeit by a slight margin. Saturday, Reese was buoyed by cloudy conditions and landed his big bass -- two that weighed more than 5 pounds -- on an area he identified in practice.
The five-time Bassmaster winner played it close to the vest on specifics of his pattern but did say he is focusing on areas that hold quality bass, but not large quantities.
Repeating his Friday pattern -- working shallow smallmouths in the morning and then moving with the fish to offshore areas -- Pace posted a 16-8 limit, enough for 52-1. While Reese could be essentially by himself in Pickwick on Sunday, Pace must contend with a number of other contenders, and locals, in his community hole.
The area is so saturated with traffic, it has tested Pace's patience all week. The area is holding post-spawn fish and Pace, 28th in the Toyota Tundra Bassmaster Angler of the Year standings heading into this event, has been largely capitalizing on the offshore areas as the fish move deeper.
Just five ounce behind Pace in third was Aaron Martens of Leeds, Ala, with 51-12. Matching Martens was Kevin Short, who led the first two days. Short of Mayflower, Ark., said the clouds and rain killed his bite Saturday and he would have to go back to the drawing board for the final day of competition.
Martens is a Tennessee River impoundment guru, having won an Elite event on Guntersville last year. In fifth was Mike Iaconelli of Pittsgrove, N.J., with 51-9. Iaconelli was the last of five anglers within 1 pound of the lead.
Just outside that contingent was Steve Kennedy of Auburn, Ala., with 50-14. Also qualifying for the final-day was Dean Rojas, who started the event in 83rd after the first day, and Rick Morris of Lake Gaston, Va., in 11th.
Just like the first two days of competition, all competing anglers were able to land a limit. With inclement weather set for Sunday, BASS officials will make a determination in the morning on how the competition day will unfold.
BASS has visited Pickwick Lake, a 47,000-acre Tennessee River fishery, for six events, including a 2002 Southern Open won by Boyd Duckett of Demopolis, Ala., with 33 pounds, 8 ounces. He just missed the cut on Friday, finishing 15th.