From darkness to daylight

ANDERSON, S.C. — If Friday were the worst weather ever in a Bassmaster Classic, which it was, then Saturday marked the most dramatic two-day weather swing in Classic history.

 When the 50-angler field took off on Lake Hartwell at 7:15 a.m. Saturday, the temperature was almost 10 degrees warmer than it ever hit Friday. The forecast is for the overcast skies and fog to give way to clear skies and sunshine by noon. The afternoon high is predicted to be 64 degrees.

 "That's crazy," said Mike Iaconelli, who won the 2003 Classic and is fishing in the Bassmaster championship event for the ninth time. "In a Classic, I can't remember two days that were so different."

 Obviously, today's weather and the 34-degree rain that overshadowed Friday caused some anglers to rethink their game plans.

 "I'm going to start shallow this morning," said Aaron Martens, who is in 23rd place with 12 pounds, 15 ounces.

 "I'm going shallow today," said Casey Ashley, who is in 5th place with 18-10. "I fished deep all day yesterday. But I don't think I could do what I did yesterday by doing the same thing today.

 "I'm going for the juice today. You've got to catch 20 pounds or better. That's what I'm going for today."

 Before the 38th Bassmaster Classic began, most anglers thought it would take an average of 17 or 18 pounds a day to be in contention for the title. Some anglers still think that's a good number to shoot for. But others think the bar has been raised.

 "I definitely thought there would be some big weight, but three bags over 20 pounds?" Iaconelli said. "That's pretty impressive, with the kind of day we had yesterday. It was brutal. It was a challenge to stay mentally focused.

 "I knew there were big fish in this lake. But it was surprising there were that many big bags brought in."

 laconelli is one angler who is sticking with his Friday game plan — he is fishing depths of 30 to 40 feet.

 "I think I'm fishing areas where they stay when it gets miserable and cold, areas where they hang before they move," Iaconelli said. "So that's the key, more than even the bait itself, I believe."

 Iaconelli also thinks the weather change won't be that noticable to bass positioned as deeply as those he's concentrating on.

 "The sun will position the bait," Iaconelli said. "I think it will help me. The water temperature in 30 feet of water isn't going to change with one day of 60-degree weather. It won't change with two days of 60-degree weather."

 Scott Rook, on the other hand, will see some big water temperature changes in the Seneca River arm of Lake Hartwell, where he caught 20-13 yesterday, which was good for second place. Rook had been fishing in 55-degree water there during practice, but saw surface temperatures fall as much as 10 degrees in that area Friday.

 "I had to make an adjustment," Rook said. "When I got to 48 degrees, boom, I caught a fish. Below 48, I never caught one.

 "Without that water temperature gauge I wouldn't have known where to move."

 Rook will likely be on the move again today, with one eye fixed on his water temp gauge.

 Day One leader Charlie Hartley (21-1) is changing his game plan slightly.

 "Before yesterday, I would have told you I wanted sunshine," Hartley said. "But it couldn't get a whole lot better than yesterday. I don't know what it will do. I'd really like to think it would bring me more fish.

 "I was fortunate yesterday to catch a little limit early that calmed my nerves. My big fish came later in the day. I'm not going to bother getting that little security blanket this morning. I'm going to spend all my time on those big fish. That little bag of fish wouldn't have put me where I am now, so I'm not going to forfeit those first few hours to do that."

 The field will be cut from 50 to the top 25 after today's weigh-in at Greenville's Bi-Lo Center. The $500,000 first place check and the Bassmaster Classic championship trophy will be awarded after Sunday's competition.

Also By This Author