DAYTON, Tenn. — Replacing one element of his plan with an unexpected discovery allowed Stetson Blaylock of Benton, Ark., to take the Day 2 lead of the Guaranteed Rate Bassmaster Elite at Chickamauga Lake with a two-day total of 28 pounds, 1 ounce.
Blaylock bolstered his Day 1 second-place weight of 16-1 with 12-0 Saturday. He enters Sunday’s semi-final round with a 14-ounce lead over Florida pro and noted Chickamauga hammer John Cox.
Repeating his Day 1 plan, Blaylock started on a set of offshore points with hard patches in 15 feet of water. Throwing a shad colored reaction bait proved most productive.
“Those deep fish are key; I had two of my better ones out there this morning,” he said. “It’s getting slower. There are a lot of locals fishing these places. I graphed it before I left and there were 25 of them sitting there like it was June — schooled up, ready to go offshore.
“I spun around and could not get one to bite. I don’t know if it’s because they’re getting fished so hard. But whatever triggers those fish to bite, if it would happen while you’re there, you could catch 15 to 18 pounds.”
After his morning bite ended, Blaylock tried the grassbeds that produced a couple of his Day 1 keepers but couldn’t find any takers. From there, he transitioned to a small creek where voluminous bait schools had attracted a large number of bass.
Bassmaster LIVE captured some of the schooling action, as aggressive feeding created whitewater flurries that sent bait showering across the surface. The only problem was that the fish were so fixated on the small threadfin shad that they mostly ignored the array of baits Blaylock threw.
A smaller version of the bait he used offshore earned three keepers.
“It’s a pretty neat little spot that has a lot of fish if I can just figure out how to get those fish to bite,” Blaylock said. “I saw a lot of 4-pounders in there and lots of 3-pounders. It’s just hard to get the better-quality ones to bite.
“I spent about two hours in one little creek and, I’m telling you, there’s enough fish in there to win the tournament. I’m going to rig up a bunch of stuff tonight to try and trigger those bites, but it’s just a struggle to get bit in there.”
Blaylock said he’ll follow a similar game plan on Day 3. He’s confident that his areas hold plenty of potential, but he believes a loosely scripted day may be his best strategy.
“It gives me hope that there are still enough fish around that you can make it up as you go and still catch a good limit,” Blaylock said. “I still have to have those good ones early to do what I need to do.
“I’m going to have to have another solid couple of days to have a chance to win this thing. I really think if I can manage that 12- to 15-pound total for two more days, I’ll have a chance to win.”
After placing fourth on Day 1 with 14-14, Cox missed his limit by one fish Saturday, but found enough to tally 12-5 and move from fourth place into second.
Cox said he wanted to start with a topwater presentation but decided to slow down and get a couple of early bites. Flipping a green pumpkin/watermelon Berkley MaxScent Creature Hog earned two solid keepers. When the bite died, he transitioned to frogging mats and boated two more keepers.
“I caught one flipping, then I caught another and I thought, ‘Oh man, I think I figured something out,’” he said. “But then, I went a really, really long, long time with no more bites. I only had four bites all day, it was tough.”
Lee Livesay of Longview, Texas, is in third place with 26-3. Turning in one of the most consistent performances, Livesay added 13-3 to Friday’s weight of 13-0 and gained seven spots from 10th.
Livesay devoted his day to fishing a Scum Frog Launch Frog over grass mats. Alternating between black and white baits, he found that focusing on shallower mats was more productive.
“There are a lot of mats out there in 5 to 8 feet, but if you get bit, it’s random,” Livesay said. “My fish are in a foot of superclear water eating bream instead of shad.
“There are fish everywhere — shallow, middle, deep. They’re just a lot easier to catch on a frog when they’re in a foot of water, compared to 8 feet of water."
Chad Pipkens of DeWitt, Mich., is in the lead for Phoenix Boats Big Bass honors with a 7-11.
David Mullins of Mt. Carmel, Tenn., took over the lead in the Bassmaster Angler of the Year standings with 621 points, while Austin Felix of Eden Prairie, Minn., follows in second with 614. Clark Wendlandt of Leander, Texas, who has led the race for several weeks, is now in third with 607.
Sunday’s takeoff is scheduled for 7:30 a.m. CT at the Dayton Boat Dock. The weigh-in will be held at Point Park at 3:30 p.m. After Sunday’s weigh-in, only the Top 10 anglers will advance to Championship Monday with a chance to win the $100,000 first-place prize.
Live coverage of the event will be available starting at 8:30 a.m. on Bassmaster LIVE at Bassmaster.com and ESPN3. Semifinal Sunday will feature additional live coverage on ESPN2. Check local listings for details.
The tournament is being hosted by the Rhea County Economic Development & Tourism Council.