PARIS LANDING, Tenn. — Day Two of the SpongeTech Tennessee Triumph on Kentucky Lake brought changing conditions both in the weather and in the updated Toyota Tundra Bassmaster Angler of the Year standings.
What follows is some of the movers from the second day of competition and their stories from out on the water:
Mark Menendez (TTBAOY standing: eighth place, 1337 points)
Menendez is a local from nearby Paducah, Ky., but at least on the Elite Series, Kentucky Lake has always been his nemesis. On Day One, Menendez managed to throw off the home-water curse and put up a nearly 20-pound bag, but struggled on Day Two and fell to 45th place in the tournament.
"I'm just focused on making sure I'm getting five fish every day," Menendez said. "I really want to make the postseason — those are two of my favorite lakes and I've really whacked them there."
Menendez did achieve the desired five-fish limit on Day Two, but at only 14 pounds, 12 ounces, he couldn't maintain his Day One momentum. As it turned out, catching that limit was important for making the 50-cut as well as staying in eighth place in the TTBAOY race.
"If you are in the top 30, you have to catch what you can," Menendez said. "If you are in 50th, then you can throw one down the center of home plate and swing for the fences. I've been burned before swinging for the fences, where you drop down and lose 20 AOY points and that just won't cut it here."
In 45th place, Menendez can afford to take risks on Day Three, but there are still two tournaments to look forward to, so every point is going to make a difference.
"I'm looking forward to going to Fort Madison," Menendez said. "It's a tough fishery, so that's one I have to get through."
Bobby Lane (TTBAOY standing: 12th place, 1295 points)
Lane extended his lead at the SpongeTech Tennessee Triumph on Day Two and by way of others falling around him, also moved into the bubble position as number 12 in the TTBAOY race in the hunt for one of the 12 postseason berths.
Not only has he been consistently on a big bite this week in Paris, Tenn., but the Lakeland, Fla., pro also has confidence in the final two venues for the 2009 Elite Series: Ft. Madison, Iowa, on the Mississippi River and Oneida Lake near Syracuse, N.Y.
"Iowa is set up for my style of fishing with shallow water and I came in 19th at Oneida last year," Lane said. "I'm not really gunning for angler of the year after being four minutes late at Dardanelle and having a horrible tournament at Wheeler, but I think I have a good chance at making the postseason. I called my wife yesterday and I wanted to know who was sitting in the top 12."
Right now, it is Lane, but he is going to need to maintain his lead at Kentucky Lake to continue to hang around the top 12. Right now, only 18 points separate Lane from 13th-place Kelly Jordon and 21 from Byron Velvick and Greg Hackney, tied for 14th. Jordon and Velvick are both fishing on the third day at Kentucky Lake as well.
Can he maintain the pace that has set him in the driver's seat, especially with Skeet Reese and Kevin VanDam breathing down his neck?
"I'm fishing good and clean," Lane said. "I've had one good day and one mediocre day today where I lost a couple of fish that might have helped me. I've never lead an Elite Series event and I've never won one, so that's what I'm focused on right now."
Greg Hackney (TTBAOY standing: 14th place, 1274 points)
For Hackney, Kentucky Lake has turned out to be a disappointment, dropping from seventh in the TTBAOY standings to 14th after Day Two.
"I knew it was going to take a big weight to do well so I spent the tournament fishing offshore," Hackney said. "I've yet to find them really well offshore in the three times we've been here. It was hard not to go up shallow here. I had to run by banks with my hand shielding my eyes."
Fortunately for Hackney, shallow should be the key at the next few tournaments.
"I have a feeling that the next two tournaments will be won shallow," Hackney said. "I've fished the Mississippi River down where I'm from and up north from where we will be in Ft. Madison, so I have confidence going there. Two good finishes will put me back in the top 12."
Kevin Short (TTBAOY standing: 17th place, 1249 points)
"I did everything in my power to knock myself out of the top 12 and I think I did a real fine job of it."
