Jones jumps to the top

GREENVILLE, S.C. — Brent Chapman succinctly summed up the second day of the Bassmaster Classic for almost every angler in the 50-man field.

"It was a lot warmer than yesterday, but the fishing was a little colder," Chapman said.

Of the top 12 anglers going into Sunday's $500,000 first-place final, only three caught a bigger bag Saturday than they did on Friday.

Alton Jones of Waco, Texas, had the second-biggest bag of the day — 18 pounds, 11 ounces — and jumped from 10th place to first with a two-day total of 36-0. Jeff Kriet of Ardmore, Okla., had the biggest five bass limit, 18-12, and lept from 23rd place into fifth with 31-11.

The clear skies and 60-degree temperatures made a striking contrast with the 30-degree rain on Friday. And it left many in the field scratching their heads, searching for answers.

"I thought I had an invincible pattern," said Scott Rook, who had one of three 20-pound bags Friday, which weighed only 7-12 Saturday — and dropped from second to 12th. "[Friday] the smallest fish I caught weighed 2 pounds. Today, that was the biggest fish I caught. I don't know what happened."

Two-time Classic champion Kevin VanDam also had a 20-pound bag Friday, but brought in only 11-14 Saturday.

"I think the weather had more to do with it than anything," VanDam said. "That was a pretty big front that came through."

First-day leader Charlie Hartley had 13-12 Saturday, and that was enough to keep him within 1-3 of the lead, after 21-1 on Friday. Hartley admitted being the leader in the Classic caused some concentration problems for him Saturday.

"It's pretty unbelievable to have 20 boats watching you and one of them is the Hooters girls," Hartley said. "I'm a little bit of a ham, and you end up playing to the crowd. The one moment you aren't concentrating will cost you $500,000."

But the Grove City, Ohio, resident, who is fishing in his first Classic, couldn't help but smile in recalling the cheers directed his way from the girls in the Hooters' boat.

"One time they yelled, 'Go Charlie.' Then a little later it was 'We love you, Charlie.' And the best one was, 'Show us a big one, Charlie.'"

Hartley's 34-11 total held first place through most of the weigh-in ceremony at the Bi-Lo Center Saturday. But when told Jones had moved ahead of him, Hartley said, "There's a lot of people I'd rather have ahead of me than Alton Jones. He has a passion for fishing just like I do. That scares me. He's a certified superstar."

If you stayed deep Saturday, you had a better chance of success than the anglers who tried to replicate the shallow bite they found on Friday. Jones said his fish came from 15 to 40 feet of water. Kriet caught his fish deep and knows he has to stay there to have a chance Sunday.

"If I'm going to catch a big, big sack, I'm going to have to catch them deep," Kriet said. "If I catch five in that area, I'll have five like I had today. And if I get five bites, I'll be tickled."

"They're just finicky here. I'll drop 20 baits on them before I get them to bite."

Cliff Pace of Petal, Miss., stayed in contention with 14-11 on Saturday, for a 33-5 total and third place.

"It was a grind," Pace said. "I caught all my keeper fish on a spot I saved. I never touched it yesterday. But I don't have anything else."

Pace said he caught 25 fish Friday, but only 10 Saturday.

"I think about the only thing I'm doing different from anybody else is catching a 4-pounder every day," Pace said.

Mike Iaconelli moved from eighth to sixth Saturday, and with 31-3, he's within 5 pounds of first place. Iaconelli, the 2003 Classic champion, is swinging for the fences. He's fishing a 1-ounce Berkley football-head Gripper jig with a Berkley Chunk trailer, running and gunning.

"I'm covering a lot of water, but I'm fishing slow," Iaconelli said. "I'm hitting so many spots, probably 50 to 80. But it only takes me 10 to 15 minutes to fish each one. It's no bite, go; no bite, go."

Iaconelli is targeting the deepest vertical channel breaks he can find — areas that drop from 30 to 50 feet.

"These are wintertime fish," Iaconelli said. "They are fish that haven't even thought about moving up yet."

Based on the field's success during the winter conditions Friday, it made perfect sense to find bass still in a winter pattern on Saturday. And the only way to do that was go deep.