All options still in play

MANY, La. — After two days on Toledo Bend, it couldn't be clearer that all bass fishing options are still in play at the Evan Williams Elite Series Tournament. Among the leaders, some are catching post-spawn fish, others are catching bass on spawning beds, and – amazingly in the first week of May – there's another pre-spawn wave moving shallow.

And the confidence levels after the Top 50 cut Friday, were just as widely varied. Dean Rojas, who won here in 2011, weighed the big bag of 24 pounds, 15 ounces to move into second place with a two-day total of 44-13. But he didn't sound optimistic about repeating it. Rojas is spending half his day bed-fishing and the other half "just fishing," covering a lot of water.

"Some things just went my way today," he said. "I caught some fish I really wasn't planning on catching. For whatever reason, the big fish bit for me today."

Rojas said he's got rods all over his boat deck, using 10 different baits during the day, burning a lot of gas and trolling motor battery power as well. He said he caught only eight or nine keepers.

The most optimistic he sounded was about using his experience to an advantage.

"I know you can't win it here on one spot," Rojas said. "The conditions are changing. It's getting warmer. I think that could play into my hands. I just need to keep moving and changing."

Randall Tharp represents the other extreme – both in experience on Toledo Bend and confidence going into the weekend. He and Chad Morgenthaler had the second biggest bags Friday with 24-13 each. That put Morgenthaler in third place with 43-12 and moved Tharp from 38th place Thursday to sixth Friday with 41-2.

Tharp had never fished Toledo Bend until he put his boat in the water Monday for the first day of practice.

"I'd never seen it before, other than crossing the bridge to (fish tournaments) at Rayburn two times," Tharp said.

Halfway through Day 1, Tharp started to recognize a trend he's seen at Alabama's Lake Guntersville, the lake where he has the most experience and where he contended for the Bassmaster Classic title in February.

"If I can find any kind of deep grass in a fishery, that's one of my strengths," he said. "I started the tournament doing something totally different, but I found my comfort zone about halfway through the day. I stayed in it all day today. I probably caught 30 fish over 3 pounds today."

Tharp caught almost 25 pounds without a big bass.

"My last cull was a 4 ½ pounder," he said. "They were just all good fish."

Tharp is convinced there is another wave of pre-spawn bass moving shallow. He's intercepting them on the way, plus catching some post-spawners too.

"I think there's definitely a wave coming," he said. "It's hard to believe this time of year. But some of the other guys saw the same thing. About half the fish I caught didn't have scars on them and looked pretty and clean."

There's another type of wave coming Saturday, when two big tournaments will be held on Toledo Bend: 257 boats in the Asssociation of Louisiana Anglers, and another 100 boats in a Fishers of Men event.

That scares a lot of these guys, who had to work around a big jump in boat traffic from Thursday to Friday. It doesn't scare Tharp. For one thing, he's fishing a big area, not just a particular spot.

"I just don't think there are many people that understand what I'm doing," he said. "There's a handful of guys in this tournament that understand it. It's something I'm very good at. When you get a chance to fish your strengths at one of these events, you're going to have a big bag."

Then there's the leader, Jacob Powroznik, who weighed 24-14 Thursday and 23-6 Friday – Mr. Consistency – with a total of 48-4. His methods have changed from day to day. He weighed three bass he caught on spawning beds Friday. He wasn't able to take advantage of the early morning shad spawn like he did Thursday.

Powroznik didn't sound positive or negative – just ready to go. The wind or lack thereof will be a factor for everyone Saturday. Powroznik would prefer some wind early when the shad spawn is keying the bass bite, then calm later when he switches to sight fishing.

"At this point though, I really don't care what it does," he said. "Let's just go fishing and see what happens." 

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