KISSIMMEE, Fla. — Brent Chapman's goal this week at Lake Toho was to catch one bass to solidify his berth in the Bassmaster Classic, then start a family vacation at the beach with his family on Sunday.
Those plans were put on hold Friday when Chapman caught a five bass limit of 18 pounds, 12 ounces and moved to the top of the leaderboard in the Sunshine Showdown, presented by Allstate Boat Insurance.
"I was starting a vacation Sunday," said the 35-year-old father of two from Lake Quivira, Kan. "If I'm going to be here, I might as well try to win the tournament."
Chapman moved from ninth place Thursday to first Friday with his total of 29-10, saying it was a dream day on the lake.
"It was just one of those days where everywhere you went, you got a quality bite," Chapman said.
Bill Smith Jr., on the other hand, realized he made a mistake Friday.
The Day One leader with 18-6 dropped into second place with 10-2 for a total of 29-2. Smith left the area Friday morning where he'd caught all his fish Thursday, but came back to it Friday afternoon — and probably won't leave it Saturday.
"The fish are still there," Smith said. "I made a stupid mistake and went to (Lake) Kissimmee. I came back and we weren't there 15 minutes when my co-angler caught a 3-pounder.
"(Saturday) I'm just going to camp out there and see what it holds."
The Elite Series pros seemed to get a better read on Lake Toho on Day Two, when the 108-angler field was cut to 50 for Saturday's competition. The number of limits caught went from 47 Thursday to 52 Friday, with the biggest bag moving from 18-6 on Day One to 18-13 Friday, and the big bass was 7-15 after a 7-6 took top honors Thursday.
But it didn't go that way for every angler. Terry Scroggins, one of the favorites here, dropped from second place to third with 10-0 for a two-day total of 27-13. Rookie Glen DeLong remained in fourth place, but had only 10-2 Friday for a 25-9 total.
Pete Ponds of Madison, Miss., made the biggest move of the day, going from 50th place to a tie for fifth with the big bag of the day, 18-13, giving him 24-13 overall.
And Jon Bondy jumped from 20th place to tie Ponds for fifth. Bondy had only four bass, but they weighed 15-14 and included the 7-15 Purolator Big Bass of the day.
Although Chapman sounded sure of his ability to catch fish again Saturday, when the field will be cut to 12 for Sunday's final and the $100,000 first-place check, no one seemed more confident than Ponds.
"I just made a little adjustment," Ponds said. "Sometimes you can be within 50 yards of the fish and not realize it. I feel pretty confident I can do it again (Saturday).
Part of Pond's confidence is based on the fact that his adjustment didn't take place until almost noon. Everyone agrees that the early bite is the key to putting some big bass in the boat.
"The morning bite is definitely better," Ponds said. "I'm hoping for 20 to 25 pounds tomorrow.
"I've learned over the years that when you get close, if you don't push on the door they're going to shut it on you. You've got to push it open and walk on through."
Ponds, Smith and DeLong have particular areas pretty much to themselves. Bondy found a new spot Friday that will be a key for his continued success.
"I caught that big one in the first 15 minutes," said Bondy, who flipped a BB Cricket to entice the 7-15 lunker. It was the same place where he caught three bass totalling 8-15 the day before.
"I think I figured something out while looking for some new areas," Bondy said. "I ended up catching a 5-plus pounder. I'm excited because I had only four bites today and three yesterday. I'm catching big fish, but not enough of them."
In addition to getting himself solidified for the Bassmaster Classic, Chapman has been trying to help his friend Alton Jones get there as well. Both goals have been accomplished, as Jones is in 12th place with 19-5. It was in trying to help Jones that Chapman filled out his 18-12 bag Friday.
"I had a couple of key areas," Chapman said. "I'm flipping mats and I caught a 4-pounder and a 3-pounder. I was going over to tell Alton because I was getting ready to leave. I picked up my drop-shot rod and caught a 4 1/2-pounder."
Chapman said he was probably only 50 yards from Jones when catching that last fish. Over the last two days he caught all his fish either working a topwater frog, flipping a jig in heavy matted vegetation or drop-shotting a finesse worm on the edges of the cover.
Scroggins, the local favorite from San Mateo, Fla., said the bite was tougher Friday than the day before.
"I fished all of (Lake) Kissimmee today," said Scroggins, who is flipping a Big Show Craw in heavy mats. "I went around it a couple of times. I actually had more bites than I did yesterday, but I just didn't execute.
"They were biting a little short. I was fishing real heavy cover. Real heavy cover. If they don't get a bait just right, it's tough to get them out of there.
"Yesterday, the bites you got were real aggressive."
With Ponds moving from 50th to fifth Friday, he proved that anything is possible over the next two days on Lake Toho.