Those words uttered after walking off stage on Day Two of the SpongeTech Tennessee Triumph perfectly summed up his day that saw him weigh in only 9 pounds, 1 ounce. Like Menendez, Kentucky Lake has been his nemesis in the past and he seemed to have broken that on Day One after boating 20 pounds, 13 ounces, but Day Two was a different story entirely.
"I lost some fish that could have helped me here. I even lost them on a Carolina rig and you aren't supposed to lose them on that," Short said. "I probably lost 6 to 10 fish between 3 and 5 pounds — I just don't know what it was. My Marshal looked at me and said, 'Man, it hurts to look at you.' I couldn't work out of it."
The biggest change between practice and Day Two of the tournament was the weather change. After bright sunny, hot conditions throughout practice, a major front came through bringing rain and drastically cooler temperatures, but it was the wind that really hurt Short.
"We got clouds and the wind switched around 180 degrees," Short said. "Most of my stuff was lined up to fish on a South wind and I never really was able to adjust. If you don't hit that spot the size of the front deck of a boat, you won't get a bite, but when you do hit it, you will get bit every time. It's really hard when you have 12 to 15 mph winds to get lined up and hit that spot."
Short entered the tournament in 10th place in the TTBAOY race and after the rough Day Two, fell to 17th, still well within striking distance if he can turn it around at the last two events.
"Since I get to sleep in tomorrow I'll have some time to think about the next two events," Short said. "My best shot will come next week. It's a river tournament, something I like and there will be some in the top 12 that don't catch them. It will be an ugly tournament and you will see some heartbreak. I hope to move back into the top 12 there and then just hang on at Oneida. That's how I have it playing out in my mind."
Even with a solid game plan in mind, it still hurts to get behind some of the best anglers in the world.
"Once you get behind, it's hard to keep up," Short said. "In this crowd, you cannot get behind, whether it's to make the top-12 cut, the top-36 cut for the Classic or the last cut to requalify. This group is not going to wait — they are going to run away from you."
Shaw Grigsby (TTBAOY standing: 23rd place, 1220 points)
Grigsby entered Kentucky Lake in 23rd place in the TTBAOY race and ended Day Two in 23rd place. For such little movement, there was a lot of excitement crammed into the middle.
He walloped 24 pounds, 3 ounces on Day One and that had him not only towards the top of the leaderboard in the tournament, but also in 13th place in the TTBAOY race. A slide on Day Two dropped him to 41st at Kentucky Lake and back to where he started in the year-long dash for the postseason.
"Today just wasn't a good day," Grigsby said. "I stuck one about 5 pounds and it pulled off. The fish where I caught them yesterday just weren't biting so I had to revert to getting a small limit. After that, I went back to those fish and they still weren't going."
The good news for Grigsby is that he has plenty of room to move up on Day Three, which can help him regain his position near the 12-cut that will move on to fish in Alabama for the yearlong crown in September.
Whether he does go or doesn't, he's not worried about what happens with the top 12.
"My honest opinion is the top-12 format [for TTBAOY] is a joke," Grigsby said. "The point system should be one point per place and that will bring out the best anglers. If Kevin walks away with it, then that should be how it is. No second chances, no do-overs."
Mark Tucker (TTBAOY standing: 29th place, 1187 points)
Tucker made perhaps the worst mistake of the top 12 and it cost him big in the standings, dropping him from 12th before the tournament started, all the way to 29th.
"You shouldn't have preconceived notions about what you need to do and that burned me here," Tucker said. "I came in thinking I could catch them one way and that wasn't the case. You could throw a jig and have a blast. I tried throwing a crankbait a little bit, but when you are catching a fish on every cast with that jig it's hard to put down. It seemed like those little fish were just getting it before the big ones and that's all I was catching."
The curse of the little fish left Tucker in 96th place for the tournament with only 15 pounds, 1 ounce over two days of competition.
Fortunately for Tucker, a similar shake-up might occur to the top 12 again at Ft. Madison and leave him in position to sneak back in.
"The Mississippi River is going to be a big bear," Tucker said. "It's going to be brutal. These guys better get the fish catching out of their systems this week. These guys need a little wake-up call."