Hope on the Arkansas River

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. -- Kenyon Hill had a bad Day One in the Diamond Drive on the Arkansas River, but Jonathon VanDam’s was worse.

Hill weighed in 4 pounds, 3 ounces and VanDam didn’t weigh in at all, meaning he didn’t catch a single keeper. With that confidence in hand, on an always changing river with unprecedented fluctuation in water level and flow, these two Elite Series pros decided to change absolutely nothing for Day Two – and it paid off.

VanDam had the second largest bag of the day at 15-13, and Hill had the third largest at 14-13. Both trailed only Denny Brauer’s other-worldly haul of 19-7.

“I fished the same area with the same bait the same way,” Hill said. “I don’t know why they didn’t bite yesterday. Last night I was trying to decide if I would go back there today. I eventually worked my way there this morning and it paid off.”

VanDam said his zero on Thursday was misleading. He lost two big fish -- a 6-pounder and a 5-pounder -- at the boat and hooked into a couple others. If he just could have landed those two bass, it would have been a top-15 bag on Day One. So there was no question in his mind that he would hit the same spot on Friday.

“I did the same thing as yesterday but with better execution,” VanDam said.

His determination to hang with his spot lasted not only through the night, but into the morning. VanDam hooked into a 4-pounder on his third cast Friday and again lost it at the boat.

“That was tough, but after I put my first big one in the livewell, I started feeling a lot better about things,” he said.

Another angler to make a move on Friday was the struggling Skeet Reese. After only weighing in one fish on Thursday that went a little over 2 pounds, Reese said he started Friday relaxed.

“I knew I couldn’t win the thing and get a spot in the Classic, which is what I was shooting for, so I didn’t have much pressure,” he said.

After locking once north to Pool 7, Reese caught a 4-13, which was the second largest bass weighed in this week. A few minutes later he said he added a 3-pounder and thought, “Crap, I may have a chance to sneak into this thing.”

That’s the positive side of fishing a tough tournament, Reese said, you’re never completely out of it. His Day Two limit that went 12-7 was only one ounce shy of the two-day cut. His two-day total of 14-8 has him in 36th place.

Even after the early struggles, Reese, VanDam and Hill are all a 15-pound Day Three from fishing on Sunday.

“I’m fishing within sight of Denny and I’ve had some big ones on,” VanDam said. “I know I’m around the right fish.”

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