Cherokee Lake proved its finicky reputation

Cherokee Lake has a well-earned reputation for being the place where consistency goes to die. That has proven true in the first two days here. On one hand, only four anglers in the Day 1 top 12 fell out on Day 2, but they dropped like rocks: Cliff Crochet, from 1st to 44th; Jordon Lee, from 7th to 35th; Brent Ehrler, from 9th to 68th; and Mark Davis, from 11th to 40th. Ehrler missing the cut had to be particularly painful for him.

On the other hand, there were anglers who did a U-turn in a positive direction, led by Randall Tharp, who jumped from 59th to 6th, thanks to the first 20-pound bag of the tournament (20-11) and the big bass so far, a 5-5 largemouth. Others making big jumps included: Ott DeFoe, from 31st to 9th; John Crews, from 31st to 13th, Hank Cherry, from 59th to 23rd; Paul Mueller, from 58th to 27th; and Aaron Martens, from 77th to 36th.

Here’s a look at those who made the highest jumps and sharpest falls in the standings from Day 1 to Day 2 in the Bassmaster Elite at Cherokee Lake:

+53 - Randall Tharp, 59th to 6th
+41 - Aaron Martens, 77th to 36th
+36 - Hank Cherry, 59th to 23rd
+34 - Mike McClelland, 80th to 46th
+33 - Terry Scroggins, 83rd to 50th
+32 - Jared Lintner, 99th to 67th
+31 - Paul Mueller, 58th to 27th

–59 - Brent Ehrler, 9th to 69th
–50 - Matt Lee, 44th to 94th
–50 - Koby Kreiger, 25th to 75th
–44 – Cliff Crochet, 1st to 45th
–35 - Kevin VanDam, 27th to 62nd
–31 - Stetson Blaylock, 59th to 70th
–31 - Ish Monroe, 21st to 52nd

Heat wave

Wow, now this is a major change. Let's see if this will lift some spirits and gets these anglers fired up. You are liable to see some heavy sacks today, shad should be working good early this morning and that equals big smallies. 

Photo by Bassmaster Marshal JJ Phillips

Rookie race after Day 2

Day 1 wasn't a flash in the pan for the 2017 Rookie class as they continued their stellar start on Friday as well. In fact, eight of the 11 rookies improved their positioning from Day 1 to Day 2. Overall, the rookies moved up 65 spots as a group. This isn't an outlier as there have been some stout rookie classes, but the 2017 class has flexed their muscles and shown their skill just two days into the year. There will be two rookies and one newcomer (Jacob Wheeler) on Bassmaster LIVE today so we will once again see if they are wise beyond their years and can adjust with another different weather day.

A total of seven rookies will launch their boat and fish on Saturday, that's 64 percent of the rookie field; pretty stout.

Rookie standings    Day 1 to Day 2
1. Jesse Wiggins - 2nd to 1st
2. Jamie Hartman - 5th to 3rd
3. Skylar Hamilton - 8th to 8th
4. Dustin Connell - 21st to 14th
5. Darrell Ocamica - 56th to 42nd
6. Mark Daniels Jr. - 34th to 44th
7. Alton Jones Jr. - 67th to 49th
8.  Gerald Spohrer - 103rd to 81st
9. Tyler Carriere - 78th to 82nd
10. Jesse Tacoronte - 105th to 91st
11. Robbie Latuso - 107th to 106th

Where will the cut line be?

As we wind down on Day 2, it's worth taking a glance at the probable two-day cut mark at Cherokee Lake. With 110 anglers in the field, it will be trimmed to the top 51 after today's weigh-in.

Bill Lowen held 51st place on Day 1 with 13-1. On BASSTrakk now, Mike McClelland is currently in that spot with 23-15, so it appears the cut line will be around 24 pounds. There are some big names below that mark, but it's worth emphasizing that BASSTrakk is unofficial.

