A day late, a fish short?

RICHMOND, Va. – The top two anglers after the first day of this year’s Northern Open on the James River were apparently in a charitable mood on Day Two. 

While both Day One leader Jim Dillard and second-place Kevin Hawk remained in the top 12, neither was able to bring a limit to the scales on Day Two, and the penalty may be a missed berth in the 2013 Bassmaster Classic.

Dillard added 9 pounds, 10 ounces to his first-day catch of 17-1 and currently sits in 5th place, 5-2 behind leader Joshua Wagy. Hawk added 8 even to his 15-14 limit and is now 10th, just under 10 pounds off the lead. They both fell one fish short of their five-fish limit.

“I only got four bites all day after getting 15 yesterday,” Dillard said. “I think the cloud cover yesterday made them bite a little bit better.”

If he had the day to do over, he said he would have stayed in his primary area longer, rather than abandoning it when it failed to pay off as expected in the early hours.

“I just didn’t spend enough time there,” he said. “I forced it today. It’s hard to change up after a day like yesterday. I just pray for a little bit of cloud cover tomorrow.”

Like Dillard, Hawk never had the fifth bite today, so he had no tale of woe about lost fish, missed bites or failed net jobs. He started the morning on a spot where the bites were plentiful Thursday but could only muster a single fish.

Once it became clear that it was not going to produce, he “pulled the plug.” Hawk had three more bites as the day progressed and put them all in the boat to remain in the cut for Saturday, but he was at a loss as to how he could have salvaged his day.

“Looking back, I don’t see what else I could have done,” he said. “I knew that limits would be important. You have to catch a limit every day out here. That’s just the way it is.”

Indeed, another 2 ½-pound fish would have place Dillard in or near second place, and even a plain 2-pounder would have put Hawk in sixth. In a tournament where places are often separated by ounces and a single bite could result in a vault up the leaderboard, missed opportunities are heartbreaking.

Still, Hawk declared himself “happy to weigh in what I caught.” Dillard, on the other hand, has never led nor won a major tournament prior to this week, and fears that he might have let a prime opportunity slip through his grasp.

“As long as I’m in striking distance it won’t haunt me,” he said of his failure to capture five bass today. “But it will if I lose by a pound.”

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