LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — Eighteen places out of first at the beginning of the day, Marsha Gipson of Bigelow, Ark., made one simple adjustment Friday to take over the lead at the Academy Sports + Outdoors Women's Bassmaster Tour event on Lake Maumelle.
With a two-day weight of 16 pounds, 14 ounces, Gipson pushed aside Day One leader Secret York of Benton, Ky. York is in second place with 16-6, just 8 ounces behind Gipson.
Gipson — who said she had never competed on Maumelle before the WBT came to town, even though she lives about 16 miles from the lake — wasn't ready to reveal exactly what her adjustment was, but the result was a limit of larger fish. She did say she hit the same areas and the same fish Friday as she had Thursday. The one tweak yielded a 10-1 bag to add to her first-day weight of 6-13.
"The fish were cruising, and I adjusted to find them," said Gipson, who works for the U.S. Geological Survey when she isn't competing. "These fish were there yesterday, and I got the smaller ones, but today I got the rock-solid, tournament-grade fish.
"When they bit, they bit solid. Yesterday it was a very finicky bite, but today, although bright-sun conditions made the fishing tougher, the bigger ones seemed to bite for me."
York fell off her first-day weight of 10-9, but the 5-13 she managed Friday was enough to hold on in second. She got her fish — all spotted bass — out of one saved-back place, a sweet spot she knew would produce under the bluebird skies that followed Thursday's rain and clouds.
"I had my limit by 9:30, culled two, then decided to pull off of it," York said. "I knew I needed to get off of it and save some for tomorrow."
Juanita Robinson of Highlands, Texas, brought in 8-0, a big help in moving her up from seventh into third place with a two-day total of 15-14. She and Gipson were among the few anglers who improved on their Thursday weight, although the bite was slow in coming Friday, Robinson said.
"I didn't get my limit today until noon," she said. "I had to fish five of my spots to get them."
A winner in 2007 on Texas' Lake Amistad, she is confident about her chances for a second win. "I have several spots with bigger fish that pay off every time I go there," Robinson said.
The field was cut to the top 20 for Saturday's final day. The pros are vying for $1,000 and a fully rigged Skeeter/Yamaha boat package valued at $55,000.
The pros also are competing for points in the Toyota Tundra Women's Bassmaster Tour Angler of the Year race. The AOY winner will earn a Toyota Tundra and a berth in the 2010 Bassmaster Classic, Feb. 19-21 on Lay Lake out of Birmingham, Ala.
All but one of the top 10 AOY pros are doing well in Arkansas. Pam Martin-Wells of Bainbridge, Ga., led the AOY standings coming into the Maumelle event, but her staying power could be threatened by several strivers, including Robinson, who trails Martin-Wells by only 26 points.
Martin-Wells showed her determination to keep her No. 1 position when she leapt from 20th place into seventh in the Maumelle contest.
The co-angler leaderboard changed up when Diane Smith of Fayetteville, Ga., knocked Day One leader and former co-angler champion Denese Freeman of Lawton, Okla., out of first. Smith moved up from second place with a two-day total of 13-10, enough to stay in front of another charger, Martha Goodfellow of Simpsonville, S.C., who shot up from 28th place with a 9-1 bag for 12-1 after two days.
Another former co-angler champion, Bonnie Ward of Snohomish, Wash., moved up into third place with 10-1, just ahead of Freeman, who at 9-4 slipped to fourth when she came up empty Friday.
The top 20 co-anglers will compete Saturday for the first-place prize of $500 and a Triton/Mercury boat rig worth $25,000.
The anglers will launch at 6:45 a.m. ET Saturday at Jolly Roger's Marina, 11800 Maumelle Harbour Rd., Roland. The weigh-in is scheduled to begin at 3:30 p.m. ET at Academy Sports + Outdoors, 6100 Warden Rd. in Sherwood. All WBT events are free and open to the public.
Final-day coverage will be provided by Bassmaster.com with live, streaming video and real-time leaderboards beginning at 3:30 p.m. ET, plus daily photo galleries and results.