FLORENCE, Ala. — Three Elite Series anglers were able to put bad days behind them after Day One of the Alabama Charge and make a charge of their own into the top-50 cut.
Most notable of the group was local favorite Timmy Horton, who sat mired near the bottom of the standings on Wednesday, but bagged 21 pounds, 7 ounces on Day Two, helping him rocket up into 39th place.
"I was so down yesterday, I was beating myself up," Horton said. "I had two 6-pounders that I just couldn't get in the boat. After that, your mind starts playing tricks on you. Every time I hooked a big fish, I was wondering if I could land it."
What helped was a little patience and a little love back home. Horton, from nearby Muscle Shoals, didn't have to go far to find a comfortable place to recharge.
"I got my mind right last night staying at home with the family," Horton said. "I slowed down today and quit running around so much. There are so many places here you feel like you have to make something happen. I only spent three hours up by the dam yesterday, so I went in there today and stayed all but two hours."
Patience paid off and Horton knocked out three big bass in the first few hours, left briefly, then returned to finish off his stellar day. While Horton made the decision to stay on his spot longer, Dean Rojas abandoned his Day One area entirely.
Rojas caught nearly 14 pounds there, but it wasn't nearly the weight he needed to compete for the title like he knew he should have caught. Mirroring his performance last year, where two 20-pound bags helped him slip into the top-12 cut, Rojas again brought 20-1 to the scales to move into 20th place.
"Yesterday, I made a bad decision — it was a bonehead move," Rojas said. "I felt like I could catch a limit quick and it took too long. I got hung up on it and it was a rookie mistake. Even though these comebacks are cool, I hate them — they are nerve-wracking."
When he realized his mistake, it was too late to make the long run to the spot he should have been fishing. At that point, despite his struggles, Rojas got excited, knowing that he was going to have a great time on the water the next day.
"I knew yesterday afternoon that I was going to catch them today," Rojas said. "I can't wait for tomorrow. I had to change baits — I'm not catching them on what was working in practice — but I'm catching them."
Of all the big movers, Rojas sits in the best position, less than 2 pounds outside of the 12-cut. Another great day on Pickwick and Rojas will find himself fishing on Saturday.
In the case of Mike Iaconelli, no adjustment was necessary. His 19-11 stringer came because the 2-pounders he was catching turned into 4-pounders. And a good thing they did — he leaped up into 27th place with an outside chance at moving even higher.
"Yesterday was a frustrating day because I caught 60 fish, all of them keepers, but my biggest was only 2 ¾ pounds," Iaconelli said. "I was doing the same thing today, which was two different patterns, catching staging fish and flipping bushes. I pulled up on my staging spot and instead of a 2-pounder, it was a 4-pounder. I pulled up to a bush and instead of a 2, it was a 4."
The slight adjustment Iaconelli made was to move slightly shallower on his staging fish, up to about six to eight feet. He's not way out on the main lake fishing ledges, but instead, trying to intercept fish that are moving up to spawn. With the warming weather, those fish are moving in a hurry.
With a high temperature of 81 degrees predicted for Friday and 88 degrees on Saturday, that migration should continue. Countering that is the slight drop in water levels, which if the TVA pulls down even faster, would start moving the fish from the bushes. That is why Iaconelli's one-two punch has been so effective.
"The flipping bite would be affected if there's a drop in water," Iaconelli said. "In a way, that is the best thing that could happen. The staging fish are moving up, but there are so many fish in the lake that when one wave moves up to spawn a whole new group moves in."