GUNTERSVILLE, Ala. — Matt Herren of Trussville, Ala., dialed-in on one "sweet little ridge" of Lake Guntersville for the bass that helped him into the lead Friday at the season finale of the Bassmaster Southern Open.
His two-day weight of 48 pounds, 3 ounces, also helped him step one day closer to qualifying for the 2009 Bassmaster Classic and the Bassmaster Elite Series.
Herren moved up Friday from second place behind a solid five-fish limit of 21 pounds, 10 ounces, putting him in front of two anglers tied for second place at 47-1: Bassmaster Elite Series pro Bobby Lane of Lakeland, Fla., and Greg Vinson of Wetumpka, Ala.
Moving up from fifth into fourth place was Elite pro Casey Ashley of Donalds, S.C., who had 46-8 over the two days. Day One leader Randall Tharp of Gardendale, Ala., fell to fifth place with 45-7.
They lead the field going into the final day of competition Saturday, when only the top 30 will compete for the $45,000 first-place prize.
Herren said he's flipping to a "big grass mat," and throwing a frog, spinnerbait and buzzbait.
"I've got a school located, and I'm just working that school, keeping them active," Herren said.
He said he's got his spot to himself, and pulling fish after fish out of it.
"I was fortunate enough to go through there in practice, and I got bit, so I keyed into what the fish were doing. It's a sweet little ridge they're sitting on, and I'm working one side of it. There's a ton of fish there, and I'm really dialing in on them more every day."
He said he lost five fish before he boated his first keeper Friday morning.
"One just ran under the boat and came off. It was the biggest fish I've stuck this week, maybe over 7 pounds," he said. "I would have loved to have had it to have a little more breathing room."
He'll need it to fend off Lane and Vinson, who lurk just 1 pound, 2 ounces behind.
Lane said his day started slowly.
"I was frustrated this morning when it was 10:30 and I had one fish," he said. "I'd lost about five, then I went to another spot, lost about a 4-pounder, so I sat down and got my stuff together and in 30 minutes, I caught 22 pounds."
Vinson toted 26-9 to the scales Friday, a big bag that jumped him from 17th place into the tie for second place.
"Things started to work out today and I'm catching better fish, so now I'm in position to go for the win," said Vinson, who turned full-time pro last year. "I spent a lot of time practicing. I feel like the hard work's paying off."
Vinson said the key for him has been managing his spots. He said he's throwing a Stanley Ribbit frog and flipping a Net Bait Baby Paca Craw into grass.
Herren is focused on the Guntersville win, but he's also shooting to improve his fourth-place standing in the season-long points race, which will wrap up Saturday. If he finishes in the top three in the points, he will qualify for the Bassmaster Classic, Feb. 20-22 on the Red River out of Shreveport-Bossier City, La.
He'd also be among the top 10 who will have the door opened to them to join the upper echelon of competitive bass fishing, the Bassmaster Elite Series.
The pro-side Purolator Big Bass honors and the $1,000 bonus went to Gerald Gostenik of Dearborn, Mich., for an 8-5 bass taken from Guntersville's grass mats on a black SPRO Dean Rojas frog.
In the co-angler competition for a $32,000 Triton-Mercury boat package, William Helton of Calhoun, Tenn., moved from third to first place with his two-day weight of 34-5. In second place was Jeff Wade of Cabot, Ark., whose 31-7 jumped him up from 13th place.
Rounding out the top five co-anglers were Keith Sykes of Clintwood, Va., with 30-3; 17-year-old Jelani Hennessey of Bowling Green, Va., who shot from 47th place with his 27-8; and first-day leader Danny Clark of Cleveland, Tenn., who had 27-1.
The Purolator Big Bass co-angler award of $300 went to Timothy Curran of Huntsville, Ala., for a 9-1 largemouth that fell for his black Scum Frog.
Fishing fans can keep up with the Bassmaster Southern Open action Saturday at www.Bassmaster.com.
Live video and a real-time leaderboard from the weigh-in will begin at Saturday at 3:50 p.m. ET. Daily results and photo galleries are also available on the Web site.
The pros will take-off at 7:45 a.m. ET Saturday from Lake Guntersville State Park, 1155 Lodge Drive, Guntersville, Ala.. Also at the park, the final weigh-in will begin at 2:50 p.m. ET.
All events are free and open to the public.
Bassmaster Open sponsors include Toyota Tundra, Advance Auto Parts, Berkley, Lowrance, Mercury, Purolator, Skeeter, Yamaha, Optima Batteries and Triton Boats
Local sponsors include Marshall County Convention & Visitors Bureau.