GILBERTSVILLE, Ky. — Over the last couple of weeks on the Bassmaster Elite Series tour, a number of co-anglers fishing from the back of the boat commented they have tried to stay out of the way of prominent BASS pros' fishing for big points and big money.
During Friday's second round, one of the Elite Series pros appeared to repay the favor.
Matt Hoffman, Day One's co-angler leader was struggling a bit and Elite Series pro Stephen Browning made a late run on his behalf, designed to help Hoffman catch his fifth fish of the day — and stay in the hunt for the co-angler's top $25,000 prize.
"Later in the day, with only about an hour left, I only had four fish," Hoffman said. "So Stephen ran me back to his best spot — and I caught my best fish of the day, it weighed about 3-12 or 3-14. And I was able to cull out two fish."
That benevolent move by pro Browning paid off handsomely on Friday for co-angler Hoffman, who brought five fish to the scales weighing 12-11 pounds.
When combined with his sterling Day One weight of 18-14 and a two-day total of 31-9, the Cold Springs, Ky., angler has a 5-ounce lead heading into Saturday's final co-angler round.
In second place was co-angler Jason Seaton of Martinsville, Ind., with a Day Two weight of 15-2 and a two-day total of 31-4.
In third place was Austin, Texas, resident Michael Bass, with five fish weighing 15-5 on the day, good enough for a two-day total of 30-7.
In fourth place was Buchanan, Tenn., angler Crispin Powley, who rode the biggest Day Two co-angler bag of 17-6 to a two day total of 29-10.
In fifth was Dave Dickherber of Lake St. Louis, Mo., with a daily total of 11-5 and a two-day total of 27-13.
One angler of particular note in the co-angler's top 10 on Friday was Alton Jones Jr., who sits in ninth place after a Day Two bag of 13-11, good enough for a two day total of 26-4.
But once again, it was Hoffman in the lead by the time the rain-soaked and lightning-plagued weigh-in concluded at Kentucky Dam Marina.
"When we started out the day, Stephen had some key areas in a different area of the lake than I was fishing (earlier)," Hoffman said. "He was also doing a different thing than what I was doing, but I was able to pick off a couple of fish in the 8- to 12-foot range."
While Hoffman was guarded about details of the pattern he and Browning were fishing today, he did explain what lures he picked up fish upon.
"I was actually catching most of my fish on a 3/4-ounce jig with a crawdad-type trailer on the back," he said. "I caught every one of my fish on that.
"As for colors, the one key thing I've done today was to use a green pumpkin trailer on my jig. And I've been dipping the claws in chartreuse 'Spike It' dye.
"I think that's giving me a little bit of flash ... and the fish are picking it up a little better than if it was just down there on the bottom."
After the draw was complete on a rainy Friday evening, Hoffman was thrilled to find out he would be paired with one of the best Elite Series pros on Saturday.
"I'm looking forward to the day, being paired with Terry Scroggins in the first flight," he said. "I talked to him a little while ago, and he's been doing a lot of the same things that I've been doing all week, so I'll be fishing to my strength.
How will the heavy rain and thunderstorms that befuddled Friday's weigh-in — not to mention the forecast of more of the same overnight — affect conditions on Saturday?
"There was a lot of heavy rain today, but I don't know if they'll pull water," Hoffman said. "If they do, you'll see some heavier fish and bags tomorrow.
"Plus, I'm sure some guys are definitely going to find them (no matter the weather). I'm not sure that the weather will play a huge factor."
Either way, he is excited about his chances of winning his first co-angler title.
"My mind is at ease," Hoffman said. "I'm going to slow down and try to duplicate what I've done the first two days.
"If I catch them, I catch them; if I don't, I don't.
"I think it will be an exciting day, a real shootout. The top four or five guys have a chance to win this thing — it's going to be a great shootout."
Second place angler Jason Seaton also did something a little bit different today.
What was that? He fished a crankbait again, but this time it was on nearby Lake Barkley with Jami Fralick, a water body Seaton said was noticeably less crowded than Kentucky Lake was.
"I struggled a little bit early — it was about 10:30 or 11 a.m. before I had my first fish," Seaton said. "By then Fralick already had three fish and 10-pounds in the boat."
But Seaton picked up the pace, eventually finishing just 5 ounces out of a tie for the lead.
What's more, he says he should have had the lead heading into the co-angler's final day on Saturday.
"We pulled up to one spot that Jami had pre-fished and he caught a big one at about 5 1/2 pounds," Seaton said. "I missed (landing) one that looked like it would have been 5to 6 pounds — that just killed me."
When asked what bait and color he was fishing with, Seaton wryly noted, "I'll tell you tomorrow."
He did relent a bit and say it was a crankbait that required a particular presentation.
"No, really ... the only bait I threw was a crankbait," he said. "I found out that the harder I cranked it and dug it into the bottom, the better the bites were. But the key was to stay in contact with the bottom and dig it into the mud, rocks, or whatever."
When asked what he felt like he would need to do to claim the win tomorrow, Seaton offered a solid game plan.
"I'm not going to worry about it. I'll go get rigged up, get a good night of sleep, say my prayers and leave it all in the Lord's hands," he said.
In third place, Texas Longhorns fan Michael Bass of Austin enjoyed his day with Norman, Okla., (that's Oklahoma Sooner country for those of you who don't know) Elite Series pro Kenyon Hill.
Fishing a similar deep structure pattern, Bass said a key today was adjusting properly to what the conditions allowed.
"I was fishing deep structure with jigs and worms," Bass said. "At first, I would drag 'em, then I would smoke 'em and let the fish tell me how they wanted the baits presented."
A licensed counselor and massage therapist by trade, the angling enthusiast Bass primarily fished a 3/4-ounce football jig in green pumpkinseed candy, peanut butter and jelly, or black/blue color combinations tipped with a Paca Craw or a Kicker Craw. He also used a blue-fleck Power Worm on occasions.
What will he be keying on tomorrow? Bass admits he would benefit greatly from a good draw that would allow him to fish to his strengths again. Is he thinking about sitting on the hot seat tomorrow afternoon and eventually winning the co-angler title and walking away with its $25,000 top prize?
Perhaps, but the co-angler from Longhorn Land said \his thoughts are also very much with his wife, Lila Bass, who competes on the Women's Bassmaster Tour presented by Academy. "I want to wish her good luck on Old Hickory Lake next week." Bass said.
And such an encouraging comment is certainly a good move by any fishing husband, not to mention a move just about any licensed counselor in the country would give a thumbs-up to as well. Including Bass, who hopes to give himself a thumbs-up on Saturday by catching a huge bag of Kentucky Lake bass good enough for the win.
Saturday's action begins at 9 a.m. ET with the launch from Kentucky Dam Marina.
Tomorrow's third round weigh-in — which will conclude this week's co-angler event — will begin at 6 p.m. ET at the Kentucky Dam Village State Park Resort.
Visit Bassmaster.com for full coverage of the Elite Series Bluegrass Brawl with weigh-in host Keith Alan, June 12–15, 2008. Thursday, Friday and Saturday, daily weigh-ins with live streaming video and real-time leaderboards start at 6:00 p.m. ET. On Saturday, catch "Bassmaster University" at 5:30 p.m. ET before the weigh-in. Then on Sunday, get "Hooked Up" with hosts Tommy Sanders and Mark Zona at 1 p.m. and 5:30 p.m. ET, with the final day weigh-in and real-time leaderboard content starting at 6:00 p.m. ET.