JASPER, Ala. — North Carolina pro David Williams moved from third place into the lead today, jumping ahead of the Thursday leader and runner-up at the Basspro.com Bassmaster Central Open on Lewis Smith Lake.
Only ounces separate Williams, Jordan Wiggins and John Cox, setting up the potential for a shootout at the scales on Saturday. Williams, of Newton, N.C., caught 15 pounds, 1 ounce, bringing his total weight to 30-12. Wiggins, of Cullman, Ala., dropped to second with 13 pounds and an overall weight of 30-8. Cox, of Debary, held on to third place with 30-1 after weighing 12-14.
Williams is fishing Smith Lake for only the third time, but he was able to find consistently solid daily limits of bass averaging a little more than 3 pounds apiece.
To get that average, Williams had to boat a couple of heavier bass each day.
With only two lightweight keepers in the livewell by midday Thursday, Williams made a pivotal 30-mile run to a new portion of the lake. The result was a limit weighing 15-11 that he boated within 30 minutes. He made the area his first stop today, and quickly caught a limit that included back-to-back 4-pound largemouth.
“During practice I launched from ramps at opposite sides of the lake,” Williams said. “By nothing more than fate, the best quality fishing areas were the farthest apart.”
Williams described his best spot as a transitional spawning area between a shallow cove and the deeper water. With nothing else to go on he relied on a “junk fishing” pattern to catch his fish both days.
Today, the buzz among the anglers was the shad spawn, which is attracting hungry postspawn largemouth to shallow water. The bass are feeding upon the shad during early morning, when the low light provides ambush concealment from the prey.
“It’s a different lake after the sun comes up,” said Cox. “The bite really turns on early, and timing is everything.”
Timing in his case means being at the best fishing spots early as possible. That didn’t work out as well today, when compared to the 17-3 caught by Cox on Thursday.
“I just got out of sync and the rotation was off,” he explained. “I will regroup tonight and try it again tomorrow.”
That means continuing to rely on a junk fishing pattern, or making as many stops as possible on promising areas and using multiple lures to trigger strikes.
Wiggins, the first-day leader, agreed that his bite was all about timing, and being in the right place when the shad were spawning on the shoreline.
“I ran the same pattern as Thursday, and the timing was just off,” Wiggins said. “I had to change to a worm; otherwise I probably wouldn’t have caught anything.”
Jonathon Barnette of Jasper, Ala., continued leading the co-anglers with 17-9. Keith Honeycutt of Temple, Texas, moved from 60th into second place with a total of 16 pounds. Todd Lee of Jasper holds down third place with 15-4. John Brown of Deltona, Fla., is fourth with 15 pounds, and Mike Spears of Jasper is fifth with 14-15.
On Saturday the Top 12 pros and co-anglers compete. The $63,000 cash purse will be divided between the winners, with $37,000 for the top pro and $18,000 for the co-angler.
Contingency awards pay bonus cash to eligible anglers. The Phoenix Boats Big Bass of the tournament pays $750 to the pro and $250 for the co-angler. Berkley Cast for Cash rewards the Top 2 finishing contingency program members in each division. The pros get $1,500 and $1,000, while $250 and $100 go to the co-anglers.
Stacy King of Reeds Spring, Mo., leads the big bass competition among the pros with his catch weighing 5-11. The bass weighing 5-8 caught by Vogelpohl leads the co-angler side. Both fish were caught on Thursday.
Takeoff on Saturday is at 6 a.m. CT from Smith Lake Dam Access. The final weigh-in begins at 3:30 p.m. at Bass Pro Shops Outdoor World in Leeds, a suburb of Birmingham.