LAKE GUNTERSVILLE, Ala. — The fishing is so good on Lake Guntersville this week that anglers aren't surprised if the tug on the other end of the line is something other than a bass.
Friday, Florida pro Shaw Grigsby caught a stringer of largemouths that totaled 21 pounds, 10 ounces, but along the way he also boated a 25-pound white drum, a blue catfish that topped 20 pounds and three channel catfish that Grigsby estimated at about 4 pounds each.
"It was crazy. I guess every fish in this lake is hungry," said Grigsby, who'll have the chance to catch more drum and catfish Saturday. He made the 50-cut.
How high's the water?
As Matt Herren said Thursday after weighing in a disappointing 14 pounds, "you live by the shallow bite, you die by the shallow bite." Friday, Tommy Biffle might also have seen the handwriting on the wall, or perhaps for him it was the waterline on the flooded trees and shrubs he's fishing. Biffle heads into the third round with 44 pounds, 7 ounces, good for 33rd place, but he's not confident that his shallow fish will hold up.
"They're dropping the lake and it's going to hurt me," he said after Friday's weigh-in. "The bigger fish are already moving out. I know because I caught a lot more smaller bass today. I did get a 6 1/2 pounder, but I just don't have a lot of confidence that the better fish will stay in there."
The Good Guy(s) Award
Tournament pros sometimes get on each others' nerves while they're competing, but they come together when it counts.
Thursday, Casey Ashley of South Carolina hit a submerged floating log while heading back to Lake Guntersville State Park. The collision took the lower unit off Ashley's outboard, but Arkansas pro Mike Wurm happened by a few minutes later, saw that Ashley was in trouble and stopped to help. Ashley transferred his Marshal and his catch to Wurm's boat and made it back to the landing with three minutes to spare.
Friday, Justin Hamner of Huntsville, Ala., who regularly fishes B.A.S.S. Opens, loaned Ashley his boat. Ashley didn't make the cut, but he did gain two more friends.
A silver lining to every grey cloud
Clark Reehm's 9-pound, 2-ounce largemouth was the biggest bass weighed in Friday, and the biggest of the Southern Challenge so far. It earned the Arkansas angler his first check of the season.
"You never know," said Reehm. "Thursday was the low point of the year for me. Here I was with only about 15 ½ pounds. Everybody was talking about all the fish they were catching. Then today a local guy I came up on held up an 8-pound bass he had just caught. It was bad. And then, at about 3:30 p.m., my big fish nailed a jig and things got better all of a sudden."
Reehm is in 32nd place and moved on to Saturday's next round.
Not laying off today
Randy Howell learned his lesson about laying off his fish on Day One the hard way, as a multitude of 20-pound bag crossed the Elite Series scales.
"I caught 21 pounds yesterday and I thought that was pretty good, but it wasn't," Howell said. "I was throwing back 4-pounders and they weren't getting any bigger, so I left two hours early. I live pretty close to the lake, but I never realized how good it actually is."
That Day One effort left him towards the middle of the pack, so he was determined to stick with his spot all day long on Friday. His plan worked to the tune of 26 pounds, 13 ounces and he jumped up to the top 20.
"I didn't leave the spot like I did yesterday," Howell said. "I thought I might have to fish a lot of spots today, but I got in one place and kept catching them so I stuck with it all day."
"This place sucks." — Clark Reehm, telling his Marshal, Glenn Thorniley of Huntsville, Ala., five minutes before hooking a 9-pound, 2-ounce bass, the biggest of the Southern Challenge so far.
"I think the potential is there for somebody to catch a 10-pounder. I hope it's me." — Mike Iaconelli, whose big fish in the first two days averaged 7 pounds apiece.
"If somebody told me that there would be a tournament where I would catch seven limits over 20 pounds in one day, and throw them all back in the lake, I would have told them they were crazy." Mark Menendez, who did just that Friday en route to finishing with a 26-pound, 12-ounce stringer.
After a butt-whipping like this I'm ready to go to the house." — Jason Williamson
"I threw all the goofy fish you lose fish on, but didn't lose one all day." — Randy Howell
"I started panicking today and that's never good." — Mark Tucker
"There's some bags behind me that are just scary." — Bernie Schultz
"I think there's going to be multiple 100-pound belts given away when this thing's over." — Mark Menendez
"My arms are so tired I feel like they're hanging down to my feet." — Gerald Swindle