FORT MADISON, Iowa — After Day One, it was apparent that one small area on Pool 19 had produced the top three stringers at the Genuity River Rumble on the Mississippi River. Day Two saw pressure kill the fishing there and Pool 18 anglers shined, taking the top four spots heading into Saturday.
Alton Jones leads the event with a two-day total of 24 pounds, 1 ounce and originally decided to lock to get away from the massive boat pressure in Pool 19, where the tournament launches from.
"In one day on Pool 19, I looked at everything I needed to see because there are only a few spots and they were covered up with boats," Jones said. "The thing about going to Pool 18 for me was getting away from that giant crowd."
The term "crowd" has been redefined this tournament on the Mississippi River, as one popular area no larger than a small farm pond was occupied by as many as 20 boats at one time in Pool 19.
But nearly half the field chose to lock up to Pool 18, so while the contestants are spread out somewhat, spots are nearly always shared, although not to the extent they are on Pool 19. Jones fond his spot already occupied by Kelly Jordon, but the two forged a quick bond that has helped them manage their fish so far this week.
"Kelly and I both committed the first day not to blister them," Jones said. "We each caught 6 or 7 fish the first day and we could have left, but we wanted to make sure other boats didn't come in on the spots. As for today, if I fish for three hours without a bite, will I leave it? No. After five hours, will I? Well, we have to for the lock."
While Jones has been catching some of his keepers in that shared spot, he also has nabbed a few key fish on his way to and from the lock.
"The most critical time today will be on my way to the lock," Jones said. "It would be real nice to have a fish in the well when I get to that spot. I actually caught two fish that I needed coming back down the last two days which turned out to be huge with such a small margin between first and second place — every fish is critical."
Jordon, who currently sits in fourth place overall in the standings with 23 pounds, 2 ounces, agreed with Jones' assessment that fishing to and from their shared hole is important.
Jordon might need to use his fallback areas on Day Three as it seemed the fishing had been getting slower with the pressure the two anglers are putting on the small area.
"It was pretty tough in there," Jordon said. "We don't know how the pressure will affect them — it seemed a lot tougher. There are fish there, but it is very boring going round and round 1000 times waiting for the fish to move up. If they turn the pipe off, it could be really bad."
Another angler locking up, but fishing a different spot has also relied on catching a quick fish to help boost overall weights. Gary Klein has been fishing in a bigger crowd on Pool 18, with other anglers such as Gerald Swindle, Mike Iaconelli and Scott Campbell just to name a few, and all of them made the top-50 cut.
"I've been fortunate to catch a keeper before locking up," Klein said. "Yesterday, I actually caught my fifth keeper on my way back in. Today I'm going to go to one little area that I've been saving though."
With the field cut in half, pressure should ease considerably, but the question of how many fish were left in these small backwaters was in every competitor's mind. As for which pool dominates on Day Three, the tale will be told at the weigh-in starting at 5:00 p.m. ET on ESPN360, with full coverage of the event on Bassmaster.com.