Landing, not just hooking, is the key

Kevin VanDam noted before this tournament began that landing, not just hooking, the 5- and 6-pound smallmouth bass in the St. Lawrence River would be the key. If you're watching "Bassmaster LIVE," you know exactly what he's talking about. Brandon Lester lost a smallmouth that he had his hand on for a second, before it shook it's head one more time and came unhooked.

Lester, who may win this tournament anyway, put his head in his hands and said, "That was a $100,000 fish."

The stories about the ones that got away were plentiful this week. Those stories are always proceeded by the line, "Everybody loses fish, but..." Yeah, it hurts when it happens to you.

VanDam, who won here a year ago with 90 pounds, 3 ounces, put himself behind the curve with his 19-14 bag on Day 2. He finished 36th with 58-12.

"I had two giant ones get off today," VanDam said Friday. "That's the difference in me having between 23 or 24 pounds. It takes five minutes to land these big ones on spinning gear, and it feels like 30 minutes. I caught a 6-4 yesterday, and they just go and go and go and go.

"Smallmouth fishing is fun anywhere. But here, because of the current, it makes them that much stronger. These are like NFL athletes living down there. And they're ready to fight."

Lester knows that all too well.