Maxing And Relaxing

SYRACUSE β€” Peter Thliveros finished organizing his baits on Thursday and walked to the back of his boat to unfold the seat.

Then the Florida native, who is in second going into the last day of the Bassmaster Memorial presented by Evan Williams Bourbon, got comfortable. He leaned back, crossed his right leg onto his left, put his hands behind his head and smiled. It looked like he was watching football in his living room on a Sunday afternoon.

There were seven people standing on the dock, chit-chatting with the BASS millionaire about who, where and whatever. Among his observers and fellow breeze shooters were tournament director Trip Weldon and the founder of BASS, Ray Scott.

"Didn't you win this thing last year?" Weldon asked.

"Yup," Thliveros answered, "and I'd like to do it again."

He started the day only 1 pound, 3 ounces behind leader Dave Wolak, and he said he hasn't has lost track of the magnitude of BASS' second major that has a $250,000 payoff β€” two and a half times that of a regular Elite Series event.

"I'm relaxed, but this is the crunch day," Thliveros said. "It's all or nothing. Nobody cares who's second."

Because of the three Bassmaster Majors in 2007 are no-entry fee tournaments and have no effect on the Angler of the Year standings, anglers seem to be more relaxed and carefree when the boats kick off from the docks on Day One, but as the tournament progresses, it becomes harder to ignore the cash cow standing in the corner of the room.

Thliveros said the magnitude of the moment hit him when he watched Wolak weigh-in 22 pounds on Saturday night.

"I thought everybody would be chasing me," he said. "But now I am chasing somebody and I've got that sense of urgency. I've got a lot of work to do."

Wolak said he could definitely feel the atmosphere change, but it doesn't alter his approach to the day.

"I can't change the way I fish or lose my focus," he said. "You have to just pace yourself. If you start to think about how everything is different, you get in this mode where you're rushing it and you're not sticking to your strategy."

And that could be tough for Wolak, who said that with his pattern, he might go 30 or 45 minutes without a bite.

"It's a very methodical way that I'm fishing," said Wolak, who got most of his bigger bites in the afternoon on Saturday. "I might get one here and one there, and hope I get a couple nice ones mixed in."

John Murray, who represents one of the three anglers who are more than three pounds behind Wolak, said he started the feel the pressure when he reeled in the biggest bass of the tournament on Saturday, a 5-12 largemouth.

"It changed a little bit yesterday when I caught that big one," said Murray, who wasn't able to supplement his lunker with the right size fish. "Then you start thinking, 'Oh man, I don't know about this. I'm sort of on them.'"

But he said he couldn't be happier with where he is going into Sunday.

"I love being in fourth," Murray said. "I hate to be four pounds back, but I did not want to sleep with it all night thinking I could win a quarter of a million dollars. When you're in fourth, it really takes the pressure off."