MONTGOMERY, Ala. — Fifty fewer anglers, constantly changing current flows and an increasing largemouth bass bite will add to the unpredictable nature of the Alabama River Challenge Saturday.
Even though Brent Chapman seemed to seize control with 23 pounds, 5 ounces Friday and a 4-7 lead over second-place Alton Jones, the first two days of this event have been so radically different for so many anglers, there are undoubtedly more surprises upcoming.
"With 50 less boats out there, I think the weights will go up even more now," said Kevin VanDam, who, like clockwork, made his 25th straight Top 50 cut on the Elite Series. He moved up from 53rd place Thursday to 30th Friday.
"These spotted bass are definitely fickle. You've got to figure out the right casting angle."
As the flooded Alabama River gradually recedes, the spotted bass are relocating each day.
Paul Elias stayed in contention with another solid bag, following his 18-4 on Day One with 16-1 Friday, which put him in fourth place with 34-5. But it took a slightly different plan.
"I didn't catch a fish in a place I caught 16 pounds yesterday," Elias said.
Kenyon Hill moved up 49 places in the standings with 17-6, which moved him from 78th place (9-6) to well within the Top 50 cut in 29th with 26-12.
"The current is changing and the edges are changing," Hill said. "Yesterday where I caught a little bitty one, I caught three big ones today."
And while the rave reviews continued for this spotted bass fishery, largemouth bass became a bigger factor Friday.
"I caught a couple of pretty nice largemouth that helped me out," said Greg Vinson, who had 17-13 for a 10th-place total of 31-12.
Clark Reehm gave up on the spotted bass after weighing only 8-9 Thursday, went largemouth fishing Friday and bagged 17-2 to move from 83rd to 45th.
"I'd caught some pretty big largemouth in practice," Reehm said. "Yesterday I went for spots. My first fish (today) weighed 4 ½ pounds, and it got pretty good after that."
Aaron Martens noticed the trend.
"It's almost like they moved to the bank today," said Martens, who is 19th with 28-4. "A lot of the bank-beaters caught them today."
Brian Snowden was kicking himself for concentrating on the spotted bass Thursday. He missed the cut with a 23-15 total that left him in 57th place. He had a lot more fun Friday than he had the day before.
"I went largemouth fishing today and caught them on a topwater bait all day long," he said. "I just wish I wouldn't have made that decision (to concentrate on spotted bass) yesterday."
The ever-changing Alabama River bass fishery makes you wonder who else will be wishing they'd zigged when they should have zagged as this tournament continues.