Wiggins: Show me the money

Earlier today on Bassmaster LIVE, co-host Mark Zona and Elite Series rookie Jesse Wiggins recalled a phone conversation from last night. Basically, it came down to this: Zona asked Wiggins if he needed to promote on Bassmaster LIVE the fact that Wiggins was single and didn't currently have a girlfriend. You know, like, do you want a girlfriend?

"Sure, if she's a sponsor," Wiggins replied, jokingly.

Like any good joke, there's a grain of truth there. Wiggins has his mind on his lack of money and his lack of money on his mind. He has taken a serious, long-term view of the funds required to compete in this sport for many years. Wiggins qualified for the Elite Series in 2014, but didn't pull the trigger.

"I didn't have the money," Wiggins said. But he wouldn't have been the first guy to try the Elite Series without realistically having the money and sponsorship to do so. 

With a win at Alabama's Smith Lake last year, Wiggins earned a spot in the 2017 Bassmaster Classic. And when he won the Southern Open at Florida's Harris Chain last month, he qualified for the 2018 Classic. 

"I've bought myself two years now," he said. But the 27-year-old angler is still working as a respiratory therapist part-time, when he's not fishing. If he finishes his first Elite Series tournament with a win, the sponsorship money might begin to flow.

But until then, Wiggins doesn't care to have a girlfriend or any other distractions. "I wanted to make sure I did this before I started any of that," he said. "I need to catch 'em more than anybody, I promise you."

Wiggins has had his eyes on the pro bass fishing prize for several years now. That decision to delay joining the Elite Series when he qualified in 2014 is already paying off. And he may be on the verge of hitting the jackpot.

Davis fishes the cone

“When they are deep and hard to catch, that’s what I like the most.”

Those are the words of Mark Davis and the conditions are swinging in his favor. Davis is a skilled deep water angler, and long before electronics dummied up the formerly arduous task of finding offshore bass.

Earlier I predicted the largemouth bite will continue improving with the incoming, next weather front bringing warmer daytime temperatures and rain. The smallmouth bite might slow, but even so, there are largemouth in deep water too. The reason is a healthy population of baitfish.

Davis noted that other anglers are fishing over his fish.

“This lake is known as a finicky place for bass fishing, there’s nowhere else like it,” he said.

And then this nugget.

“I am not catching my bass in the middle of a wad of bait. They are just outside the school of bait.”

That is a key comment for the average angler to consider. Instead of taking the easy meal, the predator bass are sniping the bait from the outside edges.

“Keeping my bait inside the cone of the sonar is the trick,” he explained. “You can’t have the bait inside or too far outside of it.”

“What I’m doing is deep sight fishing and actually seeing my fish bite the bait."

Living large

On Cherokee Lake an interesting swing is underway in the smallmouth versus largemouth choices of fishing. That is due to the changing weather conditions. The temperature is warming, the sun is shining and another weather system is on the way.

Yesterday we heard the smallmouth anglers voice concern over their patterns holding through tomorrow, or even Saturday. Today we are seeing the proof. Our on-water photographers are reporting that more boats are leaving the lower end of the lake. The migration of anglers is headed north and into areas with shallower, dingy water that attracts largemouth on this otherwise clear, deep lake. That trend is likely to continue tomorrow, as the weather swings in the more favorable direction of the largemouth anglers.

Today’s weigh-in will tell all. What will be interesting to see is the ratio of smallmouth to largemouth, when compared to yesterday. What else will be confirming about the swing will be the overall catch.

Tough fishing for second LIVE segment

Since Bassmaster LIVE started its second segment about an hour ago, there hadn't been any action. Brian Snowden broke the silence after a commercial break with his limit fish. He had primarily focused on fishing deep toward the dam region on Cherokee Lake, but has since moved upriver and is fishing relatively shallow with a crankbait. He hooked up and boated his fifth keeper, which happened to be a smallmouth. Snowden bumped up to the Top 10 once again. It's a 11- to 12-pound limit, but he is now in culling mode.